Business helps Catholics with long-distance relationships

By Beth LeBlanc | Times Herald

A collaborative project between a Port Huron company and the Archdiocese of Chicago has allowed thousands of couples to receive Catholic marriage preparation online.

In the past two years, more than 2,000 couples have used Marriage Ministries, an online Catholic marriage preparation series, to prepare for the sacrament.

Located above Weekends on Military Street, Marriage Ministries was developed in collaboration with the Archdioceses of Detroit and Chicago and has served couples in Detroit, Chicago, England, Wales, Singapore, Malaysia and Paraguay.

Brooks said the program is used mostly by military couples, or people in long-distance relationships. The ease of viewing the course online makes meeting the church’s marriage preparation requirements possible.

“We solved the problem of how the church can help couples separated by distance,” Brooks said.

Frank Hannigan, director of the Family Ministries Office for the Archdiocese of Chicago, said he discovered Brooks and his fledgling business when he was looking for an online option for couples separated by distance.

Hannigan and Brooks created the program in 2010.

“More and more, there will be dioceses using it as their standard marriage prep,” Hannigan said.

Jessica Schiller and Liam McCauley said it was the course’s online flexibility that attracted them.

“At the time Liam was living in Ireland and I was living (in South Bend, Ind.),” Schiller said. “Finding the time to do the classes when we were together was difficult.”

Schiller said a wedding date revolving around immigration approvals and distance issues made the flexibility of the online course a good fit.

“Whenever a topic came up we could pause it and take some time to discuss it,” McCauley said.

Matt Brooks, co-founder of Marriage Ministries, discusses the online Catholic marriage preparation online course. MELISSA WAWZYSKO/TIMES HERALDBrooks said the web series monitors couples’ progress so churches can be sure that the couple has completed the entire course.

On average, couples spend about 12 days going through the program. Brooks said this allows couples to absorb and discuss the information more than the regular eight-hour seminar or retreat required of couples getting married in the Catholic Church.

While the online environment allows couples easier access to marriage preparation, Brooks said he encourages them to meet with their deacon or priest as well.

“That follow-up meeting with the priest or deacon is very important,” Brooks said.

The program comes at no cost to the church, Brooks said; couples pay $195 for the entire course.

Brooks said he deals with some parishes or dioceses that use the program exclusively, while others use it for extenuating circumstances.

Brooks said the program offers the subjects required by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as well as special courses on children of divorce, forming a step-family and unique challenges for military families.

As more churches open their doors to the program, Brooks said the program will continue to evolve.

Already, Marriage Ministries is working with the Diocese of Miami to tailor the program to the Hispanic population.

“This year we’ll redevelop the complete program in Spanish from scratch,” he said.

Contact Matt Brooks: 1.855.773.2262 | matt@marriageministries.com