Marriage Encounter Ireland is part of the Worldwide Marriage Encounter movement which is active in over 80 countries. It seeks to offer couples a new and enriched vision for their marriage principally through the experience of Marriage Encounter and Engaged Encounter weekends. Over 2.5 million couples have attended weekends since the movement started in 1962.
Belief and Purpose
Marriage Encounter believes that marriage should be a deep source of joy and vitality. Weekend programmes are run where married couples can experience the full richness of intimacy possible in marriage, and recognise in their own terms their vision for their relationship. The couples learn communication techniques appropriate to the stage of their relationship specifically intended to support and encourage an ongoing attitude of intimate and responsible living. The movement also offers ongoing support for those who wish to continue their journey with others of like mind.
Marriage Encounter is based on Christian principles, and presents its message in a way that is accessible to Christians and non-Christians alike.
The Weekend Programme
Both Marriage Encounter and Engaged Encounter weekends follow a similar format. The weekend is residential, held in hotels or conference centres, and runs from Friday evening until Sunday afternoon. The weekend consists of a series of presentations by three couples and a priest, who share deeply on their personal experiences of different aspects of married life.
The presentations encourage couples to consider their understanding of themselves, their relationship with each other, their relationship with God and with the world around them. Following each presentation, couples are encouraged to reflect as individuals on what they have heard and then talk together as a couple in the privacy of their own room.
This pattern of presentation, reflection and dialogue continues throughout the weekend. It is an intensive programme which provides the couple with the opportunity to get away from the pressures of life and concentrate on each other and their relationship. There is no group work because the focus is on the couple’s own relationship.
The weekend is led by couples who have themselves experienced the weekend and then received further training in the aims and concepts of Marriage Encounter. All weekends, wherever they are presented, follow a specified set of outlines which ensure the continuity, comparability and quality of weekends.
Who is the Weekend for?
- Marriage Encounter is for any married couple who love each other and are open to the possibility of growth in their marriage.
- Engaged Encounter is for any engaged couple who wish to deepen their relationship and build a solid foundation for their marriage. It is also suitable for newly married couples.
- Couples of all ages have attended Marriage Encounter weekends, from those married only a few years to grandparents married for many years.
- The weekend is based on a Christian understanding of marriage, but has much to offer those of other faiths or none.
- Couples who are currently undergoing counseling are recommended to complete their course before attending a weekend.
- The weekend is not for couples whose marriage is going through major difficulties. The focus is on discovering and building on the strengths of a marriage.
All weekends are financed in advance. No couple, therefore, is prevented from going on a weekend for lack of finances. Couples are asked only to pay a small booking fee, which is transferable if the couple has to postpone and re-book. Accommodation and all meals are provided. At the end of the weekend couples are given the opportunity to make a confidential donation, as they wish, towards the cost of future weekends for other couples.
Marriage Encounter receives no financial support from outside bodies including the church, and its work is financed solely through the donations of couples who have attended weekends. There are no paid personnel in Marriage Encounter. The team couples and priests who present the weekend do so on a completely voluntary basis.
History of the Marriage Encounter Movement
The Marriage Encounter movement began in Spain in 1962 when a Roman Catholic priest, Father Calvo, presented the first Marriage Encounter weekend to 28 couples in Barcelona. He saw the need to encourage married couples in their communication and saw the potential of their love in reaching out to their families and communities. He recognised that the ideal for marriage was a deep unity and intimacy which would influence society at large in spite of the pressures of modern life.
The movement spread rapidly to South America and then soon became established throughout North America before spreading to Europe, Africa and Austral Asia. The movement also spread into other parts of the church and to the Jewish community.
Worldwide Marriage Encounter continues to be the strongest pro-marriage movement in the world now presented in over 87 countries and is made available in twelve faith expressions.