PORT HURON, Mich. (AP) - A Michigan company is helping solve the problem of geographic separation for couples looking to get married in the Roman Catholic Church.
Port Huron-based Marriage Ministries allows couples to receive Catholic marriage preparation online.
The business was developed in collaboration with the Archdioceses of Detroit and Chicago and has served couples in those cities, as well as in the United Kingdom, Singapore and other places.
"We solved the problem of how the church can help couples separated by distance," Marriage Ministries co-founder Matt Brooks told the Times Herald (http://bwne.ws/Wcf3VB) for a story published this week.
Frank Hannigan, director of the Family Ministries Office for the Archdiocese of Chicago, said he discovered Brooks and his fledgling business while looking for an online option for couples separated by distance. Hannigan and Brooks created the program in 2010.
Jennifer Schiller and Liam McCauley are happy the program exists.
"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 that revolved around immigration approvals and distance concerns 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.
The web series monitors couples' progress so churches can be sure that the couple has completed the entire course, Brooks said. He added that the web course allows couples to absorb and discuss the information more than the regular eight-hour seminar or retreat that is required of couples who marry in the Catholic faith.
The Catholic Church requires those who wish to receive sacraments of the faith, including matrimony, to take part in education and preparation classes. Engaged couples are exposed to discussions of family planning, child-rearing, conflict resolution and finances.
On average, couples spend about 12 days going through the Marriage Ministries program, which costs $195.
Even though the online environment allows couples easier access to marriage preparation, Brooks said he still encourages them to meet with their deacon or priest.
Brooks said he expects the program to continue to evolve. For instance, 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," Brooks said.
Information from: Times Herald, http://www.thetimesherald.com