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BRAINTREE -- Mary Kate Rego and Michael Kinnane will head to the altar late this spring grounded in the fundamentals of Catholic marriage after having recently completed the new marriage preparation program piloted by the Archdiocese of Boston.
"I just can't imagine entering into marriage without knowing 80 percent of what we were taught," said Rego.
Her fiancee agrees about the program's impact.
"Afterwards I was so stoked we did it," said Kinnane. "My heart felt great. I felt happy about it. It taught us a lot about each other."
Rego, 23, and Kinnane, 26, are one of nearly 150 couples who have participated in "Transformed in Love: Building Your Catholic Marriage," the new marriage preparation program of the Archdiocese of Boston.
The 16-hour program features presentations, witness talks by married couples, group and couple activities, individual reflection, prayer and Mass. It can be completed over a weekend, two eight-hour days or in multiple sessions.
"Transformed in Love" explores various aspects of marriage, including self-knowledge, expectations, communication skills, finances and the institutional, sacramental and canonical aspects of Catholic marriage.
Other topics explored include sexuality in marriage and natural family planning.
"The approach is trying to incorporate an understanding of what marriage is as well as the skills needed to succeed in marriage," said Kari Colella, the archdiocese's marriage ministries coordinator.
Colella said that the two aspects of the program most couples often identify as their favorites are the teaching Mass and communication workshop.
As part of the teaching Mass, the priest presenter explains the different Mass parts and what happens in the liturgy.
Even for active and lifelong Catholics like Rego and Kinnane, the teaching Mass can be an important refresher.
"It was nice to be re-taught," Rego said.
The communication workshop is taught by a professional psychologist.
"We definitely used the tools he gave us in that talk in our other relationships," Rego said.
"Transformed in Love" also familiarizes couples with natural family planning, which conforms to Catholic teaching and does not employ artificial contraception methods.
"The Church supports (natural family planning) as a moral means of family planning," Colella said. "It's often not talked about or engaged couples have often not heard of it. We knew we had to explain it to cover it and help engaged couples understand why the Church supports it and why it could be helpful in their marriage."
Colella also said that the program employs Catholic catechesis, more so than other programs in the past.
In many ways, the program incorporates themes from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops 2009 pastoral letter on marriage, "Life and Love in the Divine Plan."
Like the U.S. Bishops' document, the program explores the natural institution of marriage, as well as its Catholic sacramental aspects.
Colella said that when the archdiocese was developing "Transformed in Love" they identified the need to explain that marriage has an additional meaning for the baptized, beyond the secular definitions.
The program explores the "natural reality" of marriage as well as the sacrament, she said.
"We need to help people understand this is the reality of what marriage is and it takes on supernatural meaning for baptized persons," Colella said.
Initial feedback indicates that over 70 percent of participating couples are more likely to be active in the faith and nearly 80 percent can explain why marriage is a sacrament, compared to 24 percent prior to participating in the program. Forty-six percent of sexually active couples say they are considering abstinence before marriage and
90 percent of couples leave "Transformed in Love" with an understanding of why the Church supports natural family planning. Over three-fourths of couples also say they are considering or will use NFP in their marriage.
In addition, 46 percent of sexually active couples say they are considering abstinence before marriage.
The program's development began in 2006 and a pilot phase was launched in June 2009. The program remains in that phase.
Rego and Kinnane are set to be married June 18 in Little Compton, R.I. They say that marriage preparation programs provide couples with valuable knowledge about building a solid marriage.
"I think anyone can figure out a car engine, and put it into drive and go anywhere," Kinnane said. "When problems come you can read the manual and fix it."
"You can figure stuff out, but unless someone tells you how to do it, you cut a lot of corners," Rego said. "People should go because it's going to benefit them. It's only going to help them out."