As published in Horizons, April 16, 2017
Caption 1: Louise and Virgildee Daniel give a presentation on healthy communication to engaged couples at the eparchial Pre-Cana Marriage Preparation Program, held April 1-2. The Daniels retired as the volunteer coordinators of the program after 14 years.
— Like most married couples, Virgildee and Louise Daniel have been through their share of struggles, but their belief in the importance of the sacrament made all the difference in their 47 years of marriage.
It led them to persevere and turn their struggles into lessons they decided to share with young couples preparing for marriage.
For 14 years, the Daniels coordinated the Pre-Cana Marriage Preparation Program for the Eparchy of Parma. The annual weekend program was held at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.
“It is a ministry where we could give back to the church in a way that we believe is extremely important,” said Virgildee.
They inherited the program from Father Michael Hayduk in 2002. By that time, they had already been giving pre-Cana talks in the Roman Catholic Church for about 10 years.
While the program always included sessions on the significance of the sacrament, the marriage rite, and practical matters, such as finances, communication, and natural family planning, the Daniels used their professional skills and knowledge in counseling, teaching and theology to tweak the program based on the changing needs of couples they observed over the years.
Topics, such as fighting fair, relationships with in-laws, and families of origin were added. They included more on financial planning and management as a couple and witness talks by a newlywed couple and a couple with young children.
The Daniels said they observed an increasing number of engaged couples had met in bars or online, and this was a contributing factor to stability of the relationship.
“Many young couples preparing for marriage today do not perceive there will be obstacles in their life that will pull them apart,” said Louise. “And divorce is so prevalent now. People choose divorce over the simplest reasons.”
Virgildee said he and Louise would share some of their struggles with the engaged couples, in particular the strains his military career put on their marriage for 20 years. The frequent moves and distance from family members were a big sacrifice for Louise, who is very family-oriented, he said.
“I have always felt that the longer you are married, the harder it will be,” said Louise. “But the longer you are married and work out your issues, the more rewarding it will be.”
“We still have some incidents and issues after 47 years,” Louise admitted.
“Marriage is a struggle and we’re proof of that,” said Virgildee. “You need to keep working at it. That’s the point of the grace of the sacrament.”
This year, the Daniels passed on the torch to Father Thomas Loya, pastor of Annunciation Parish.
“It was time to move on,” said Virgildee.
The Daniels sold their home in Parma and moved to Akron, and Virgildee said he intends to join Louise as a retiree this June.
Virgildee said it was “natural” for the Pre-Cana program to be taken on by Father Loya, who has dedicated about 20 years to teaching about marriage and the theology of the body in venues across the country and internationally.
Father Loya led the April 1-2 Pre-Cana weekend as part of his Marriage and Family Ministry of the Eparchy of Parma, in collaboration with the Tabor Life Institute, which he co-founded. The Daniels still gave a presentation on communication.
Above, some of the engaged couples at the eparchial Pre-Cana Marriage Preparation Program, April 1-2. They are holding up paintings of two peace lilies surrounded by a crown of thorns, which they painted together. The image is intended to symbolize the joy of Christ’s resurrection and the martyrdom of marriage. Each couple also left with an icon of the Trinity and two books, “Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan,” published by the USCCB, and “Just Married: The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First Five Years of Marriage,” by Gregory and Lisa Popcak.
Photo credit: Catherine Baranko
Father Loya said his approach puts more emphasis on the spirituality of marriage and teaching couples “how to live sacramentally.”
This view of marriage has God at the center and impacts every aspect of married life, including communication, finances, and sexuality.
“It is a spirituality of self-donation and self-sacrifice,” Father Loya told Horizons.
Over 14 years, the Daniels said they prepared a total of about 180 couples for marriage, and it was always gratifying to see some of them again in the parishes, raising their children and maturing as a couple.
Louise said she and Virgildee grew closer as a couple with each Pre-Cana weekend and in the experience of sharing community with the engaged couples.
“It was like we were renewing our vows every weekend,” she said.