Sponsor couple provides witness of faith, friendship
By Aliceyn Magelky“We hope people will look at us and want to have what we have” states Deb Didier. And, what she and husband Deacon Ed Didier have is 27 years of marriage, commitment to each other, and a joy and love for God and the church.
For more than 22 years the Didiers have walked engaged couples through a pre-marriage inventory suggested by the Catholic Church to provide tools for marriage success. And, in that time, they’ve heard and shared their own experiences about faith, trust and challenges in a marriage.
As many married couples will attest, long-term marriage isn’t easy. And, for Deacon Ed and Deb Didier they too encountered difficulties.
Boy Meets Girl with a TwistEd, a “cradle catholic” felt the faith was always a part of his family. However, he was drawn to a darker world. “I was a drug-addicted alcoholic, so you could say I left the faith,” Ed confessed.
Although not born into a Catholic family, Deb later was baptized at 7 years old when her stepmother introduced her family into the church. “I always had a deep faith and love for Jesus because my grandmother raised us for awhile and would read us the Bible and sing Jesus Loves Me to us,” she said.
Eventually, Deb grew up and she got married to a Lutheran man. She wanted to raise her children in one church, so, she, like Ed left the Catholic Church. “I was active in the Lutheran church, and my hope was that we as a family would go to church,” said Deb. “What I came to see was my ex-husband wasn’t attending, wasn’t participating, and I felt a void in me”
When they moved to Valley City, Deb enrolled her children into the catholic school and came back to the Catholic Church. For several reasons, Deb and her ex-husband were divorced and an annulment was granted.
Like Ed, Deb had been struggling with addiction and went through a treatment program. It was at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting where they met and their journey as a couple began.
“What drew me to Ed was his faith in God,” said Deb. “I could actually say that it was through Ed that I was drawn deeper into the church.”
“Nah, she was drawn to my chiseled handsomeness,” Ed playfully chimed in.
Married in the Catholic ChurchTheir courtship resulted in engagement and a hope to be married in the Catholic Church. “Honesty was a part of our recovery program, and marriage meant nothing to us if not in God,” said Ed.
“We both firmly believe that marriage is a life commitment and marriage is work,” said Deb.
“We were blessed because we were already dependent on God, and we wanted to continue that relationship in marriage,” Ed continued.
Sponsor Couple Experience Both couples fully used the tools of their recovery program, both had an prayer life, and yet, the sponsor couple experience delivered a gift beyond what they would imagine.
“We thought we communicated very well before we went through our marriage prep inventory, but when we met with our sponsor couple to discuss or strengths and our growth areas, we could see that it enhanced our communication even further. We really dug into some things deeper,” said Deb.
After meeting with their sponsor couple the blessing continued for the Didiers. For them the relationship with their sponsor couple has continued long after the engagement period. It’s a practice they often extend to the couples they sponsor.
“We still have our sponsor couple. We can go to them today. They know us, they pray for us, and they mentor us in our faith and family. They have become family,” said Ed.
“That’s another one of our blessings” added Deb. “They’ve been a great witness of our faith. You know how you see somebody that has something in them and you want it, too. They have this aura of joy and the Holy Spirit. That was our sponsor couple.”
Witness to OthersPerhaps in the early days of their marriage, Ed and Ded Didier’s sponsoring couple did see a notion of the Holy Spirit in them.
“It was our sponsor couple that got us involved. Initially I thought, ‘what do we have to offer?’,” said Ed.
It was their sponsor couples’ continued urging and examples that helped lead the Didiers into this ministry. “Their witness and sharing of their own marriage with us and their support of us showed us how we too could be witnesses of bringing Christ and the church into marriage,” said Deb. “There are many skills needed to be a sponsor couple like listening skills, compassion and empathy, and I believe they saw those traits within us.”
The ProcessWith support from their sponsor couple, guidance from the diocesan office staff and lots of prayer, Deacon Ed and Deb Didier embraced this new role to serve God and the church.
In many parishes throughout the diocese, sponsor couples assist the priest in preparing couples for the Sacrament of Marriage. In a series of meetings, the sponsor couple visits with engaged couples preparing for marriage. These visits are grounded in the pre-marriage inventory engaged couples complete at some point during their marriage preparation. The sponsor couples help facilitate discussion on the results and develop tools for responding to issues in married life.
“We meet with our couples at least five times, sometimes more if requested,” said Deb. We share with them that we, too, went through marriage prep. We explain to them what the church is asking of them, and our role in it.”
“You can actually see a positive change in couples when we explain to them that what they may see as hoops to jump through so they can be married is really the church’s way of showing it loves you enough to want to help you have the very best marriage you can have. So, that’s why she’s asked us to commit the time,” said Ed
“We always pray with our couples before and after each session. Often this is first experience the couple has had to pray together,” said Deb. “I would say the second session is when they really start to open up. By the last session, there’s a bond in all areas; spiritual, love and trust.
In some parishes, the sponsor couples continue to assist and be present to the newlywed couple after their wedding day. Ed and Deb Didier are one example of sponsor couples who continue to make themselves available to couples.
Added Ed, “We still get Christmas cards from the first couple we sponsored.”
Importance of Sponsor Couples“Marriage is a lifetime and it’s so easy to get caught up in the wedding day itself, said Jennie Korsmo, Marriage Preparation Coordinator, Diocese of Fargo. “But we want to give them tools that will last the lifetime of their marriage. We want them to see the beauty of the Catholic Church.”
“There seems to be what we call ‘a brokenness’ surrounding almost every couple we’ve sponsored. In fact, it was the nonjudgmental approach and witness of God’s great love and mercy from our own sponsor couple that helped heal our own brokenness. That is why we tell our couples ‘you are beloved children of God and he loves you,” said Deb.
“And there is nothing you can do to change that,” Ed added.
“We know we are not counselors, nor do we try to be, but we know firsthand of God’s love and mercy,” Deb continued.
“Once, we had a ‘difficult’ couple, where we just wondered about this couple and were concerned for them. I would say it was about the fourth meeting when the man finally opened up and made aware things to his future wife that she had never known,” explained Deb. “And, we weren’t even sure if she had even heard him then,” added Ed. “But by the fifth meeting, they had the chance to reflect, and that marriage is very strong today,” concluded Deb.
The FutureThe Didiers have sponsored countless couples and trained more than 100 other couples to be sponsors. Today, they are taking a less active role in marriage preparation for the diocese as Ed has become more involved with the diaconate program. But, marriage preparation and sponsoring couples will continue to be a ministry Ed and Deb Didier share.
“All couples need a ministry together,” said Deb. Many married couples have a gift to witness their love for God and each other in this program. And, we all need to help reach today’s couples.”
Support through God’s Gift AppealGod’s Gift Appeal helps support the cost to train sponsor couples and their trainers. Also, the funds help offset the cost to complete the pre-marriage inventory.
For more information about marriage preparation and sponsor couples, contact Jennie Korsmo at email@example.com or (701) 356-7901.
Other News Sources
• New Earth serves Catholic parishes as the official newspaper of the Diocese of Fargo.
• TV Mass is available at 10:30 a.m. each Sunday on WDAY-TV6, Fargo, and WDAZ-TV8, Grand Forks.
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