Couple’s Engagement Journey Highlights the Importance of Accompanying Individuals Through Support of the Catholic Ministries Drive


By Tony DeGol 

Sometimes when we are traveling to a vacation destination, we are so eager to arrive at the site that we forget to enjoy, appreciate, and learn from the journey. 

The same can be true for engaged couples looking forward to their wedding.  

Not so for Wally Zapotoczny and Melissa Summers. 

The pair, who will be married in October of this year, are less caught up with planning the festivities of the big day, and more focused on using this time to become increasingly ready for their sacramental union and lifetime commitment to each other.  

Zapotoczny and Summers recently completed the Unveiled marriage preparation program through the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown Family Life Office. It is required for all engaged couples seeking marriage in the Catholic Church. 

The experience, they insisted, helped them grow as a couple and provided the tools they need to build a solid foundation for the future. 

“We’re entering into a bond for life, and the program touched on that,” explained Zapotoczny, a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Altoona. 

“As you encounter things throughout your engagement, you still look back on things you discussed during the program,” added Summers, a parishioner at Our Lady of Fatima in Altoona. 

The couple met in late 2018 through a mutual friend, and immediately found compatibility through their shared love of Christ and commitment to the Catholic faith. 

They were engaged late last year, and entered the marriage prep process in January of this year.  

It began with an interest inventory, during which they separately and without any discussion completed questions about their views on matters such as married life, moral issues, and conflict resolution. From there, the duo attended two Saturday sessions with other engaged couples at which veteran married couples offered insight along with books, videos, and other resources. 

Of course the diocese’s support for couples does not end after marriage prep or even the wedding. The Family Life Office sponsors other marriage enrichment opportunities including the annual Wedding Anniversary Liturgies and the annual outdoor Mass for all married couples.

Also, the Family Life Office has a bereavement ministry that includes a Mass for widows and widowers, the Heaven’s Treasure Box for those who have miscarried, bereavement training, and Out of the Darkness grief booklets.

Other Family Life initiatives include Walking with Moms in Need, Natural Family Planning promotion, and family Holiday Tradition booklets.

Upcoming areas of involvement for the ministry include disabilities awareness and advocacy, outreach to children of divorce, parenting, family spirituality, and financial planning assistance.

Family Life is just one of 14 ministries that directly benefit from the annual Catholic Ministries Drive. The 2021 campaign kicks off with Announcement Weekend on March 6-7 and Commitment Weekend on March 13-14. The goal is $2,247,794.

This year’s theme is Be a Disciple of Hope. 

In his CMD message to the faithful, Bishop Mark noted that Pope Francis describes a disciple of hope as someone who stands by, with, and for those who need the gift of hope. 

“In response to the gift of hope, the Lord Jesus asks us to accompany others on our journey to the Father,” wrote the Bishop. “I am grateful for everyone’s help in this mission of accompaniment. The year 2021 is a time for everyone to BE A DISCIPLE OF HOPE! By participating in the Catholic Ministries Drive, your contributions support those who accompany and those who are accompanied on their journey.” 

Every dollar of every donation goes to diocesan ministries under the umbrella of three critical areas:  

  • Nurturing Youth
  • Forming Clergy and Laity
  • Caring for the Poor/Strengthening Families

Besides Family Life, ministries such as Vocations, Sacramental Preparation, Christian Initiation, Religious Education, and Youth Ministry are sustained by parishioners’ generosity to the Catholic Ministries Drive. In other words, the CMD is a lifeline for the Diocesan Church to continue its vital mission of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ through those ministries.

While weekly collection envelopes support the good work at parishes, the Catholic Ministries Drive allows the diocese to build up the Catholic faith on a broader level. 

Zapotoczny and Summers have received their certificate of completion of the diocese’s marriage prep process, and they will continue dialogue with the priest who will marry them.  

October will be here before you know it, and they cannot wait! In the meantime, they will, indeed, enjoy the journey and embrace the nurturing support of the Church – thanks to the Catholic Ministries Drive and those who donate to it. 

“It’s the joy of walking step by step, and you do it with the person you love, and God is present the whole time,” Zapotoczny said. 


  • Campus Ministry
  • Educating Youth
  • Sacramental Preparation
  • Youth Ministry
  • Adult Enrichment
  • Christian Initiation
  • Evangelization
  • Lay Ecclesial Ministry
  • Priestly Vocations
  • Ongoing Formation of Clergy
  • Catholic Charities
  • Family Life
  • Fulton County Catholic Mission
  • Diocese of Mandeville, Jamaica

Click HERE to donate online

[Photo: Wally Zapotoczny and Melissa Summers show off their certificate of completion of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown marriage preparation program through the diocese’s Family Life ministry.]