By Tony DeGol
Newlyweds Wally and Melissa Zapotoczny, members of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Altoona, are looking forward to celebrating their six month anniversary shortly.
Their wedding last October was beautiful. For them, the best part was not the flowers, the photographs, or the reception. It was the sacramental union before God, and the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown marriage preparation process helped pave the way.
“The walk of accompaniment with other couples who are on that same journey really comforted us and really gave us a model to follow in Christ,” Wally stated. “There were a lot of couples there who were married for many years and gave us some great insight. I think that accompaniment and presence really made the difference for us.”
Brides and grooms spend countless hours planning so many details for a whirlwind day that is just that: one day. The marriage prep process, however, prepares couples for a partnership that will last a lifetime.
“All those preparations, I can’t even remember, but the marriage classes we took, the tools we were given, really does help with the day-to-day,” noted Melissa. “The classes are definitely worth it.”
According to Andre McCarville, director of the diocese’s Family Life Office, which offers marriage preparation, the process receives wildly popular feedback.
“So many people come in thinking that it’s going to be another hoop to go through, but when they leave, they are so grateful that they did it, and several have said they feel sorry for couples who are getting married and haven’t had this opportunity,” McCarville explained.
Marriage preparation is just one component of the diocese’s Family Life ministry. Others include the annual outdoor Mass for married couples at the Our Lady of the Alleghenies Shrine in Loretto, the annual Mass for widows and widowers, the wedding anniversary Masses at both diocesan Cathedrals, and Faith Day at DelGrosso’s Amusement Park in Tipton.
New opportunities are in the works, added McCarville, including a Mass for those who have lost a child and a mental health workshop.
McCarville emphasizes that all of the bigger programs of the diocese’s Family Life ministry aim to feed the faithful into programming at the parish level.
This summer, the Family Life Office plans to offer training sessions for those in parish life on how to engage or carry out ministries such as bereavement, parenting, and family spirituality.
When parishioners donate regularly to their parishes, they are supporting the good work there. The annual Catholic Ministries Drive allows the diocese to build up the Catholic faith on a broader level.
Family Life is just one of 14 ministries supported by the CMD – ministries that nurture youth, form clergy and laity, care for the poor, and strengthen families.
“To me, there is nothing more important than family,” McCarville said. “The family is the single greatest image of the love of the triune God that we have here on earth. The Catholic Ministries Drive helps the Family Life Office to incorporate that, to encourage that, to strengthen that so that the world can see the beauty of family life. Every time someone contributes to the CMD, they’re contributing to healthy families here in our diocese.”
For Wally and Melissa Zapotoczny, married life seems to keep getting better and better. Among other things, they love praying the Rosary together, as a couple. They say it draws them closer to Mary, which draws them closer to Jesus.
The Zapotocznys recognize that the Catholic Ministries Drive is a way for all Catholics in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown to accompany each other on the journey.
And they sure appreciate everyone who has stood with them.
“Having that spirit of walking together is so important,” assured Wally. “A lot of newly engaged couples think it’s just them and the Church. The truth is, we’re all one body in the Church. We’re all one family. To have that prayerful support, to have those financial contributions really instills in us the comfort that we’re a member of a larger family. We are God’s children, and we’re all walking this journey together.”
[Photo: Wally and Melissa Zapotoczny on their wedding day at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Altoona.]