Kathy Skerrett said it is easy to see when couples have had a breakthrough during a Retrouvaille weekend: Very often it is written all over their faces.
Retrouvaille — French for rediscovery (it is pronounced "ret-ro-vi," with a long i) — is a ministry that is designed to help couples who are having trouble getting over a hurt in their marriage.
When couples begin the initial weekend program on a Friday, their dejection is visible. By Sunday, they are often joyful, she said.
"There is almost always some kind of positive breakthrough that couples can experience: hope, if nothing else," said her husband, Kevin. The Skerretts, who are members of Peace of Christ Parish, coordinate the Rochester Retrouvaille.
Kathy Skerrett said she has seen several miracles during Retrouvaille weekends, noting that some couples who have separated have reunited and some who had not been speaking to each other have been able to repair their relationships. The program also has helped those who are divorced but wish to reunite.
"If you let God into your life, a lot of things happen," she said.
An upcoming Retrouvaille weekend will take place at Notre Dame Retreat House in Canandaigua April 15-17. There will be another weekend Oct. 7-9, and from May 20-22 the Rochester Retrouvaille will host a regional meeting for Retrouvaille leadership and alumni from upstate New York and Canada. There also are Retrouvaille groups based in Buffalo, Utica/Syracuse and Corning/Elmira.
Retrouvaille began in Quebec in 1977, was brought to the United States in 1982 and now has expanded across the globe. The Retrouvaille program grew out of the Marriage Encounter weekend, when couples began asking for help with issues that were more complex than those problems Marriage Encounter aimed to address. Both programs are Catholic in their roots, but they are open to couples of all backgrounds.
Kathy Skerrett pointed out that Retrouvaille is not a counseling program and does not require couples who attend to share their backgrounds or air their problems in public. The program also maintains strict confidentiality.
"I tell couples I don’t care what they did, I just care what they do now," she said.
Both parties must agree to participate in the program, which averages about 15 couples at each of the two weekends held annually. The leadership of the program is made up of couples who have had troubled marriages and have benefitted from Retrouvaille. Those "presenting couples" teach tools to help attendees address problems in their marriages.
"Everybody who works for the program has been through the program," Kathy Skerrett said.
She noted that the weekend is intended to get couples speaking to each other again, and the main work in the program is contained in 12 post-sessions that are spread over three months. After that, couples also may opt to take part in monthly meetings called CORE (Continuing Our Retrouvaille Experience).
"You can go for a weekend or a week away to Hawaii and forget the kids, and forget the issues, but then you come home, and the same old stuff is staring you in the face," Kathy Skerrett remarked. "Without the post-sessions, things can turn into the same old stuff."
She said one of the first signs of trouble in a marriage is when a partner will put down their spouse while speaking to friends. In Retrouvaille, respect and responsibility are the rule, she said.
"They take ownership of what they have done in marriage and what effect it has had on each other," she said.
The program divides marriage into four stages: romance, disillusionment, misery and awakening.
"Very often they’ve lost the connection and the communication and the knowledge of who the other is," Kevin Skerrett said.
He noted that before he and his wife went through the program, he found it extremely difficult to communicate feelings. Writing down his feelings made him feel more comfortable with sharing, he said.
If one of the issues separating a couple is a third party, the program requires that the third party relationship is addressed before the couple’s reunification is attempted.
"It’s not all about affairs," Kathy Skerrett said. "There are many other reasons why couples get on that verge of divorce. They may not be speaking or they may be married singles."
Alumni of the program also are invited back on the weekend to offer support to the couples, and Kathy Skerrett noted that both alumni and the new couples benefit from talking to each other.
"I think it’s a nice atmosphere for couples to see that after the weekend there’s a community out there welcoming them," Kathy Skerrett said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For details, e-mail email@example.com, call 585-293-1552 or visit www.helpourmarriage.com. The Rochester Retrouvaille requires a $75 registration fee, but couples are not turned away for a lack of ability to pay.