For most married couples with children, a romantic evening alone together is a rare treat. Just hearing the words "date night" conjures images of candlelit meals, quiet music, flowers and a trip to church.
Wait — a trip to church?
That last part may only be true for couples who belong to St. Patrick Parish in Victor, which for the second year is sponsoring regular couple’s night out events. The parish held two such evenings in the spring of 2009, and the next one is planned for February, with another to follow in May, said Lori Cunliffe, the parish’s youth and parish-life coordinator.
Each couples event will take place on a Saturday evening, and each evening begins with Mass at 4:45 p.m. After Mass parents and children alike go to the parish center, where the children join peers of their own ages in supervised classrooms. At 6:15 a member of the parish’s marriage-preparation team will give a brief presentation about romance or another relevant topic for the adults, who then will leave at 6:30, Cunliffe said.
"We have the parents stay for 10 or 15 minutes tops, and then there’s a drawing for a $25 gift certificate," Cunliffe said.
The lucky couple that wins the drawing wins a $25 certificate from Simply Certificates that may be used at one of the nearly 200 participating restaurants, golf courses or businesses in the Rochester region and beyond.
While the parents are gone, parish volunteers feed the children dinner and keep them occupied. The parents return to pick up their children between 8:30 and 9, Cunliffe said. Last spring’s events proved to be very popular among the parents of the parish, with approximately 10 couples participating in each offering.
"They love getting free baby-sitting," Cunliffe remarked.
The parish-sponsored evenings out are especially helpful because so many young parents live far away from their own families, Cunliffe said. Without the support of their parents, it can be a struggle for these parents to find trustworthy and reliable baby-sitters for their young children.
"This gives them a trusted environment and it gives them support," Cunliffe said.
The adults also get a lot out of the marriage-preparation team’s presentations, even though they’re brief, she noted. Several couples who attended the events last spring have since told Cunliffe they’ve used tidbits they took away from those abbreviated sessions, which touch on topics covered in marriage-preparation classes.
"During marriage-preparation dealings we talk to the young couples and they may think that they’re not going to use what we tell them," she said.
After they’ve been married for several years and have children, those couples sometimes realize the topics covered so long ago in marriage-preparation meetings actually are applicable, and that they could use a refresher course, Cunliffe said. The presentations at last spring’s events dealt mainly with communication and its importance in a healthy marriage, she added.
"This year we’re basing it on a CD that I got called "When the Cake Is Gone: How To Get Married and Stay Engaged." It was a great CD," Cunliffe said.
"When the Cake Is Gone" is marketed as a way to extend and strengthen the habits and discussions started through marriage preparation and is based on a model of marriage enrichment developed by James Healy, a psychologist and director of the Center for Family Ministry of the Catholic Diocese of Joliet, Ill.
Cunliffe said she hopes this topic will be as useful to couples as last year’s focus on communication. Thus far, however, couples have been appreciative of the concept behind the event, regardless of the presentation topic.
"They say they love it," Cunliffe said.