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More than 900 couples attend a marriage encounter that puts spouses in each other's shoes

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Men clumsily tiptoed in high heels and women awkwardly stepped in boots across a stage as crowds cheered for them.

The diocesan Spanish Apostolate hosted its Fifth Couples’ Encounter to help couples focus on the importance of the sacrament of marriage through talks, ice-breakers, testimonials, holy hour and Mass at Gar-Field High School in Woodbridge Feb. 25.

"The family is the center of the pastoral work of the church in the United States." Father José E. Hoyos, director of the Spanish Apostolate

The title of this year’s encounter, “Jesus, the Joy of Love,” was inspired by Pope Francis’ apostolic letter “Amoris Laetitia.” Father José E. Hoyos, director of the diocesan Spanish Apostolate, said the purpose was to encourage healthy marriages.

“One of the goals is to promote the holiness of the sacrament of marriage,” said Father Hoyos. 

According to Father Hoyos, at least 20 percent of the couples who attended were not married in the Catholic Church, another 10 percent were engaged, another 10 percent were dating and another 60 percent were couples married in the Catholic Church.

Missionary Servant of the Word Father Modesto Lule came from Mexico to give a humorous talk on the vocation of marriage and the education of children. He referenced the Gospel of Mark to show how Herodias used her daughter Salome to execute John the Baptist, illustrating how children copy the habits of parents. When parents lead their children astray the pattern continue. 

CONNOR BERGERON  |  CATHOLIC HERALDAttendees heard from Marco Benites, president of the Renovación Católica Carismática, who talked about three different types of love: erotic, philia and agape. 

Missionary Servant of the Word Fr. Modesto Lule gave a humorous talk on the vocation of marriage and education of children. CONNOR BERGERON | CATHOLIC HERALD

“The love of agape is the love that the Lord died for every one of us,” said Benites, encouraging couples to imitate this love.

In one of the ice-breakers, couples exchanged their shoes and walked down an aisle. Roars of laughter and applause rang out as Selvin Ascencio wore Vaneza’s silver high heels. The Ascencios won the competition. Other couples competed in another ice-breaker where men kneeled before their wives and sang a song. Each man spoke of his love for his wife before singing. Noe Cifuentes took the opportunity to propose to his wife, Leticia. Though they married civilly, they hope to be married in the church. By the crowd’s unanimous vote, the Cifuentes won the second ice-breaker.

The encounter concluded with Mass celebrated by Father Hoyos and concelebrated by Father Lule, followed by a Holy Hour.

Father Hoyos said another goal of the encounter was for couples to understand that they are loved and supported by the church. 

“They are suffering and most of these couples are in fear of deportations,” he said. “So one of the things we will tell them is ‘don’t be afraid.’ ”

According to Father Hoyos, there have been deportations in the Arlington Diocese that have impacted immigrant families.

“Be together always,” he said. “You are bound by the sacrament of marriage (and) God is also bonding you together.”


 Couples wear each other's shoes during an icebreaker at the Fifth Couples' Encounter, "Jesus the Joy of Love" at Gar-Field High School in Woodbridge. CONNOR BERGERON | CATHOLIC HERALD

The event also mentioned the Fifth National Encuentro to the laity, to be held in Fort Worth, Texas, Aug. 20, 2018. In 1972, the Catholic Church held the first National Encuentro recognizing the growth and presence of the Hispanic community. Since then, three others have been held to discuss issues within the Hispanic community. The Fifth National Encuentro will discuss the pastoral needs collected of parishes. 

“The family is playing an important role in the Fifth Encuentro,” said Father Hoyos. “The family is the center of the pastoral work of the church in the United States.”


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017