A worldwide encounter in Atlantic City

ATLANTIC CITY — The first combined North American Worldwide Marriage Encounter Convention for the United States and Canada was held Friday, June 25 to Sunday, June 27 in the Convention Center.

The weekend opened on Friday at 6:30 p.m. with a beach party and continued with a banner parade. The opening session was held at 8:45 p.m. with Jesuit Father Chuck Gallagher who began Worldwide Marriage Encounter more than 42 years ago.

On Saturday presentations were held in the morning and afternoon, and Bishop Joseph A. Galante celebrated the day’s closing Mass.

The weekend closed on Sunday morning with  Mass celebrated by Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash. (On June 30 it was announced that Pope Benedict XVI had accepted the resignation of Bishop Skylstad, 76, and named Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Rapid City, S.D., to succeed him.)

“Worldwide Marriage Encounter is a movement within our Catholic Church that provides enrichment experiences to married couples and to priests to renew, refresh and re-vitalize their sacraments,” explained Bob and Michelle Dooley, area coordinators for Worldwide Marriage Encounter in South Jersey (Camden Diocese and Burlington County.

Currently Worldwide Marriage Encounter is in over 82 countries and offered in a number of faith expressions, they added.

The theme of the convention was “You Are The Light of the World.”  Some 1,200 people from the United States, Canada and other countries attended, including couples from as far away as India and New Zealand, the Dooleys said.

Father Edward Namiotka, who has been involved with Marriage Encounter for 22 years — “A year after I was ordained,” he said — called the convention, “A wonderful time to see married couples and priests together because Marriage Encounter is a celebration of marriage and Holy Orders. That’s important to remember because marriage complements Holy Orders, and Holy Orders complements marriage.”

Father Namiotka is pastor of Queen of Angels Parish, Buena Borough, and president of Sacred Heart High School, Vineland.

Father Namiotka was on the Liturgy Committee for the convention. He said the next North American convention will be held in 2012 in Sacramento. “It’s held every other year,” he noted.

The Dooleys noted that the weekend included Priest Day, for priests and married couples to share “the joy of walking together, in relationship, to spread the Good News, renew our church and change our world.”

“This was our first convention and it was an amazing spirit-filled weekend,” said Kathy and Jim Ward, who were members of the convention team, in an email message.

“The couples traveled from all over North America to celebrate the sacrament of Marriage with other encountered couples. Making a Marriage Encounter weekend is the most beautiful gift you can give to your marriage and being part of the Marriage Encounter family is a gift that will forever enrich couples lives. We are so blessed,” they said.

“For Dan and I, being part of the core team and registration couple, we felt we touched each and every person that came before they arrived,” said Paula Malley. “Each person felt like family coming to a very large wedding..

“The convention was a two year journey that culminated this past weekend and all the puzzle pieces fit beautifully,” she said. “The convention was grace-filled, Spirit-filled weekend with lots of love, laughter, tears and smiles.”

Bill and Penny Tresca, who have been Engaged Encounter coordinators for the Diocese of Camden for the past 35 years, gave a presentation at the convention on relationships. Bill Tresca mentioned that the bringing together so many couples and priests was “phenomenal. It is an experience we’ll never forget, meeting people from all over North America.”

John and Theresa Garrity of Holy Trinity Parish, Margate, were the convention chairs. Joe called it a “fun, creative, spirit-filled” weekend.”

Worldwide Marriage Encounter had its origins in 1952 in Spain with Father Gabriel Calvo who wanted to develop a series of conferences for married couples, focusing on the development of open and honest relationships with their marriages. Today Marriage Encounter is looked upon as the first marriage enrichment program for married couples.

Marriage Encounter grew to the point where an executive board was formed in January 1969 to coordinate development of the movement in the United States and Canada. The movement grew rapidly in New York State with Father Gallagher at its helm.

In 1971 Worldwide Marriage Encounter began its spread throughout the United States along with its expansion internationally.

A Worldwide Marriage Encounter Experience will be held  Aug 15-22 at Bishop McHugh Regional School, Dennis Township, Cape May County (this is done over the course of a week, Sundays 12:30-6:30 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday, 7-10 p.m.). Weekends will be held Sept. 17-19, Oct. 22-24, Dec. 3-5. For information call 800-688-9963 or go to www.mesj.net

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