Married couples retreat offers time for renewal

CHARLESTON—Taking on the role of ministry in the Church means living up to a certain standard, which isn’t always easy to do.

Sometimes people have bad days. Sometimes couples have rough patches. But when your spouse is a parish deacon, or a youth minister, or teaches adult faith formation, there is an extra weight to bear. How do couples handle personal crises when they are looked up to as leaders in the church? 

“Look,” said Steve Angrisano, “life is hard. You go through ups and downs, joys and sorrows. But, when you are a ministry leader in the church, there is that extra burden of always wanting to spread light and goodness no matter what.” 

Angrisano and his wife Jenni, of 30 years, spoke at the Married Couples in Ministry retreat sponsored by the diocesan office of Youth and Young Adults on Feb. 16 at the Pastoral Center. About 18 couples from various churches attended, with at least one spouse from each couple involved in ministry. 

Angrisano’s goal is simple: to bring couples back together to renew the bond they share. He said marriage and family is the first ministry, and the church is second. 

“It is easy to forget that,” he said. “We get caught up in always helping others and making sure that others are doing OK; we forget about ourselves and our spouse.” 

The day-long retreat was filled with song and storytelling from Steve and Jenni, who have three children — a daughter and son in their 20s, and another son who is 17. 

“It is hard to give of yourself all the time unless you also take some time to allow yourself to feel the spirit,” Jenni explained, adding that she hopes couples at the retreat felt a sense of community and realize they are not alone. “We all need a chance to be renewed and it is always inspiring to do that with each other.”

Grace Przywara, youth minister at Our Lady of Peace in North Augusta, attended the retreat with her husband, Jacob Przywara, a design engineer at Savannah River Nuclear Solutions in Aiken. She said it was helpful to receive a reminder that their first vocation is to each other, because ministry can put a unique strain on a marriage. 

“I can have a really exhausting day of trying to encourage kids to encounter Jesus and change their lives, and then come home and justify being short or detached from my husband because, in my mind, I have done God’s work for today,” she said. “In my heart, I know that’s not right. I need the reminder sometimes.” 

The couple said it was helpful to hear from others who know what it’s like to mix ministry with marriage. 

“I could relate to experiences that Steve was having, but also understand that my husband could feel the same way as Jenni in some of her experiences,” Przywara said.

Married Couples in Ministry is held once a year at the Pastoral Center. 

For more information, contact the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry at 843-261-0443.

By Theresa Stratford/The Catholic Miscellany

Photo, Miscellany/Theresa Stratford: Speakers Steve and Jenni Angrisano talk to a group of participants at the Married Couples in Ministry retreat held at the diocesan Pastoral Center in Charleston on Feb. 16.