Friars Work with Troubled Marriages

Claude Lenehan Features

The following column recently appeared in newspapers across the country.

DEAR ABBY: I am married to a man I’ll call “Chad.” We have had a few rough years since our child came along. We’ve had counseling as long as Chad’s parents paid for it, and even tried talking to the pastor of our church. Not a whole lot has changed. I know you recommend counseling for married people in trouble, but what do you suggest for those of us who can’t afford it?

DEAR TRYING: A program that has been mentioned before in my column and has enjoyed much success is Retrouvaille. It started in Canada in 1977 and is now offered in many countries. It is Catholic in origin and orientation, but is open to all couples regardless of religious background.

Retrouvaille consists of a weekend, followed by a series of 12 presentations over the following three months. It is not a sensitivity group or seminar. During the Retrouvaille program, which is run by three married couples and a priest, the couples – all of whom have experienced disillusionment, pain, anger and conflict in their own marriages – share their struggles, reconciliation and healing. For more information on programs in your area, see

Claude Lenehan was the first HNP friar to begin ministering with Retrouvaille, beginning in 1989 in New England. With Mary Alice Brelinger, then head of Family Life in the Boston Archdiocese, six couples were recruited for the program. Seventeen couples made the first weekend in September 1990.

Fergus Healy came on board the same year. Edward Flanagan has been active in the Tampa, Fla., area since 2003, and Gene Pistacchio has recently become involved in this ministry in New England.

The follow-up program has been reduced from 12 sessions to six double sessions run by the team couples. The priest is usually not involved in these follow-up sessions.

“The program is basically a peer-to-peer ministry,” Claude said, “and has a similar format as Marriage Encounter but is different in content.”

More information can be found at or