International Retrouvaille team sees Fargo’s success first-hand

by Paul Braun | New Earth


Bill and Sharon Kalber, International Deputy Coordinating Team (submitted photo)

Twelve couples gather in a room, not knowing what to expect. Some sit slightly apart, the issues in their marriages driving them further from each other. Many are wondering if the time spent on this particular weekend is worth it. Some couples, at least in their minds, feel it’s too late and have thrown in the towel on their marriages. There are many issues that can break apart a marriage; infidelity, dependency on drugs or alcohol, finances, pornography, but these are just symptoms of what is a greater problem in a relationship.

This is where Retrouvaille steps in, to help couples discover that greater problem, and to give them tools to communicate with each other in a way that will help them to rediscover the reasons they fell in love in the first place.

Red River Retrouvaille held its second weekend for couples in early September in Fargo. What made the weekend extra special was the couple leading the event. Bill and Sharon Kalber of Chandler, Ariz. are serving this year as the Retrouvaille International Deputy Coordinating Team. In 2018, they will be the lead International Coordinating Team for the entire world-wide program. Bill and Sharon hold Retrouvaille in high esteem, as they once went through the program in an effort to save their struggling marriage.

“Usually any major issue that a couple ends up running into is because of a gradual breakdown in their communication,” says Sharon Kalber, who admits her addiction to alcohol almost severed her marriage to Bill until they tried Retrouvaille. “What we try to do is to help teach them a better way to communicate on a deeper level so they can tackle those issues.”

“The couples are doing all the work,” says Bill Kalber. “We ask of them a sincere commitment to the program. We give them the tools, and they have to choose whether to pick those tools up and use them or let them gather dust.”

Bill says there are times that the program doesn’t seem to be the answer for some couples, at least temporarily. He tells of couples he has seen arguing in the parking lot before a meeting and they don’t come in. But for other couples, the transformation is evident right away by the end of the first weekend.

“It’s amazing to see the growth of the couples,” says Bill. “You see them sitting apart on Friday evening, and then you see them coming together, growing closer throughout the weekend. That’s what feeds our commitment to this ministry, is to see that growth and the healing that takes place.”

The weekend retreat is only the beginning of a Retrouvaille experience. Couples are asked to commit to a series of six-to-twelve weekend meetings to help them in their progress of using the communication tools they’ve learned. Each Retrouvaille weekend and follow-up meetings are led by local couples who have gone through the program, and can share their experiences with those in struggling marriages. Sometimes it’s just knowing that others have gone through the same troubles that helps couples commit to the program and each other. They see that they are not alone in unconsciously trying to find ways to compensate for a failed marriage.

“You look for anything else to alleviate the pain of a crumbling relationship which is because of a lack of communication,” says Sharon. “If you’re able to communicate in a different way, on an intimate, personal, emotional-feeling level, you can have a discussion, which is different than dialogue, and work on those issues in your marriage. When you’re more intimate in your relationship on an emotional level, then when you discuss an issue, you’re more likely to have more empathy and compassion for your spouse, rather than yelling or going in circles, trying to prove I’m right and you’re wrong. When you are connected to each other emotionally, you talk to each other differently.”

Retrouvaille is for any couple facing the potential break-up of a marriage. Although it is Catholic in origin, the program is for people of all faiths, and even for those who lack a faith background. In addition, no couple is ever denied the chance to heal their marriage due to the inability to pay the costs of the program.

Red River Retrouvaille is supported by the Diocese of Fargo Office of Marriage and Family Life. Bill Kalber says the support shown by the Fargo Diocese for this program is an example for other dioceses to emulate.

“This has been one of the best start-ups for a Retrouvaille community, especially though the support of Bishop Folda and the Fargo Diocese,” says Bill. “To be honest with you, I haven’t seen a diocese like this.”

For more information on Red River Retrouvaille, call the Diocesan Office of Marriage and Family Life at (701) 356-7900.