The Archdiocese of Milwaukee Office of Evangelization and Catechesis welcomed 18 couples to the Schoenstatt Retreat Center in Waukesha for a marriage preparation retreat March 1-3. (Submitted photos)

From March 1-3, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s Office of Evangelization and Catechesis hosted a marriage preparation retreat for engaged couples at the Schoenstatt Retreat Center in Waukesha.

Eighteen couples from around the archdiocese gathered for a weekend of presentations, couple discussions and prayer. The weekend marked the first overnight preparation retreat run by the archdiocese in recent memory, as well as the return of in-person archdiocesan marriage preparation since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The presentations came from two married couples, Doug and Beth Ulaszek of Wauwatosa and Jordan and Sheila Skiff of Plymouth. The team presented on essential marital skills like conflict management and budgeting, as well as about God’s plan for marriage, love and relationships. The content for the latter pulled heavily from St. John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body,” a series of teachings the pope gave from 1979-84. Tori Franke, the archdiocese’s Natural Family Planning Coordinator, also participated in the weekend, so that couples could learn how to incorporate NFP into their married life.

After each talk, engaged couples spent time reflecting on the material, first individually and then as a couple. This process not only gave couples ample room to discuss how the topics related to their relationship but also gave each couple a model for dialogue they can implement in their marriage. In this way, the retreat served as more than information — instead, it laid a foundation for open communication and common vision for each couple as they approach the sacrament of Holy Matrimony.

Along with presentations and dialogue time, the weekend included opportunities for prayer and the sacraments, including Mass, Reconciliation and adoration. Fr. Mark Niehaus, a priest in the Schoenstatt movement, celebrated Mass on Saturday evening with the couples, where he recalled Schoenstatt founder Fr. Joseph Kentenich’s teaching that in a certain way, married couples found their own religious community — they create a unique way of life, work and prayer together that, hopefully, reflects the love of the Blessed Trinity.

The evening Mass was one part of a “date night” atmosphere the retreat provided on Saturday evening. Before Mass, couples enjoyed a special candlelight dinner, with the dining room transformed into an intimate Italian bistro. Once Mass concluded, couples had a chance to socialize with one another. There was even the opportunity for dancing, with a local dance instructor teaching couples the rumba.

Couples finished their time away on Sunday morning with a final session and dialogue time, along with a final question and answer session led by the team couples. Throughout the weekend, couples had the opportunity to anonymously write questions for the team couples to answer. Couples asked questions about listening to God in prayer, setting boundaries with parents and in-laws, balancing spousal roles and more. Before leaving, couples made a list of further topics to discuss together and scheduled their next dialogue time to occur that coming week.

The Office of Evangelization and Catechesis intends to continue offering weekend marriage preparation retreats in the future, with another retreat scheduled from Nov. 8-10 at the Schoenstatt Retreat Center. Couples interested in attending future retreats can learn more at