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The Birth of Cana’s Vineyard, A Catholic Couples Group

The Birth of Cana

IN THE BEGINNING

One evening, in late spring two years ago, a friend and I sat outside her home chatting about the desire to do more as couples than meeting at our favorite local Tex Mex restaurant. Some years ago before that, we were fairly certain we would be part of a new parish ministry geared toward Catholic couples. The format of that particular model did not ultimately speak to my husband’s or my own heart, so we bowed out of the group, ended up moving on a whim two months later, welcomed a new baby, and went on about our lives until that night when my friend and I spoke.

We both still desired that connection with other Catholic couples, but for me, the format of the other ministry and its approach did not feel flexible enough. I liked the rough structure – meeting frequency, eating together with other couples, having content for the evening – but beyond that, the idea of homework felt like too much. As we talked about the idea of keeping some of those elements, we knew much of it would be an experiment, and being open to the Holy Spirit’s direction would become paramount to its success. The excitement grew and we began to brainstorm friends who might be interested – we initially came up with seven couples – six would commit right off the bat.

At its core, each of us immediately recognized the deep desire to connect with other Catholic couples. Input and ideas on logistics started to unfold and soon we had our agenda for the year. To keep things simple, we agreed on a book to read between meetings and discuss the appointed chapter all together.

About six months into this format, diverging interests and goals began to surface. Initially, it felt like a failure if our group didn’t stay together, but what I failed to see was the work yet to be revealed by the Holy Spirit. At the end of the year, several couples moved on to other Spirit-led endeavors.

THREE COUPLES, A VISION, AND A FORMAT

“The Remnant,” as one of the fellas began to jokingly refer to the remaining three couples, made one last effort to get together in August to review the year, see what could be adjusted, and discern where the Holy Spirit was trying to lead this group or if it was time to let the group go.

We got together and started to peel back the layers of the past year. Important logistical questions arose regarding the format, such as:

  • What will we name our group?
  • What is our group’s mission?
  • Who is our patron saint?
  • How many couples make up the group?
  • When will we meet? What days/times work best? What about alternate dates?
  • How will we work out the hosting schedule?
  • What does the structure of the evening look like?
  • How long will the meeting go?
  • Who is providing the main course? Sides? Dessert?
  • What if a couple can’t think of a topic for their month?

The conversation flowed that evening, with all couples of the group having very distinct ideas, opinions, and input.

This was all very good.

Details soon unfolded about the group:

We gave the group a name – Cana’s Vineyard

We gave our group a vision – Cana’s Vineyard is an informal Catholic couples marriage ministry where members primarily minister to each other through:

  • Marriage
  • Faith
  • Family
  • Spiritual Growth
  • Community Building

We kept our original patron saints, the Holy Family.

Now that the new format felt like it had been ironed out, a renewed sense of energy and excitement accompanied that hard work! Each couple was then tasked with finding and inviting one Catholic couple they knew who might enjoy the new group format. The invited couples were asked to prayerfully consider a ‘yes’ to participate.

We began in September.

YEAR TWO BEGINS

So what happens when you move to a more go-with-the-flow, Spirit-led format? Well, if you’re like our group and some members are big kids at heart, like our high school youth minister, you might find yourself teaming up with your spouse to create shields from random cardboard boxes and shooting everyone else with Nerf guns…naturally.

Personalities began to emerge as different Catholic couples hosted – the content often reflected something in the hearts of the hosting couple. It didn’t take long before the group started to gel, get real, and get raw.

For myself, it doesn’t feel like work preparing to host – I look forward to the challenge of coming up with something fun, but spiritually challenging, but I still see the value in being able to relate to other couples and encourage and uplift each other in this sometimes messy thing we call life. My husband and I look forward to our monthly gatherings and often have fun noodling through ideas of what we can do for our next hosting opportunity, right down to the games we’ll play at the end – teamwork!

AN EVENING WITH CANA’S VINEYARD

While the content is left to the hosting couple to discern, there are distinct elements that the group has decided is best for each gathering. These are outlined in the guide here and you can add/subtract to whatever you have prayerfully decided works best for your group.

So, what does an evening actually look like if there is no book to read from or set rules to follow? Here is what Cana’s Vineyard in Round Rock, Texas looks like:

  • Hosting couple comes up with topic/content for the evening
  • 1-2 weeks before our gathering, the couple providing the main course {the previous month’s hosting couple} shares what they’re bringing to the hosting couple’s home
  • Hosting couple provides drinks, plates, utensils, paper products
  • Other members sign up for various sides and dessert
  • Couples meet, sans kids, at 6:30 p.m. on the first Saturday of the month with an alternate date of first Friday
  • Greet and socialize
  • Start in prayer over the evening, prayer over food
  • Eat together, socialize, and share individual highs/lows {one good thing, one bad thing} since the last gathering
  • Hosting couple shares content for the evening {if they haven’t prior to the gathering}
  • Prayer intentions shared {this is sometimes revealed through highs/lows}
    • One person is designated to jot down intentions to post in the Facebook group
  • New prayer partners assigned for the next month
  • Closing prayer
  • More socializing

Our first time hosting in year two, we felt called to discuss our experiences and exposure to vocations {married, priestly, or religious} as children and how that impacted our desire to shape our children in today’s culture. Because we were just getting to know each other as Catholic couples, we started the evening off with some ice breakers, and asked everyone to bring one item they felt best represented their vocation to share with the group.

The second time we hosted, we picked an equally deep discussion topic with respect to our vocations as wives and husbands and how to help each other grow in holiness in those roles. We concluded that gathering by playing Catch Phrase, guys vs. girls. Guess who won? The girls did. 😀

Not all gatherings are deep or serious. Over the past year our group has done the following:

  • Shot other couples with Nerf Guns – in the name of Praying Together and Playing Together
  • Played the Newlywed Game after sharing stories of how we met and our engagement stories
  • Voted to see who is most like the Saved By The Bell cast
  • Taken a marriage inventory with our spouse
  • Built bridges using random materials while asking your spouse politely for materials your bag doesn’t have
  • Discussed how the Year of Mercy is working in your life
  • Reviewed our first year together and shared what we got out of the group over the past year and what we hope to get out of it in the coming year

As you can see, there is room for not just creativity, but opportunities to engage deeper with our spouses and our group.  

The mission of the group is always central to the evening – marriage, faith, family, spiritual growth, and community building.  

CANA’S VINEYARD BECOMES A SPIRITUAL FILLING STATION

One point worth sharing that several of us have noticed is that as the group opens up over time and starts to share deeper experiences and challenges of living our authentic Catholic lives, you start to gravitate toward one another in times of need: spiritual, emotional, and physical. We’ve seen each other through miscarriages, pregnancies and births, deaths in the family, medical emergencies, job changes, life crises. We’ve stood shoulder to shoulder through these life-changing, life-altering events, holding each other up. To say having a soft spot to land when you need to open up has been an immeasurable benefit to our lives would be a great understatement. I know personally speaking, the group has been nothing short of an amazing source of grace in our lives and in my marriage.

The gatherings continue to build and improve upon the original model. We have collectively been discussing the idea of sharing this informal ministry with others and have been praying for the day when we felt the Holy Spirit had given us a model we could share. We are getting closer and closer to being able to give others materials to start their own Cana’s Vineyard around the country and the world.

And it starts with our story.

THE BIRTH OF CANA’S VINEYARD, A CATHOLIC COUPLES GROUP

A Cana’s Vineyard family gathering

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About Martina Kreitzer

Martina is a cradle Catholic, wife to Neil, and mother to seven kiddos here {and three in heaven}– 4/96-1/17. She decided to homeschool the kiddos in 2010 after many years in public schools and is currently transitioning out of homeschooling. She is the creator of Catholic Sistas which focuses on a feminine perspective of the Catholic Faith. The website was the result of an existing camaraderie by the contributors in a Catholic women’s group she created. She is also a Seal of Approval evaluator for the Catholic Writers Guild. Lest you think she spends all her time online, Martina has enjoyed getting out into the community by serving on the Pastoral Council from 2010-2013. She is constantly on the lookout to make her parish as welcoming as the small town she grew up in East Texas. This task is not easy given that St. William is the largest parish in the Austin diocese, serving well over twenty thousand parishioners. She loves Jesus, coffee, bacon, chocolate, photography, more bacon, evangelizing, and the company of those unafraid to use their sense of humor.