Convalidation ignites deeper faith in couple

Matt and Kerri Meehan had known each other for years before they were married in a civil ceremony in 2010. So, they were in for a bit of a surprise when they decided to have their marriage blessed by the Church.

That’s when they discovered they’d have to go through the nine-month marriage preparation program required by the Diocese of Phoenix. Some 800-900 couples participate in the program each year that includes Natural Family Planning as well as other classes and workshops. Funding from the Charity and Development Appeal helps provide training for marriage preparation coordinators like Barb Lishko.

Charity and Development Appeal (CDA)

The Charity and Development Appeal supports more than 70 educational, charitable and spiritual organizations which counsel, feed clothe, house, educate and comfort those in need throughout the four counties in the Diocese of Phoenix.


Lishko has been teaching couples, including the Meehans, about the sacrament of matrimony and the richness of unconditional love for almost 10 years.

“I believe it’s a beautiful gift that we hand these couples, in particular in this culture where marriages break apart like crazy,” Lishko said. She estimates that about eight in 10 couples are from families in which divorce occurred.

“They haven’t seen the witness of a happy, faithful, joyful, committed marriage,” Lishko said. Marriage preparation in the Phoenix Diocese is geared to change all that.

The Meehans said the marriage classes and day retreat they experienced at St. Andrew Parish in Chandler made a huge difference in their life together.

“It definitely helped us have a healthier marriage,” Kerri said. “We learned how to communicate better, how to be more respectful to one another and to really make sure that we were putting our faith first in everything we did as a family.”

The couple has a 9-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter who are now participating in the religious education program at St. Andrew. Matt pointed to the communication skills the couple gained through marriage preparation.

“We learned how to communicate more effectively and work through conflict together and not hold onto things,” Matt said.

Kerri and Matt Meehan join their daughter Ryleigh and son MJ in their home. The couple from St. Andrew Parish in Chandler was civilly married in 2010 and recently had their marriage convalidated in the Church. (Billy Hardiman/CATHOLIC SUN)

The Meehan family’s life now centers around their parish family: Matt is on the stewardship council and Kerri teaches religious education to special-needs students at St. Andrew. “Our son is a child lector,” Kerri added.

What would they say to couples who are contemplating marriage preparation in the Church?

“It will make your relationship better and enrich the relationship you already have,” Matt said. “It gives a greater meaning and gravity to your relationship when you’re married in the Church.”

“I think when we were done going through the convalidation we were so much stronger in our faith,” Kerri said. “It’s a really important thing for our family to put faith first and to be examples for our children. You really do get a lot out of it.”

Siblings Ryleigh and MJ Meehan color on the floor of their living room at their home. Their parents, Matt and Kerri, were from St. Andrew Parish in Chandler was civilly married in 2010 and recently had their marriage convalidated in the Church. (Billy Hardiman/CATHOLIC SUN)

Mike Phelan, director of the Office of Marriage and Respect Life for the Phoenix Diocese, said funding from the CDA makes it possible for the office to exist.

“We are able to clearly see the impact of initial evangelization of couples who are in the process of marriage preparation,” Phelan said. The office trains 40-50 people each year to lead marriage preparation at the parish level.

“Strong marriages are the fountain of all of our vocations in the Church, and married couples today face unprecedented challenges in living their marriages well and fruitfully,” Phelan said. “A priest or a sister prepares for years for their vocation, and this timeframe is much shorter for couples, but it’s very precious time.

“It is very possible to live a joy-filled marriage with God at the center, and their marriage will literally change the course of history for at least the people in their circle.”