Director, Foundation for the Diocese of Helena
Love is in the air in the Flathead Valley. St. Matthew Parish in Kalispell has built a successful “Date Night” ministry that is now becoming a community-wide endeavor.
In 2017, the parish successfully applied for a grant from the Foundation for the Diocese of Helena to help married couples of all ages and stages to rediscover the joy of marriage. Their application had a compelling message: “The enemy hates the Sacrament of Marriage and is ferociously attacking it. We believe by enriching marriages, a healthier and happier society will be generated and the Church will be strengthened for future generations”.
The “Date Night” team of volunteers is committed to providing couples with enrichment tools, education, mentoring and hope. The ministry includes workshops, retreats, and evenings out where couples enjoy an inspirational time together and are equipped with tools to strengthen their marriages.
Mary and Korey Davidson are one of the many couples blessed by the ministry and said: “It’s given us opportunities to truly reconnect on a deeper level, and we have learned more meaningful ways of loving each other. It’s been such a blessing for our marriage, and we have met so many wonderful friends as well! It’s beautiful to see so many faith-filled couples come together, connect and learn from each other.”
Once a year they go off campus for a special Valentine’s Date Night event, with around 60 couples attending. It offers a decorated venue, social hour, catered dinner, guest speaker, and prizes. Childcare is provided. “It’s a beautiful evening to celebrate the Sacrament of Marriage,” shared Jeanne O’Connell, the marriage ministry coordinator. This year the event sold out.
Angela Schnieders had this to say about the ministry, “My husband and I are newlyweds and also new to the Flathead Valley, but almost from the first day of our arrival last summer, we have been embraced by the parish community, and through events like Date Night we now have rich friendships with couples across multiple generations.”
O’Connell reports the ministry continues to grow, and is supported by participant fees, fundraisers, and business sponsors.
When the parish wanted to expand and build upon the successful ministry, the Foundation was pleased to assist with a second grant. O’Connell explained, “We’re adding a sequence of marriage related events, including a date night boat cruise on Flathead Lake and a parish mission with a marriage focus.” She added that program’s success is evident, “What’s exciting too is that other parishes in the area are becoming more involved in the ministry.”
The Foundation for the Diocese of Helena is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization that serves and strengthens the people, parishes, ministries and apostolic mission of the Diocese of Helena. Its annual grants program supports a wide variety of projects, from small capital improvements to bible study programs to youth events. Grant application and guidelines can be found at www.fdoh.org. The deadline to apply is June 28.