The Pre-Cana Program began at St. Patricks in 1975 when Father Joseph Canning sent Mike and Marge Cortegiano to a Diocesan Pre-Cana Traing Program. In 1976, the Cortegianos launched the program with the help of St. Patrick's new Pastor, Father John Mott. The Cortegianos headed the program until 1986, when Gail and Carl Valentino became the coordinators.
In recent years, the Pre-Cana program was revamped under the leadership of four couples - Jim and Donna Nebgen, Dan and Ellen Bartley, Bob and Bev Bieneman, and Helene and Owen Farley. The biggest change was the incorporation of Foccus (Facilitating Open Couple Communication, Understanding, and Study) - a survey in which both members of an engaged couple answer questions on a variety of subjects. The surveys are then entered into a computer. The results help give an inventory of the relationship. The survey covers areas such as communication, finances, friendships and spirituality. Couples are able to see what areas of their relationship are strong and what areas need work. The survey is completely confidential. Only the couples themselves see the results.
Today's Pre-Cana consists of 15 married couples who work with the engaged couples. The program runs three times per year (fall, winter and spring) for six weeks, with 15 to 20 couples participating each season. The first of the six-weekly meetings is an introductory night. The couples meet at the church and hear from one of the parish priests. During the next four weeks, the couples meet in the home of the facilitating couple. They have discussions and work their way through a workbook entitled, "Decision to Love." The work book covers topics such as communication, family of origin, personalities and pasts, sexuality, children, spirituality, finances, family, and friends. Couples spend part of the time working one-on-one, and part in group discussions. The couples meet for a final time at Mass where they are called forward into the sanctuary, have their rings blessed, receive a cross. The Mass is followed by a party.
In the end, the couples hopefully have a better understanding of their relationship to God and each other and are better prepared for a lifelong journey together.