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Partners in Marriage and Evangelization

by Darci Swisher

Couple who earned MAPS degrees together now minister together.

Dennis and Rose Wingfield were clearly meant to minister side-by-side, even before they earned master's degrees in pastoral studies (MAPS) from Sacred Heart one year apart.

Widows whose shared faith brought them together fifteen years ago, they know their own relationship has been enriched through participating in and leading marriage programs. In 2006, while Dennis was discerning a vocation to the permanent diaconate, the Wingfields realized that marriages were being enriched, saved and fed through the Covenant of Love program they had brought to St. Michael Parish in Livonia. Ultimately, Dennis opted to continue this ministry he and Rose had already began, and he applied the classes he had already completed at Sacred Heart toward the MAPS degree. His wife soon joined him.

Rose graduated from Sacred Heart in 2017 and Dennis in 2016. As both chose the New Evangelization as their concentration, they were able to schedule many of the same classes. It was really great to learn that information together and study together, Rose says. Denni—a retired engineerpoints out that even though he and Rose graduated a year apart, and some of their classes were different, their final grade point averages were an identical 3.778.

Both Dennis and Rose focused on marriage for their practicums. Dennis examined the use of couples' Bible study as an evangelization tool and its effectiveness in bringing husbands and wives into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Similarly, Rose explored the topic but with using the Alpha parish evangelization program as the outreach tool. Each of their research yielded the positive results that they anticipated, given the role of Christ in their own lives and marriage.

We're convinced your relationship to Christ is critical in your marriage relationship, Rose says. To that end, they have taken the knowledge they gained in the MAPS program and launched a new ministry initiative, Calling Couples to Christ. Our studies at Sacred Heart equipped us to effectively minister by forming us on the human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral levels, Dennis says.

The Wingfields' marriage ministry wonderfully manifests the types of creative initiatives to advance the New Evangelization our students are prepared and trained to design and launch, says Dr. Matthew Gerlach, dean of the Institute for Lay Ministry at Sacred Heart. The fact they are a married couple, who combine their complementary gifts in lay ecclesial ministry in service to other married couples, only serves to heighten their witness to the beauty and power of married life.

Calling Couples to Christ (website) aims to build happy marriages through Christ-centered mentoring, facilitating, coaching, and teaching. Dennis and Rose are already working with two parishes in the Archdiocese of Detroit. They have plans to market programs to multiple parishes and vicariates.

Most parishes do not have the resources to hire a part- or full-time person to focus on marriage, says Rose. As a result, these parishes only minister to engaged couples through marriage preparation programs.

The Wingfields maintain that couples should be ministered to during the entire cycle of their marriages, since many spouses lack solid role models in their lives. Rose and Dennis's goal is to use the knowledge they gained at Sacred Heart to assist parishes with recruiting married couples to serve as mentors to engaged couple—and, essentially, as evangelizers.

The married volunteers help engaged couples encounter Christ, and accompany them through the engagement phase and beyond, Dennis says. The engaged couples grow in their faith, plus the mentor couples grow as married couples.

The hope is that the engaged couples will eventually become mentors themselves, as well as active parishioners in the community. You're welcoming that couple into the parish and continuing that relationship beyond the wedding day, Rose says. And, as a result, You then have two couples evangelizing.

Members of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Plymouth, Dennis and Rose feel affirmed in their mission to promote the New Evangelization through marriage ministry by the writings of Pope Francis and Archbishop Allen Vigneron. Evangelization of couples and families is necessary if they are to carry out their own work of unleashing the Gospel' as Archbishop Vigneron calls them to do, Dr. Gerlach says.

We need support in marriage. People think they're alone, Dennis says. Marriage is a huge struggle if you don't have Christ in your life to make it work.

For more information about Calling Couples to Christ, please contact Dennis and Rose at or 248-912-7860.

by Darci Swisher

Darci Swisher

Darci Swisher is a freelance writer who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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Sacred Heart Major Seminary is a Christ-centered Catholic community of faith and higher learning committed to forming leaders who will proclaim the good news of Christ to the people of our time. As a leading center of the New Evangelization, Sacred Heart serves the needs of the Archdiocese of Detroit and contributes to the mission of the universal Church.