Alumna Mary Rose Verret and her husband, Ryan, were recently featured by the Cardinal Newman Society for their work in marriage ministry. In 2012, the Verrets founded Witness to Love, a marriage prep program that pairs engaged couples with married couples in their respective parish communities, providing engaged couples with a model of sacramental marriage and mentors who help them to become involved in parish life. Since 2012, the Witness to Love program has spread to over 500 parishes in four countries and has been greatly successful in helping couples to have happy and holy marriages. Parishes who have adopted the Witness to Love program have seen a considerable decrease in divorce rates and a great increase in newlyweds’ participation in parish life.
According to Verret, her experience at Christendom was integral to her starting this ministry. The formation she received, and the community life Verret was a part of at Christendom shaped her view of marriage and helped her to see the importance of being welcomed into a faith community, an integral aspect of the Witness to Love ministry.
“At Christendom I was in a really intense, concentrated, really impactful witness of the students and teachers,” Verret told the Cardinal Newman Society. “I got to experience being in a community where everyone is focused on the same goal of getting to heaven and understanding the faith and learning together.”
Being in a passionately Catholic community was something Verret had never experienced before attending Christendom. According to Verret, most of the Catholics she had previously encountered in her life seemed to go with the tide of the culture. But alumnus Fr. Thomas Vander Woude made a deep impact on her. According to Verret, Father Vander Woude was the “first priest I’d ever met who was cheerful and reverent and sincere and a true witness of Christ.” Fr. Vander Woude encouraged Verret to consider attending Christendom, and after attending the college’s summer program, Verret knew that Christendom was the place for her.
As a freshly minted Christendom student, Verret had a lot of growing to do and lot to learn about the faith. When she arrived at Christendom, she was still “very much in need of evangelization,” in fact, she didn’t even believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, she said. But, by learning more about the faith, and most importantly, by being part of a Christ-centered community, Verret was able to come to a deep love and understanding of the faith, preparing her to start the Witness to Love ministry.
Having divorced parents, Verret knew that she wanted better for her own marriage. It was important for her to find good examples of healthy marriages. She found such examples in Christendom’s professors and their spouses. From being invited over for meals with professor’s families, to seeing professors bring their families to daily Mass, Verret told the Cardinal Newman Society that even as a college student, “you really get to experience a family life.”
“For someone who really wants something very different for themselves and their marriage, you should consider going to a small college like Christendom where you do have the ability to be part of the families of the faculty,” Verret told the Cardinal Newman Society.
Verret has truly taken Christendom’s mission to “restore all things in Christ” to heart. In the 8 years since Witness to Love was started, over 500 parishes have incorporated the program into their marriage prep. The course materials have been translated into Spanish, French, and a Vietnamese translation is almost complete. The ministry is growing, with plans to launch a podcast for married couples and a version of the program for non-Catholic couples.
The Verrets are a remarkable example of a Catholic couple doing great work for the Church.