Talking about Money in Catholic Marriage Preparation Classes

Contacts: Valerie Conzett, director of the Family Life Office in the Archdiocese of Omaha, and Sr. Virginia West, a marriage and family therapist at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church in Winter Park, FL.

Situation: Catholic churches and dioceses use Money Habitudes in marriage preparation programs to help people better understand themselves and their partners when it comes to money and finances.

Audience: Couples preparing for marriage within the Catholic Church.

Why use the cards:

  • The Money Habitude Cards help individuals better understand themselves and their partners and how they relate to money.
  • The cards are useful in smaller groups and individualized sessions for couples.
  • The cards are a fun format.
  • The cards offer a positive approach to a sometimes difficult subject.
  • The cards offer a non-judgmental approach to money.
  • The cards offer help people understand a little bit about themselves.

How cards are used:

  • The premarital classes may be a single day, a whole weekend or a series of seminars spread over a few weeks. The Archdiocese of Omaha offers a variety of marriage preparation options including evening sessions, one- and two-day and weekend (Catholic Engaged Encounter) programs. At St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church in Winter Park, FL, Sr. Virginia West and a colleague, Sr. Patricia O’Malley, both marriage and family therapists, offer a full-day premarital course. The course is taught to up to 35 Catholic couples at a time.
  • After an introduction to the role of money in marriage, everyone in the class sorts his or her own deck of Money Habitudes cards at the same time. West’s church has a large number of Spanish-speaking participants and she realized that having some Spanish versions of the cards would make the process faster and easier in cases where both people in the couple don’t read English well.
  • Carrying forward the idea that the premarital class is meant to allow Catholic couples to focus on themselves, West has them talk among themselves rather than try to foster a financial discussion among a large group.
  • She also gives the couples worksheets from the Professional Guide so they have something to refer to when they go home and can thus continue the conversation.

Outcomes:

  • “The couples are learning something about their fiancé, but they’re also learning something about themselves. I like the positive approach that Money Habitudes offers in that it’s not saying that anything is right or wrong; it’s just helping them understand a little bit about themselves. That’s important!” says Conzett.
  • “People seemed to get a lot from it. They’ve really enjoyed the cards,” says West.

Observations:

  • “I think they liked the idea of looking at their differences more from habits and attitudes. I think it helped them to be less judgmental of each other by just getting a sense of where this is coming from with them – from their family when they were growing up – and their attitudes towards money. I think what it did for them is it took it off the actual money piece, per se, and got the communication going better around ‘how we’re going to use money or not use money.’ The feedback we got on that was good,” says West.
  • Similarly, Conzett sees how the same conversation has deeper, more far-reaching applications.
  • “The value of the cards is the opportunity to better understand yourself and, in marriage education, how that will impact your life as a married couple. The cards can be used in a variety of settings. We help prepare well over 1,000 couples a year for marriage in the Archdiocese of Omaha. We take our role in this preparation seriously. We also realize that some of the education we provide these couples has value for people served in our other ministry areas. For instance, people who have been newly married and long married, as well as those who are single, separated, widowed or divorced could benefit from learning about their approach to handling finances. Money Habitudes could be used in all of these ministry settings. The value of Money Habitudes is self-awareness. How organizations build on this value is best determined by the program’s goals and the organization’s attention to particular audiences.”