When Megan and Nathan Rumohr agreed to be marriage mentors for Valery and Kevin Lam, they were expecting to offer some wisdom and help for a soon-to-be-married couple as they navigated the early years of their marriage. They didn’t expect to find peace and healing in their own relationship.
Valerie and Kevin were parishioners at Corpus Christi Parish in Vancouver, an early adopter of the marriage mentorship program Witness to Love, and were required to find a mentorship couple to accompany them through the months leading up to their marriage. Megan was friends with Valerie’s older sister, and they had known each other since high school. Neither couple knew what to expect from the mentorship program.
The Witness to Love Marriage Mentorship Program is part of the Archdiocese of Vancouver’s Marriage Formation Course. The goal is to grow relationships between soon-to-be married couples and a married couple they look up to. The mentoring couple must have been married for at least five years and cannot be closely related to the engaged couple. They meet monthly for 90-minute sessions over half a year.
The benefits of mentoring are simple, say organizers: Catholic fellowship and guidance. Requiring the mentorship program as part of marriage prep effectively builds community and connection between Catholics while providing couples the support they need.
“It was nice to have a practising [Catholic] couple, who had been living the marriage life for five years,” Valerie told The B.C. Catholic. “To know that there was someone doing that already and having a good Catholic life was a good role model.”
Mentorship is not education, but a process that enriches all involved, Megan said in an interview. “We aren’t teaching; we are participating in the process.”
Her husband Nathan said, “There is just enough structure to direct conversations” without telling the couples what to think. “You get to see how marriage works.”
For Kevin and Valerie , this meant hearing from an experienced couple as they weighed in on various issues that can arise within a marriage, whether financial, emotional, or physical.
The couple was able to raise challenging questions they might feel uncomfortable discussing with their parents or their secular friends. Kevin said it was refreshing to discuss intimacy in a Catholic context.
“In secular culture, the idea of intimacy is viewed through the physical,” he said, while in the mentorship program they were encouraged to discuss the nature of intimacy within Catholic marriage as spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and creative.
“We appreciated the honesty; there was no sugar coating or anything. It was just a very honest portrayal of marriage and what to expect,” said Kevin.
Megan and Nathan reflected on their own marriage formation and said they would have appreciated the guidance if it had been encouraged.
While they mentored Valerie and Kevin and showed them actual married people working through their issues, Megan and Nathan were prompted to take a deeper look at their marriage and each other.
“For anyone who gets asked to mentor, don’t be intimidated by it,” said Megan. “Your marriage has something to offer.”
The couple are open about the benefits that mentoring has had for their marriage. Because of pandemic stressors, they were going through a rough patch when Valerie and Kevin approached them.
“We were fighting a lot,” admitted Nathan.
“A lot of those (mentoring) conversations were very unitive for us,” said Megan, reflecting on a session where Nathan gave a particularly poignant answer to a question. The experience made them take a deeper look at their own marriage and helped to strengthen it. “Going through the process was healing,” said Nathan.
In addition to its many benefits for their marriage, mentoring has led to lasting friendship and Catholic fellowship, especially between Nathan and Kevin. Two years later, the couples still meet to discuss married life, and Nathan says the relationship has become rooted in friendship. “I run things past Kevin all the time,” he said.
“They talk to each other more than [Valerie and I] do,” Megan laughed.
For Evita Mora Perea and Jacob Vendramin, who were married last April, the mentoring they received from Carolyn and Vern Bauer helped them take steps out of their own families as they set up their own new life together.
“The Bauers really solidified that we were forming a new family,” said Evita, who comes from an immigrant family with strong family ties. She struggled to reorient her life toward her and Jacob’s upcoming marriage.
“I come from a family with really strong role models,” she said. She and Jacob had a lot of discussion about how she could transfer that responsibility to her soon-to-be husband.
Similarly, Jacob found breaking into Evita’s family a challenge. Her three older brothers were all very protective, and some cultural barriers needed to be crossed. It was helpful to learn the Bauers had gone through a similar situation during courtship and were able to offer helpful advice and wisdom.
Like the Lams, Jacob and Evita were grateful to discuss the realities of marriage with a married couple who weren’t their parents. When it came to conversations about sex or parenting decisions, the couple were grateful for the more “objective opinions” of a third party.
In addition to the wisdom, the couple appreciated the prayer and Christian fellowship they received from the Bauers. By starting each meeting with a prayer, Evita said the sessions helped “ground us to the reason we were there” and emphasized the importance of keeping prayer central to their marriage.