Marriage Menders: Greg and Julie Alexander make Catholic couples stronger
COLLEYVILLE — Every day, married Catholic couples work to make their unions happy, successful, and enduring.
Sometimes, there are potholes and roadblocks that send the couples looking for answers and tips on how to put their marriages back on the right road. That’s where Greg and Julie Alexander come in.
The Alexanders recently conducted the “Family Fully Alive” conference at Good Shepherd Parish in Colleyville — a full day of inspiration, laughter, and maybe even a tear or two about how to make marriages stronger.
The San Antonio-based couple has been married for 31 years, and they are marriage disciples who have created The Alexander House Apostolate. It’s their vehicle to help others with troubled marriages find hope and healing based on what the Alexanders learned from their own experience of nearly divorcing 19 years ago.
The conference was a reminder of the role of marriage in Catholic life.
“Marriage is a vocation, it’s a call from the Lord,” Joshua Bitting, director of evangelization at Good Shepherd, told attendees in introducing the Alexanders.
Once on stage, Greg and Julie mixed humor with a keen knowledge of what a Catholic marriage should be, and they kept their rapt audience engaged in learning how to map out a strong marriage.
Greg reminded attendees that St. Pope John Paul II declared the family is the foundation of society, saying, “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.”
Greg harkened back to his military days to explain how he and his wife would “help you be able to navigate those difficulties” in marriage.
“In order to carry out a mission, it employs a strategy,” Greg said, who likened marriage to a compass point to aim at during a military training exercise. “If we’re not heading our marriage in true north, we are going to get lost.”
Greg and Julie met in college and then married.
Their early married life included his time in the military and then corporate work. Julie was a stay-at-home mom caring for the first two of their eventual seven children.
Julie said their social circle included five couples, and unlike Julie, the other wives were all very competitive career women.
Julie wanted to work and eventually took a job at a fitness center nearby. She said she became driven to be the top salesperson at the club, spending long hours, even days, away from home.
She became number one on the sales ladder, but she and Greg grew apart and they reached a point where they believed divorce was the only answer.
“I’m done. I’m emotionally tired. I want a divorce,” Julie quoted Greg as telling her.
They sought help from a priest and from a counselor, but they didn’t find the answers they were looking for.
Julie said they called their two young children into a room and told them about the planned divorce.
The children reacted by huddling in the corner, afraid of what the future would hold.
But, the Alexanders found help from a priest who filled in at their parish for the summer whose words helped them realize that God’s plan for marriage was the right strategy.
“God sent us a messenger,” the couple said. “He was speaking such words of truth and faith.”
Greg, a voracious researcher, told Julie: “Maybe we need to pray.”
The couple discovered the words in Ephesians calling for husbands to love their wives just as Christ loved the Church, and for wives to submit to their husbands as they do to the Lord.
He said he read for days, including the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Familiaris Consortio (On the Family), Pope John Paul II’s 1981 apostolic exhortation that begins, “The family in the modern world, as much as and perhaps more than any other institution, has been beset by the many profound and rapid changes that have affected society and culture.”
It helped Greg understand what it meant to be a good Christian husband and a good Christian father.
The couple realized that marriage is a gift from God.
“We become a reflection of God right here on Earth,” Greg said.
“God has a plan and a purpose for your marriage,” Julie said.
“When you stood at the altar, you said ‘I do’ to God,” she said. “Your clearest pathway to heaven is the one sitting right next to you.”
The couple quit their corporate jobs and began their lives as marriage disciples.
Julie and Greg led the group through exercises that the couples could use in their own marriages to strengthen not only their bonds to each other, but to God, too.
“You can give hope to a world that is hopeless,” Greg said.
Among the exercises were an evaluation of the couples’ marriages, forgiveness and healing lessons, and an evaluation of the couples’ attitudes about sex.
One of the most important roles of marriage is to bring children into the world, the couple said.
“Not only are we called to bring a child into the world, we are called to be their first educator,” Greg said.
What’s the most important thing that attendees could take away from the conference?
“For me, it would be to know and understand that God does indeed have a plan for marriage and in order for us to experience the joy and happiness that He intended, we must go back and learn and implement His plan for marriage,” Greg said.
The Alexanders have carried their lessons to audiences across the country. They used to take a 35-foot RV on the road with their children to do the conferences.
Greg and Julie conducted roughly 30 conferences a year in the past, but he said that for the last year, they’ve taken “a sabbatical” to readjust themselves, “so we severely minimized that.”
The Colleyville conference is only the second they’ve done this year, but Greg said they likely will be doing more in the coming year.