Strengthening the connection: A series of Cana Commandment retreats offer support to married couples

North Texas Catholic
(Sep 8, 2023) Local

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FORT WORTH- Catholic couples in the Diocese of Fort Worth will have the opportunity to find ways to strengthen their marriages at the Cana Commandments retreats, one-day marriage enrichment events offered at three different locations in the diocese. 

The retreats will help the couples discover how God’s gift of the Ten Commandments applies to their lives as individuals and to their marriages. The retreats can help open their hearts and minds about how to approach their marriages.

The first Cana Commandments retreat will be from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Oct. 14 at Immaculate Conception Parish in Denton. The second will be from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Oct. 28 at St. Andrew Parish in Fort Worth. The third retreat will take place from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Jan. 13 at Sacred Heart Parish in Wichita Falls. There is a $30 registration fee for each retreat.

The featured speaker at the retreats will be Dana Nygaard, a Plano-based licensed professional counselor, speaker, wife, and mother.

Nygaard is known as a down-to-earth, cradle Catholic with a heart for the New Evangelization. She offers a blend of cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, Catholic spirituality, and a touch of humor to provide clients and audiences with practical solutions that have life-changing impacts.

Nygaard and her husband, David, are the creators and facilitators of Cana Marriage Retreats which she said teach couples to “live out a deeper level of loving intimacy through faithful understanding of what it means to live a valid and sacramental marriage through experiential exercises.”

Dana and David Nygaard. (Courtesy photo)

Nygaard said she is inspired by a desire to help individuals and married couples looking for emotional, psychological, and spiritual healing from a Catholic psychotherapy perspective.

She said she makes each retreat unique to benefit the couples.

“I want them to come to the retreat and experience the fullness of it and not say ‘I learned that from her two years ago at the parish,” Nygaard said. “So, they (the retreats) stand on their own, each one.”

Nygaard, who earned her counseling degree from Dallas Baptist University, explained her approach is unique in that it balances proven psychotherapy techniques with authentic Catholic spirituality. Her clients often quickly develop useful coping skills, positive communication techniques, find the courage to set boundaries, and discover healthy perspectives to navigate the challenges of their daily lives. 

"For me, it is so exciting to be there and to watch the Holy Spirit do His work," Nygaard enthused.

"It just gets me so excited and joyful," she continued. "And then it also confirmation for me that I am on the right track. I'm doing what God wants me to do. And I believe He's calling me to bless couples and individuals with mental health counseling through a Catholic lens."

She said she and her husband enjoy conducting the retreats.

"It is so much fun to do a retreat," she said. "I can't even tell you."

Dana Nygaard will be headlining the Cana Commandment retreats in the Diocese of Fort Worth. (Courtesy photo)

Nygaard said there's no ideal number of couples for each retreat, but having at least 16 couples attend works well because of the activities involved.

"We've done retreats where there have been nine couples; we've done them where there was a huge room just filled with couples. For me, the more the merrier," she said.

Nygaard said she knows she's ready for retreats when "I want to attend my own retreat or when I want to read my own article or hear my own presentation. That's when I'm satisfied."

Diocesan Marriage and Family Life Director Chris Vaughan said that marriage is something that the Church prepares people for from childhood, and parents are responsible for setting a good example of what a good marriage can be as well as how to be a good person.

"They should start teaching them the faith," he said. "Teaching them to pray, getting them their sacraments, taking them to church; even secular things like teaching them to work with money and communicate and all those things that help make a good, well-rounded person."

That doesn’t always happen, however.

"Many times, we're dealing with people who hadn't heard much [about marriage] because maybe they come from a home where their parents weren't together. Maybe their parents didn't give them a good example," Vaughan said.

Couples who prioritize God first in their relationship have stronger bonds. (Cathopic/ Francisco Xavier Franco Espinoza)

Vaughan said that Pope Francis called for stronger and more effective catechesis in preparation for marriage, something the pope said is “an appropriate path of preparation geared to rediscover marriage and the family in keeping with God’s design.”

It is important that couples turn to Christ to make their marriages strong and to know that the Catholic Church can help them achieve that.

"If we put them in union with Him, then we get the order of things right," Vaughan said. "I always like to use an example of if Jesus is first in your marriage, you know that when difficult things come up, we together sit there and pray and ask God, ‘how are we to deal with this or what decisions do we make?’"

Christ can help couple traverse life's problems.

"If Jesus is first, a couple sits down and maybe one of them really feels strongly about not moving," Vaughan said as an example. "But if they sit down and pray together, it’s really like ‘this is what should be done.’"

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