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What's at the center of a strong marriage?

By Elizabeth Ann Wells
May 5th, 2008
The Catholic Voice (

RALSTON, Neb. (The Catholic Voice) - Todd and Deb Banchor say they are nothing special, but their marriage is.

Don’t misunderstand. The Banchors, members of St. Gerald Parish in Ralston, are not saying their own marriage is perfect. They have had ups and downs like almost every other couple. But, as far as they are concerned, the sacrament of marriage is perfect because God is part of that union.

They say they are enjoying the benefits of a healthy marriage and have worked to help others reap the blessings of a strong marriage with God at the center. One of their best tools is peer marriage ministry.

Married in 1983, they participated in two Worldwide Marriage Encounter Weekends in 1985 and 1989 in the Archdiocese of Denver. They said it renewed their marriage and solidified their desire to shine the light on the sanctity of marriage. Honoring that sanctity comes from a firm commitment to stay focused on each other.

“There is a saying that love is a decision,” Todd said, adding that they were challenged at their encounters to renew their decision every day.

“When you have been given something really great, you want to share that with other people,” said Deb. It led them to help first in Engaged Encounter and then Worldwide Marriage Encounter in Denver, Lincoln and now Omaha. Over the past 20-plus years, they have served in many roles in both movements. Each encounter has left the Banchors further committed.

Todd appreciates how Engaged Encounter reassures couples that their journey together can be wonderful with faith in God and their love for each other. He likens it to the mountain climber standing at the foot of a majestic mountain.

“Looking up, you know it’s going to be a beautiful journey, but you’re not sure what the paths and pitfalls are along the way,” he said.

As presenters at Marriage Encounter weekends, he said they regularly saw miraculous changes in people’s lives. Couples learn a communication technique called “dialoging.” It’s intended for daily use and helps couples to keep focusing on what is important - each other.

“We could see tensions between couples dissolve by the end. It’s for all ages. Every relationship can use a tune up or retreat,” he says. “When we would see other couples get re-energized, we wanted that for ourselves.”

Renew Church through renewal of marriage

Making their marriage the best it can be is the greatest thing the Banchors say they can do for their family. They also have made many friendships with people of like minds and similar values along the way. The constant reminder through their marriage encounter experiences reinforces their commitment to good marriages.

“Like all couples, our marriage has had its ups and downs,” Deb said. “It’s a human journey, but through it all you still know that this is the person that God gave me, and through the ups and downs, this person goes with me.”

This knowledge creates peace and offers comfort, the Banchors said. Home is the primary haven and within that home is the spouse. That promise of stability and support invigorates their own relationship and keeps them connected to their work in Worldwide Marriage Encounter because it’s the mission of the movement in action.

“That mission is to renew the church through the renewal of the sacrament of marriage. By renewing the church you’re changing the world. You must consider the ripple effect of loving relationships at home,” Todd said.

“That really does change the world.”

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