Building Your Marriage Before It Starts Workshop

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A one-day marriage preparation workshop for couples who want to build a marriage that will have the foundation to last a lifetime.

Each workshop is directed by Grace and Growth Counseling Center and is offered at Holy Spirit Catholic Church.

Workshop Description

Any wedding is a significant event, but a Catholic wedding is more than that. For Catholics, marriage is not merely a civil contract, but a covenant between a man and a woman before God.

Couples today face more demands and have fewer supports than ever before. Today’s marriage oftentimes involves managing two careers while rearing children. Healthy communication and continued intimacy are essential. Even good marriages have challenges that surface that have the potential to cripple the relationship and harm the family.

This workshop teaches couples how best to discuss and manage finances, develop and implement consistent parenting styles and, most importantly, integrate their faith in everyday decisions. You don’t have to discover all the things that make a marriage work on your own.

There is no scientific way to determine one’s readiness for marriage, but this workshop, presented by a team of a priest, two licensed social workers and a married couple, is a valuable tool that promotes dialogue between you and your future spouse on the most important issues relating to marriage.

While this workshop is not only for Catholics, the material discussed in the workshop is faithful to the teachings of the Catholic faith.

Marriage is a journey a couple walks together daily with all of its joys and challenges. Holy Spirit Catholic Church wants your marriage to stay as blessed as the day you said, “I do.” Don’t miss this opportunity to “Build Your Marriage Before It Starts”!

Workshop Information

Workshop Dates:
January 25, 2014
April 12, 2014
September 27, 2014
December 6, 2014

Time: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Holy Spirit Catholic Church
4465 Northside Drive, N.W.
Atlanta, GA 30327

Marriage Preparation Requirement

Msgr. Edward J. Dillon, J.C.D., pastor, has stated that completion of the workshop meets his requirements for marriage preparation at Holy Spirit. It also complies with what the Archdiocese of Atlanta requires. Additionally, the state of Georgia offers a discount on the cost of the marriage license for couples who have taken at least six hours of marriage preparation. Each county requires its own form of documentation to receive this discount. However, most counties accept the certificate given to each couple at the end of the workshop. If the county needs further documentation, Grace and Growth Counseling Center will be happy to complete any additional documentation requested by the county.


Father Paul A. Burke, J.C.L.
Parochial Vicar
Holy Spirit Catholic Church, Atlanta

Father Paul A. Burke was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Atlanta on May 24, 1996 by the Most Reverend John F. Donoghue, Archbishop of Atlanta. A graduate of St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Ireland, with highest honors, Father Burke also received master’s degrees in divinity and moral theology from Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Md. He attended the Pope John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C. Father Burke was awarded a licentiate in canon law by The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He is a J.C.D./Ph.D. candidate at the Catholic University, Leuven, Belgium. He teaches theology at Holy Spirit College and serves as chair of the theology faculty.

Mary Ellen Hughes, L.C.S.W., B.C.D.
Executive Director
Grace and Growth Counseling Center

Mary Ellen Hughes, L.C.S.W., B.C.D., served as the director of the Family Life Office for the Archdiocese of Atlanta from 1978 to 2009. Mary Ellen has over 25 years of experience as a therapist, leading and developing programs that offer a full spectrum of support for families in areas such as marriage preparation, Natural Family Planning, marriage enrichment, help for hurting marriages, and ministry to divorced Catholics. Under her supervision, the office led over 30 Pre-Cana and Remarriage workshops yearly and networked with movements and parishes offering different types of marriage preparation.  She was awarded her master’s degree in social work from the University of Georgia, Athens, in 1983.
Learn more about Mary Ellen Hughes >

Linda Sweeney
Grace and Growth Counseling Center

Linda Sweeney, L.C.S.W., served as program coordinator for the Family Life Office for the Archdiocese of Atlanta from 2000-2009 and program director at Grace and Growth Counseling Center from 2009-2013. She is currently offering workshops on contract with Grace and Growth Counseling Center. Among Linda’s accomplishments, she wrote and published a newsletter providing continuing education on marriage and family life topics for family ministry professionals, clergy and paraprofessionals in 100 archdiocesan churches. Linda is a certified facilitator, for the marriage preparation inventory know as FOCCUS (Facilitating Open Couple Communication, Understanding and Study). She was awarded her master’s degree in social work with mental health concentration in 1985 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Learn more about Linda Sweeney >

Stephen and Ellen Cocks
Volunteers-Marriage and Family Ministry

Stephen and Ellen Cocks, parishioners at Holy Spirit and the parents of three children, have worked in marriage ministry for over 15 years at both the parish and archdiocesan level. In this workshop the couple will share with participants their life experiences that illustrate their challenges as well as the triumphs that they have experienced as they have strived to live out the sacrament of marriage on a daily basis. Stephen and Ellen, who are trained in Natural Family Planning, are also presenters at the archdiocesan Pre-Cana workshop.

Workshop topics and speakers are subject to change without notice.


Cost and Deadline

Cost: $150 (Includes lunch and refreshments)

Registration is required and is requested by the Tuesday before the published workshop date. After this date it is recommended that hopeful workshop participants call 678-235-3910 to check on availability. Preference is given to parishioners of Holy Spirit Catholic Church. A priest or deacon, with the pastor’s blessing, must approve a couple’s attendance before a couple can register for a workshop.

Request a Brochure Via U.S. Mail or Request Additional Information

To have the “Building Your Marriage Before It Starts” brochure sent to you via U.S. Mail or to request additional information please call Beth McEachern at (678) 235-3910 or e-mail

Download the Brochure

PDF Download Print Version the Buildiofng Your Marriage Before It Starts PDF

Register by FAX or U.S. Mail

To register for the workshop by FAX (678-235-3915) or by U.S. Mail please complete the registration form in the “Building Your Marriage Before It Starts” brochure and mail with check for $150, payable to Grace and Growth Counseling Center, or credit/debit card information to Grace and Growth Counseling Center, 348 Mount Vernon Highway, N.E., Sandy Springs, GA 30328.

Register Online

To register and pay for the workshop online click the Register button below. Your registration confirmation will be sent via e-mail.

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