Loree Nauertz presents on the domestic church for a diocesan Professional Development Day on April 16 at St. Joseph’s Parish Center in Hayward. (Catholic Herald photo by Jenny Snarski)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald staff

Loree Nauertz, Associate Director of Evangelization and Missionary Discipleship for the Diocese of Superior, was the featured speaker for the third and final session of diocesan-offered Professional Development Days for this academic year. Nauertz spoke on “Marriage and Family: The Domestic Church” on Tuesday, April 16, at the parish center at St. Joseph’s in Hayward.

Organized by Director of Ecclesial Ministries and Diocesan Consultation Chris Newkirk, the workshops are for training and leadership development of priests, deacons, religious sisters, parish catechetical leaders and leadership teams.

Nauertz’s workshop followed January’s session on the individual and public call to holiness and October’s topic of domestic violence.

Throughout the morning and afternoon presentations, Nauertz shared anecdotes from her marriage and family life. She showed throughout her talks that God works best when we surrender to him and the grace available through the sacramental gifts of matrimony, reconciliation and Eucharist.

Having just celebrated her 28th wedding anniversary, Nauertz shared how the brokenness from her own parents’ marriage influenced her view of marriage and anxiety about being successful in a committed relationship. Admitting that her husband Al, then neighbor-boy and best friend of five years, fit every criteria of what she wanted in a husband, she still struggled to let go of what held her back from pursuing a dating relationship with him during her college years.

Nauertz shared photos via projection of their wedding day and their family with six sons, now expanded to include two daughters-in-law and two grandchildren.

“What a beautiful family,” she exclaimed anyone would comment, seeing the smiling faces in the pictures. She acknowledged how blessed they have been, but added, “We have to recognize that we are broken – and that everyone we encounter is broken.”

The key, Nauertz said, is to look at ourselves and others not focused on the brokenness but in the wholeness we’re comprised of in light of the redemption Jesus Christ won for us.

“He intimately looked at our sin on the cross,” she said. “He came to show us how to live, how to be resurrected.”

She went on to recognize that we cannot prevent sin, but we can live and teach our children – and the young people we minister to – about God’s mercy and the grace of the sacraments. Quoting Fr. Mike Schmitz, Nauertz called the confessional not a place to be feared, but a place of victory where we are reconciled with Christ and each other.

“The Lord doesn’t ask us to raise our children perfectly,” she said, “but he asks us to trust him and invite him into the mess… The only way it’s going to be beautiful is if he’s in it.”

Nauertz moved into definitions of the term “domestic church” and invited responses from among the 40 participants. Building on a “reflection of the Trinity,” she explained it as the first church where children learn about and experience the love of God from their parents and where they first learn to pray.

Time was dedicated for attendees to reflect on Scripture passages on marriage in groups. Using selections from Genesis, Ecclesiastes, the Gospel of Matthew and St. Paul, they read and summarized main messages. Discussions touched on divorce and annulment, and the personal and generational woundedness that makes covenant relationships so difficult.

“Wounds that are not transformed are transferred,” Nauertz asserted, sharing from what she’s learned through participating at retreats like the John Paul II Healing Center’s Healing the Whole Person. These events, put on by Dr. Bob Schuchts and Sr. Miriam James Heidlund, address many topics that real people deal with in their personal, married and family lives, offering healing prayer ministry and perspectives from solid understandings of the human person informed by Catholic anthropology and psychological sciences.

One priest shared a story of a couple who came seeking the church’s intercession and advice for their marital struggles. He said he gathered they might have sought out other marriage counseling resources but noted the real effectiveness of God’s grace experienced through confession and the Eucharist.

After looking at those Scriptural foundations, Nauertz turned to teachings and writings of the Catholic Church to lay out a vision for marriage and family.

“The phrase ‘domestic church’ has been used to describe families since the beginning of Christianity,” Nauertz noted and pointed to St. Pope John Paul II’s reference in his “Letter to Families.” She added that John Paul II – whom she credited as likely the greatest influence on her own faith life – said the family was “the cell of society. And if the cell is unhealthy, we all know what that means.”

She shared about the “witness of love” that John Paul II was and how her conviction for marriage and family was solidified during World Youth Day in Denver 1993. The gathering took place soon after her older brother was tragically killed in an accident, and her heart was torn between this world and the next. She recalled thinking “it doesn’t matter how long we live on this earth. What matters is that we have an abundant life… He has a purpose for me, and I need to start living.”

Before breaking for lunch, concerns were raised about the number of parents encountered in parish life and religious education ministry who, although they are called to the first teachers of the faith, take a passive and uninvolved role, with many even leaving the decision to participate up to the children. Nauertz promised this type of challenge would be addressed in the afternoon, with their own input on further challenges and possible action plans.

Nauertz began the afternoon session by sharing more personal stories. She started out acknowledging that despite both growing up with solid Catholic formation under their beloved German priest, she and her husband felt there were definitely teachings on marriage and family they didn’t understand or agree with.

“But we both believed that the church knew more than we did,” she commented. They trusted the church “must have some good reason for it and that we just didn’t know it and then we’d research.”

“Looking back,” Nauertz continued, “some of the things the church asked of us were really challenging. It required us to sacrifice and lay down our own desires and put the other person’s needs before our own. It caused us to live not for ourselves but for something higher.” Looking back, they are grateful for the grace to have experienced the church’s wisdom.

“Make no mistake – the father of lies is behind all the challenges,” Nauertz said. “There is a battle going on.” She added that the enemy’s goal is to destroy families and the priesthood as the primary ways we receive God’s love and actual grace.

Affirming God as the author of marriage and family and Jesus as the way, truth and life he claimed to be, Nauertz shared that objective truth doesn’t contradict loving and walking alongside others who don’t share our beliefs.

Nauertz iterated, “God sees us as whole persons… We need to do that with others;” she humorously added that extends to our spouses. Then commenting further on the reality of the sacramental grace and its effectiveness in the covenant nature of marriage and God’s commitment to those who enter into it, Nauertz asserted there are times of struggle when one spouse needs to call the enemy out in the battle. “Satan, you cannot have my marriage,” she admitted calling out more than once.

As the group shared the challenges they saw marriages and families facing in the current culture, each was written on a white board.

As the challenges were reviewed and summarized, common denominators were individualism and influence of materialism, consumerism and culture of instant gratification and comfort-seeking. Busyness and the struggle to keep priorities coincided with the still-often unequal domestic responsibilities between working mothers and fathers. Couples struggling with communication and making time for their marriage were noted as families are burdened with financial challenges and mental health concerns and lack of close-knit communities in which parents have practical support where extended families live far apart.

General lack of faith formation and people not growing up with solid witnesses to living a life where God and religion remain prioritized values was seen as pervading many of the challenges. Men and women under attack in their identities as such, and expectations for their marriages and family life add to the addictions and brokenness so many have been either raised in or has close contact with. The negative influence of social media, the entertainment industry and the picture of relationships and superficiality they present as an ideal. Competitiveness, entitlement and the breakdown of morality and social norms regarding sex were also listed as challenges.

Last but not least, it was noted that even within the Catholic Church, there is not always strong orthodox teaching standing against the secular culture.

One of the participating deacons spoke up, “This situation hasn’t happened over night. The solutions will also take time. Americans want instant gratification, but that’s not how God works … We have to be okay with planting seeds that will give fruit in generations to come.”

Nauertz concluded, “We need to remind people of their true identity, work on our own personal holiness so that we can have his eyes to see others.”


Loree Nauertz shared these sources for further reading and reflection on the domestic church. More information is available at catholicdos.org/marriage-family.

1. Into the Breach: the Mission of the Family by the Knights of Columbus, available at formed.org.
2. Foryourmarriage.org
3. HelpOurMarriage.org
4. www.witnesstolove.org
5. www.marriageuniqueforareason.org
6. Renewed: 7 Steps for an Amazing Marriage, by Chris and Natalie Stefanick – coaching.reallifecatholic.com/renewed.