A Wedding Story

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Creighton alumnus Paul Carvey, PhD, BS’72, MS’75, discusses the neurological aspects of falling in love.

A Wedding Story

St. John’s Church offers support for engaged couples, remains popular location to exchange vows

By Rick Davis, BA’88

Maggie Rogers couldn’t imagine getting married anywhere else. “It’s like a fairytale to get married in St. John’s Church,” says the former Maggie Carter, who wed her college sweetheart, Andrew Rogers, there on Sept. 22, 2018.

The iconic, 130-year-old St. John’s Church, on the heart of Creighton’s campus, is the most popular Catholic church in Omaha for weddings, according to the Omaha Archdiocese — a trend that has held constant for at least the last 17 years.

St. John’s hosts about twice as many weddings as any other church in the archdiocese, according to the latest archdiocesan figures. In 2018, 75 weddings were celebrated at the church, and the same number is expected in 2019, says Kathy Martin, coordinator of marriage preparation for Creighton and St. John’s.

“For many Creighton students and alumni, St. John’s feels like home,” Martin says.

That was the case for Maggie and Andrew.

Maggie earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Creighton in 2016, and her accelerated nursing degree in 2017. She is currently a nurse at Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha. Andrew graduated with a degree in finance and business intelligence and analytics in 2016, and works at the Carson Group in Omaha.

The two met the first week of their freshman year at Creighton in 2012. Maggie was from Denver, and Andrew from Sacramento, California. They met through a mutual friend after a Creighton soccer match.

They soon began dating, and would often meet — before and after classes — on the bench outside Swanson Hall, facing St. John’s.

“We would meet there all the time,” Maggie says. “We would just sit out in front of the church and talk. Or we would meet there and then walk to class or go to dinner.”

It became their spot. Andrew would propose to Maggie on that same bench in March of their senior year.

So, getting married at St. John’s Church was a priority.

By May 2016, they had selected their wedding date, Sept. 22, 2018, and one of their first calls was to the office at St. John’s Church — as popular dates tend to fill fast.

“They said, ‘That’s great, but we don’t reserve couples more than two years in advance,’” Maggie says. “So, I called them again on Sept. 22, 2016 — exactly two years before our wedding — at 8 a.m.”

When no one answered the phone, Maggie planned to stop by the church office later in the day. “But then they called back and said, ‘Don’t worry, you got it.’”

“We really felt this was where our story was and where our relationship really bloomed into what it is,” Maggie says. “This just seemed like the right place to make our vows.”

Many other alumni and students feel the same way.

St. John’s Church is made available for weddings of Creighton students, alumni, faculty and staff, along with children of Creighton graduates and members of St. John’s parish registered for at least six months.

The Catholic Church views marriage as both a sacrament and a vocation, and Pope Francis has called marriage “the icon of God’s love for us.”

Before the wedding day, the Catholic Church requires that couples complete some form of marriage preparation — which can vary by diocese or parish. St. John’s asks couples to complete the FOCCUS (Facilitating Open Couple Communications, Understanding and Study) inventory.

The FOCCUS inventory — developed in 1985 by the Omaha Archdiocese — is a 156-item questionnaire designed to facilitate discussion on topics important to marital success — from finances to childrearing.

Couples are guided in the process by trained facilitators, and choose either a married couple or a Jesuit. St. John’s has 16 married couples and seven Creighton Jesuits who serve as facilitators.

Maggie and Andrew loved their marriage prep facilitators — Sue and Bill Selde.

“Bill and Sue made it an incredible experience,” Andrew says. “We even invited them to our wedding. They are just great people.”

“Andrew and I have known each other for much of our adult lives,” Maggie adds. “I expected that since we already knew so much about each other — we talked about getting married for so long, and we have a pretty good vision of what we want our marriage and future to look like — I wasn’t anticipating to gain much more.

“But I think Bill and Sue asked questions that we may not have talked about when we were with them, but on our drive home or over dinner the next night, we would say, ‘Hey, we talked about this before, but let’s dig a little deeper.’”

Sue Selde is an instructor and the academic success coordinator in the College of Nursing, while her husband, Bill, BSBA’84, JD’87, is a Creighton graduate and an attorney at Fitzgerald, Schorr, Barmettler & Brennan PC. The Seldes, who were married at St. John’s and are now parishioners there, have been facilitators for about two years.

“It has really enhanced our relationship,” Sue says of the experience. “We’ve been married for almost 38 years, and we got married at St. John’s. We have benefited as much as our couples. And we love our couples.”

Couples typically meet with facilitators five or six times for 60- to 90-minute sessions. The facilitators’ role is to get the couples to talk to each other, covering areas highlighted in the FOCCUS inventory.

“They (the couples) naturally want to answer to you, as the facilitator,” Sue says. “But we set the chairs so they are looking at each other. We are not the target of their discussion. We always ask them to talk to each other. We are simply asking questions that might start their conversation.”

“You can really see them mature in their communication skills,” Bill adds. “The (FOCCUS) instrument asks all kinds of questions you would never think of, until you’re four or five years into your marriage and something comes up. So, it does prepare these couples.”

The process has couples addressing the practical issues of married life, such as finances, communication skills, demands of career and parenting, sexuality, and spirituality and religion. Couples then meet with a priest, typically the one who will preside at the ceremony, to plan the liturgy and discuss the theological implications of marriage, including vocation and marriage as a covenant.

“It is a truly unique method of working effectively with busy young professionals to help them have an effective and inspiring premarriage experience,” Martin says.

Creighton alumni and students from other parishes outside of Omaha can get married at St. John’s. In addition, couples who live in Omaha and are affiliated with Creighton or St. John’s can take marriage preparation classes at St. John’s and have their wedding ceremony at their home parish.

Interfaith and ecumenical weddings are also performed at St. John’s Church, as long as either the bride or groom is Catholic. A 2015 Pew Research Center study found that 39 percent of Americans who have married since 2010 have a spouse who is in a different religious group.

A Catholic who wishes to marry a non-Catholic Christian in the Catholic Church requires permission from the diocese, while marriage to a non-Christian requires a more rigorous “dispensation” from the local bishop. The Catholic party also must agree to continue following the Catholic faith and to raise children in the faith.

About 45 percent of weddings at St. John’s involve a Catholic marrying a non-Catholic Christian, and 5 percent a Catholic marrying a non-Christian or a person of no faith.

In all cases, Martin says, marriage preparation is valuable. A 2003 study, cited by FOCCUS, found that couples taking premarriage preparation had a 30 percent higher rate of marital success than those couples who did not.

Couples can choose one of Creighton’s Jesuit priests to perform the wedding ceremony and Mass, or a favorite priest from another diocese. Andrew and Maggie chose Creighton’s the Rev. Greg Carlson, SJ.

“He asked a lot of questions about our family, so he could create a day for us that was what we wanted it to be,” Maggie says. “It was very much a Mass that celebrated our marriage.”

When their wedding day arrived, it was 72 and sunny — not a cloud in the sky. Some 180 family and friends — including the Seldes and some 70 classmates from Creighton — gathered inside St. John’s Church.

“It was so cool to bring our family and friends to a place that is so special to us, and has such strong meaning for us,” Maggie says.

“It was a perfect day. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect wedding.”