‘Out-of-con­trol’ fam­ily saved self with Retrou­vaille re­treat

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jon Ward

The low point in Carol Mo­ran’s life came 15 years ago, when she left her hus­band, Tom, and their nine chil­dren, and for two weeks lived out of a Ford Ranger.

“I just drove around the neigh­bor­hood and slept in the truck at night,” said Mrs. Mo­ran, now 64.

The Mo­rans had been mar­ried for 25 years. But Mr. Mo­ran had re­lapsed into al­co­hol abuse, and their teenage chil­dren were get­ting into se­ri­ous trou­ble. The cou­ple fought con­stantly.

“I didn’t know what the prob­lem was,” Mrs. Mo­ran said. “All I knew was we were out of con­trol.” But the Mo­rans are still mar­ried. “We have all th­ese prob­lems, but we have so many bless­ings,” said Mr. Mo­ran, 67, a re­tired hy­drome­chan­ics en­gi­neer who worked for the U.S. Navy for 40 years. “We’ve ac­com­plished so much.”

Many of the Mo­rans’ ac­com­plish­ments have come inside the “com­mu­nity” where they first sal­vaged their mar­riage.

Shortly af­ter Mrs. Mo­ran left the cou­ple’s Rockville, Md. home, a friend told her about Retrou­vaille, a pro­gram started in 1977 for strug­gling mar­riages.

“We knew we were in deep trou­ble, so we jumped into Retrou­vaille,” Mr. Mo­ran said.

In Septem­ber 1991, the Mo­rans went to a week­end re­treat run by cou­ples who also had gone through Retrou­vaille. The week- end fo­cused on teach­ing cou­ples prac­ti­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tion tools.

“Yelling and scream­ing were our tools that we used — and slam­ming doors,” said Mrs. Mo­ran, who was a kinder­garten teacher be­fore be­comin­gas­tay-at-home­mo­ther.“We learned that doesn’t work.”

Mr. Mo­ran said: “Once we learned to com­mu­ni­cate, we saw that we had the same ideas and feel­ings about a lot of things. We just didn’t have the tools. A lot of is­sues can be set­tled by just lis­ten­ing to each other. If the wife wants to talk about some­thing, the hus­band needs to take time and just lis­ten.”

The Mo­rans also learned about for­giv­ing each other and tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for their own ac­tions. The teach­ings were based on Catholic prin­ci­ples and of­ten in­cluded a priest but were in­de­pen­dent of a parish or church.

Af­ter six post-week­end in­struc­tional ses­sions, the Mo­rans be­came Retrou­vaille pre­sen­ters in March 1992 and now co­or­di­nate re­treat week­ends in Mary­land.

Their con­tin­u­ing in­volve­ment in the pro­gram, they say, has forced them to con­tinue work­ing on their mar­riage. Mr. Mo­ran has been sober for years now, and the Mo­rans think of them­selves as “wounded heal­ers.”

“We’re not coun­selors,” Mr. Mo­ran said. “We’re just shar­ing our story with oth­ers.”

Mrs. Mo­ran said they have seen many other cou­ples re­pair their mar­riages through the Retrou­vaille pro­gram.

“We hope that we can give hope to other peo­ple,” she said.

About 70,000 peo­ple have gone through the Retrou­vaille pro­gram.

In Au­gust 2005, the Mo­rans flew to Ger­many to be with one of their daugh­ters, whose hus­band is in the U.S. Air Force, for the birth of her child.

Their grand­daugh­ter was born Aug. 17, the Mo­rans’ 38th an­niver­sary.

“It was like a sign that all of our strug­gles had been worth it,” Mrs. Mo­ran said.

Michael Con­nor / The Wash­ing­ton Times

Tom and Carol Mo­ran use their own strug­gles and tri­umphs to help other trou­bled cou­ples as pre­sen­ters at Retrou­vaille re­treats, the pro­gram is based on Catholic prin­ci­ples.

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