Faithful House: Building Stronger Marriages & Families

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Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.

—Matthew 7:24-25

Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.

—Psalm 127:1

A good foundation makes the difference between a strong and weak house. A good foundation can also make a difference in a marriage. Paskasia and Gonzaga Lubegas have built their marriage from the ground up. And they're using their personal experience to show other couples how important communication is to creating a lasting bond.

Couples in the Faithful House program learn the values of communication, fidelity, respect and joint decision-making. Photo by Karen Kasmauski for CRS
Couples in the Faithful House program learn the values of communication, fidelity, respect and joint decision-making. Photo by Karen Kasmauski for CRS

Paskasia and Gonzaga are a "master couple." It's not because they've been married a long time, although they have—19 years to be exact—but because they work with Catholic Relief Services' Faithful House program to help strengthen families in their community.

Their workshop is part of Faithful House's curriculum. Since 2006, more than 150,000 people in 11 sub-Saharan countries have participated in the program. The 3-day training promotes marriage and communication, fidelity, respect and joint decision-making.

At the center of the program is faith.

"People have come to know the goodness of God, how to care for families, how to care for children," says Pascal Rwamperre, who leads Faithful House workshops. "Couples are now attending church together. Churches see more married couples and are seeing the goodness of God."

Challenging social norms

The program also provides a safe space to examine the cultural and social norms impacting their relationships. In Africa, husbands often make many of the household decisions. The Faithful House curriculum encourages couples to communicate their feelings about gender roles with the help of a facilitator.

"We want couples to work together, function together and plan together," says Dorothy Brewster-Lee, a CRS senior technical advisor. Couples in the program discuss financial and health decisions, natural family planning and child-rearing.

Gonzaga and Paskasia, who have had these discussions in their own marriage, are now working with couples in their home country of Uganda as well as other sub-Saharan African countries.

"Very few couples talk about sex. We are trying to break the silence on the taboo and share a common vision," Gonzaga says. "We also encourage couples to take a voluntary HIV test together. We have HIV-infected couples living a healthy life."

"We encourage couples to make economic decisions together," says Paskasia. "The wife is not left out."

Couples tackle parenting head-on

Paskasia explains that parents in Africa, especially fathers, often have a difficult time communicating with their children.

"The Faithful House teaches parents to be present for their children, sit with their children, listen and experience the joy of their children," she says.

"We need more programs of this kind," says Pascal. "We still have people who need this. It's important to our lives, families and our children. They need parenting. We can now go home and parent."

The ABCs of Positive Parenting

Attitude. Be positive.

Being Present. Your children need you with them—not just for them.  

Communication. Speak and listen to your children.

Development. Recognize and discuss significant changes in your children’s lives.

Expectations. Set the bar high, but always be encouraging.

Failure and Forgiveness. No one is perfect.

God and Grace. We can’t do it alone—put your faith front and center.

Lasting change

Gonzaga and Paskasia have seen a change in the people they work with.

"The Faithful House is a great asset for the community. All couples should go for it," says Paskasia. "Faithful House helps make a vision for the husband and wife."

In addition to benefiting families, some couples have seen a decrease in destructive behaviors like alcohol abuse or domestic violence, while others report improved family income.

Gonzaga and Paskasia say they are enjoying watching their family grow up. Their children are teenagers now, but their bond as a couple and a family is stronger than ever.

"Our marriage was good, but now it is very good. We are very happy," says Gonzaga. "When we facilitate marriage workshops, it strengthens our own marriage and lets us evaluate it. We can't give what we don't have."