New apostolate enriches marriages with ten commandments

by Mary Lou Seewoester

North Texas Catholic

November 7, 2019

a couple talking enthusiasticallya couple talking enthusiastically
Cana Commandments is one of several retreats offered by Cana Marriage Retreats, which recently became an approved marriage enrichment apostolate for the Diocese of Fort Worth. (NTC/Kenneth Munyer)


COLLEYVILLE — “One of the things I love most about my spouse is her attention to detail,” Paul said during a Cana Commandments Retreat Nov. 2 at Good Shepherd Parish in Colleyville.

“You are blessed and highly favored,” responded Armando, who continued the exchange. “One of the things I love most about my wife is her charisma.”

“You are blessed and highly favored,” answered Paul.

The two men then circulated the room to share additional positive attributes about their spouses with others on the retreat. This “Life-Giving Words” activity helped couples reflect on Commandment Two of the Ten Commandments of Marriage:  Thou shall speak well of your spouse.

By the end of the activity, all 10 couples on the retreat had shared 16 positive attributes about their spouses with another person.

“It’s important to build up positive emotional memories of your spouse and you now just built up 16 new positive memories in your brain,” said Dana Nygaard, Cana Commandments author and facilitator.

Nygaard told the North Texas Catholic that Cana Commandments integrates Catholic theology with her knowledge and experience as a licensed professional counselor in private practice.

“I noticed that couples want to blame each other,” she said. “Cana Commandments is about each person as an individual. I don’t get to lean over and point out my husband’s faults.”

She noted that though couples sit next to each other during the retreat, “they’re not conversing a lot because it’s all very introspective. It’s about each person individually …  the majority of it is an interior focus for the individual, and then it eventually turns to couple focus.”

Michael Jacobsen, parishioner at St. Martin de Porres in Prosper, validated the way Cana Commandments ministers to each spouse individually.

“It’s refreshing to remember that it’s about me and how I am doing. The focus is on ourselves instead of our spouse,” he said.

Cana Commandments is one of several retreats offered by Cana Marriage Retreats, an apostolate founded by Nygaard, which recently became an approved marriage enrichment apostolate for the Diocese of Fort Worth. The retreat curriculum also has a nihil obstat, meaning it contains nothing contrary to the faith and morals of the Church.

Nygaard and her husband, David, a retired probation officer and director of operations for the apostolate, work together on all retreats.

“The covenant of marriage parallels the covenant of union with God,” Nygaard said.  “Our goal is to demonstrate how the Ten Commandments not only apply to our lives as individuals, but to our marriages as well.”

Dana NygaardDana Nygaard
Dana Nygaard, Cana Commandments author and facilitator, leads a group discussion at Good Shepherd Parish in Colleyville on Nov. 2, 2019. (NTC/Kenneth Munyer)


Nygaard guided participants through each of the Ten Commandments and the corresponding Commandments of Marriage using visualizations, group activities, personal reflections, and a Cana scorecard.

She explained that spouses complete the scorecard by listing their areas of success as a spouse and areas that need improvement. They complete the activity privately and without discussion with spouses or fellow retreat participants.

“The focus is for you to take ownership for yourself…to claim, not blame,” she said. “You have to be fiercely honest about who you are as a spouse.”

Carrie Crnkovich, a parishioner of St. Peter the Apostle in White Settlement, said she appreciated the way Nygaard “has interwoven Scripture into everything.”

Her husband, Paul, said the retreat resonated with him because “it is rooted in proper psychological principles and is not just a self-help group.” 

Chris Vaughan, director of Marriage and Family Life for the diocese, agrees. He said Cana Commandments “is based on faith and on what [Nygaard] has seen in her counseling practice. It gives her a unique perspective that we can share with the diocese.”

Vaughan said the diocese has strong marriage preparation programs and even divorce care ministry, but there also is a need for more marriage enrichment.

“If you do anything for your marriage, be it Worldwide Marriage Encounter, counseling, this retreat, or one night at your parish, your marriage will improve,” he said.  “It can help with stamina in your marriage.”

Tom and Annette Snodgrass, parishioners of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Carrollton, have been active in Worldwide Marriage Encounter (WWME) since 2011. They believe Cana Commandments complements WWME.

“Marriage Encounter is about direct communication between spouses,” Tom said.

“But this technique involves self-awareness” Annette interjected. “Awareness of our strengths and weaknesses and what we individually bring to the marriage.”

“And it’s an entirely different take” on marriage enrichment, Tom said.

The couple said the retreat also offered insights helpful to their work as a sponsor couple for Marriage Preparation in the diocese.

“I can’t imagine any couple who couldn’t get something out of this,” Tom said. 

Another Cana Commandments Retreat will be held Feb. 29 at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Wichita Falls. For more information on Cana Marriage Retreats, go to canamarriageretreats.com

two people talk enthusiastically

COLLEYVILLE — “One of the things I love most about my spouse is her attention to detail,” Paul said during a Cana Commandments Retreat Nov. 2 at Good Shepherd Parish in Colleyville.

Published (until 11/7/2035)