OVER THE PAST 25 years, Richard and Lois Gross have helped more than 1,000 couples prepare for marriage. But these dedicated volunteers didn't focus on preparations for the wedding. Instead, they helped guide soon-to-be brides and grooms on the day-to-day rigors of marriage that follow the ceremony.
As lead couple of the Marriage Preparation Program at Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church, the long-time Glen Burnie residents have taught young couples how to stay married. They instruct 15 to 25 couples at a time in what is known as "Pre-Cana classes" - the program named for the wedding feast at Cana in the Bible, where Jesus is said to have performed his first miracle.
The classes, taught in four sessions, are divided into major subject areas: communication, decision-making and finances, sexuality and spirituality.
"We'll tell them, `It's no longer what's good for you or me, it's what's good for the marriage,'" Lois Gross said.
The couple have plenty of life experience from which to draw. They have six children and are expecting their 25th grandchild. Still young at heart, they marked their 50th anniversary last year with a trip to Iceland.
"We had always enjoyed camping - pulling up the stakes and moving every two or three days," Lois Gross said. "So we decided to do something completely different and take a farm tour in Iceland. We stayed at a different farmhouse each night. We toured the whole island and really got to know the people and the history."
Through the years, they have noted changes in the couples in their classes. When the Grosses started teaching the sessions, the average age of participants was 18. Today's average age is 24 1/2 . And the material expectations of today's couples also seem to be higher - a change Lois Gross finds troubling.
"When we first started, couples wanted to start out with what it took their mom and dad 30 years to get," she said. "Now the couples want to start out with even more than their parents have. That can start them off on the wrong foot financially."
Although most couples preparing for marriage at the parish have lived on their own, the Pre-Cana classes teach budgeting and finance, which is combined with lessons in good overall decision making.
It seems the Grosses can't go anywhere in Glen Burnie without being recognized. They've been approached in stores, parking lots, banks and gas stations by couples they've worked with over the years.
Now they've decided to hand over the reins to younger couples at the parish.
"We feel sure that we're leaving it in good hands," Lois Gross said.
The parish honored their service recently by presenting them with a plaque and gift certificate.
"It's been a good experience," Lois Gross said. "We feel that we've learned more from the couples than we gave to them. I'd highly recommend it for all married couples. You have to sit down and talk and re-evaluate your own relationship. Your own marriage can't help but benefit."
Bowl until dawn
An all-night tenpin bowling session is planned for the early hours of Monday to raise money for Glen Burnie High School's chorus and vocal ensemble.
The event will begin at midnight and end at 6 a.m. at the Crofton Bowling Center, on the first day of a Thanksgiving week student holiday. Only teachers report to school Monday and Tuesday, for staff-development meetings and parent conferences.
Anthony Pinder, director of the school's 70-member chorus and 30-member vocal ensemble, said the proceeds will go toward costs of replacement uniforms, sheet music and a spring trip to Orlando, Fla., by about 30 students to perform in a music festival at Walt Disney World.
Tickets are $20, including unlimited bowling, shoe rental and light refreshments. They may be ordered by calling Pinder at 410-761-8950, Ext. 214.
The bowling center is at 2115 Priest Bridge Road, off Route 450 west of Route 3.
Federal retirees meet
The Glen Burnie chapter of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees will meet at 1 p.m. Tuesday at Holy Trinity Church Hall, 7434 Baltimore-Annapolis Blvd.
William Gulley, a travel agent and chapter member, will offer travel tips.
Retired federal employees, their spouses and guests are invited.
Information: Stan Jacobs, 410-969-5980.