PALM BEACH GARDENS | Deacon Louie Romero, an expert in the field of marriage and family life, has joined the team of ministers in the Office of Marriage and Family Life here in the Diocese of Palm Beach.
“We are delighted to have him join our staff,” said Cathy Loh, office director, in an announcement in July. “We are excited about the extensive experience in ministering to couples in troubled marriages and families that Deacon Louie brings from his former affiliation with a Christian, faith-based, residential recovery program.”
Deacon Romero’s previous job was counseling couples in marriages that were already in trouble, and he and his wife, Leona, are already active in multiple ministries in the Office of Marriage and Family Life. In his new position, he will be in charge of developing programs to help engaged couples prepare for everlasting marriage and their life together as married couples.
“I love being on this side,” said Deacon Romero, who began his new job July 16. “I’ve dealt with the bad side of marriage. Now I can work to help prevent marriages from going bad. A lot of the couples coming in are so in love. We prepare them for what could happen.”
Arguments can be expected. But incidents could be serious and include arguments, smoldering anger, unforgiveness, gambling, adultery and pornography, or even physical abuse and abandonment.
“I believe (couples) have a good grasp of what they’re looking for,” said the deacon, who was ordained September 2017 and serves at St. Andrew Parish in Stuart. “But we want to show them the threats of marriage. Something that can get between them.”
Besides his job with the recovery program in rural Martin County, Deacon Romero has worked previously with the diocese as a mentor for Fully Engaged, a four-session program, and with the healing prayer ministry known as Unbound.
In his new post, Deacon Romero and his wife plan to continue those ministries, and coordinate one-day marriage preparation classes as well. Topics will include how to talk with each other, even to pray for each other.
He even has them pray eye to eye, he said. “That makes it hard to hide their emotions and brings them closer together. And it invites the Lord into their marriage.”
In one of his standard talks, he asks couples to unpack the implications of the marital vows — things like “I do” and “till death do us part.”
“It means that you say you’ll grow old together,” he said. “On the way, you’ll have children, house payments, sick children, weddings of the children and grandchildren. Then you end up still together. It’s the journey,” said Deacon Romero, who has been married for 25 years and has three children, ages 15, 16 and 19.
Here is where the sacramental, “covenantal” side of marriage stands large in Deacon Romero’s approach. He said it shows how the Catholic view differs from the secular notion of marriage as a kind of contract. “A contract says that if you give me this, I give you that,” he said. “A covenant says that I love and honor and cherish you, whether you do or not. It’s a covenant with you and God. I can’t break that.”
Some of these lessons he learned in his own marriage, he confessed. He and Leona attended Mass every week with their three children on their best behavior. But behind the façade, the relationship was shaky, he openly shared. “We were the perfect couple sitting in the pews. We looked good, dressed good, we had a house and a car and everything,” Deacon Romero said. “But our family life was nonexistent.”
From that rough spot 12 years ago, the Romeros climbed up with the help of counseling and God. “It took a lot of faith, and healing and hard work. And if we can do it, anyone can.”
He believes parish pews are filled with people in similar situations: looking good on the outside, masking troubled marriages. He intends to prevent more such tragedies.
When he sees troubled relationships, part of his job is to get people just to like each other again. “I try to help them accept each other for who they are. Recognize their own faults. Forgive and accept. See who they fell in love with when they married.”
Another tool he offers to couples: “When things heat up, I tell them to go to their prayer closet, pray and listen for Jesus’ voice. Hear what he has to say.”
Asked his biggest joy in the job, Deacon Romero doesn’t hesitate with an answer. “I believe it’s been God’s plan to get me here. If I keep even one marriage from breaking up, I’ve done my job,” he said. “And I tell people that if they have a problem, give me a call. I’ve been there. And I’ll be there for them.”