Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 26, 2004
A match made in Radway
Bible school doubles as 'bridal school'
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
The Radway Bible school is not known by some as the "John Paul II Bridal School" for nothing.
Co-founder and current director Ernest Chauvet estimates that since the school opened in 1984, some 20 couples have married because of their experiences at the school.
"Let's face it, men aren't naturally transparent," Chauvet said. "But here, everyone learns how to express their emotions and women might find that attractive. They also learn each other's psychology by living in community."
Rules for co-ed dating have remained unchanged for 20 years. No dating is allowed, . . . until the year is over. Then, all's fair in love and prayer.
Forming around God as their centre, students of various ages develop a keen trust in the company of strangers. Some younger students might think that trust is love, while the more experienced could consider it a form of grace.
Nevertheless, the no-dating rule keeps people in their proper place while attending the school.
Cel and Athena Marchildon will be married 14 years this October. Now living in Hinton with their seven children, the couple is committed to its work with Our Lady of the Foothills Parish.
"Athena attended (1985) three years before me. She was working on staff when I was there," Cel said. "We didn't have difficulty with the no-dating rule because we were each doing our own things. We weren't sure of each other's feelings until the end of the year. We knew there was a natural click but we never discussed it until we were on an outreach on the Blood Reserve near Standoff."
They waited until the year was over to even discuss dating.
The family cherishes their time with their parish. Cel and Athena have given talks at the JPII Hinton campus on Christian life.
"We started with the RCIA program as instructors for one year," Cel said. "Then we helped with the Confirmation team. Athena has always been quite involved in music and singing at the church. I have been a Eucharistic minister."
"I think our experiences with the Bible school helped us with the formation of putting God first," he said. "We grew closer to God and we learned a lot more about our Catholic faith. It strengthened what we had in common."
Lance and Christine Paranych discovered they each shared a talent for audio and visual production and have developed a ministry formatted for children and the Church.
The Edmonton couple will celebrate their third anniversary Aug. 4 with their two children, McKayla, 2, and Kolbe, 3 months, the same weekend JPII celebrates its 20th year.
'Jesus is my boyfriend'
"Jesus is my boyfriend and my focus. That's what some of us girls said," Christine said. "It's true that if you break the rule and begin dating someone, it wrecks your year. It ruins your encounter with Christ. I have talked to some women who dated and they were asking themselves why they did it."
The couple joked that technically, they would not have had to abide by the no dating rule, as Lance was not a student at the same time as Christine. Lance attended six years ago and Christine two years afterwards, graduating in 2000 while Lance was attending St. Joseph Seminary pursuing what he thought might be a call to the priesthood.
But they knew enough about their own faith in God that if it was God's will that they eventually unite, then they would be ready for the moment. They also had a strong respect for the Radway principle.
"Father Sylvain (Casavant) was the vocations director at the time and he was travelling to Radway to say Mass occasionally," Lance said. "One morning, I went with him and I met Christine. We arrived about 6:30 a.m. and she was preparing the music for Mass.
"I was introduced to her but she didn't remember me when we met later during a retreat in Ardrossan. Christine was still a student at Radway."
Christine was a Sunday Catholic growing up in St. Walburg, Sask., and she loved singing in the church choir. Lance was raised Catholic, ventured out on his own for a while, but returned to the faith. They now attend St. John the Evangelist Parish with their two children. Lance had met the pastor Father Ray Guimond while on a retreat at Ephphatha House.
"We try to go to Mass every day," Lance said. "McKayla runs to Father as soon as she sees him. She adores him."
They agree their experiences at Radway helped to form and solidify their personal relationships with God. Then they came to see how becoming one would multiply their ministry outreach.
Lance currently works at St. Joseph and The Angels bookstore. Christine has maintained her angelic singing voice, as witnessed by the thousands of people who attended the recent Catholic Family Life Conference at Lac Ste. Anne, where she performed.
They also work together helping to illustrate and design Cat Chat, a series of CDs for children about stories in the Bible, set to music - Christine's singing, included.
"Something we have taken from Radway and put into our marriage is that Jesus is the centre of our lives," Lance said.
"I think what Christine said was awesome, about Jesus as our boyfriend," said Monica Williams. "The Lord shows us what he wants for us."
That is how it worked for her and her husband Greg. When both of them let go of their personal agendas and really trusted in God, he brought them together. The Spruce Grove couple now has six children.
"Going to the Bible school is a blessing for our marriage because it is something we share," Monica said. "When we run into problems, we always have the wonderful foundation of our faith. And we also have friendships with other people who believe in what we do."
They were friends before Greg attended Radway in 1985. Monica went after witnessing Greg's enlightenment upon his return.
"It was amazing to see how much he had changed," she said. "We were chatting and I thought there really must be something to this Bible school. But I kind of forgot about it until he called me one day to say there was a summer employment position at the school to do some yard work and other tasks.
"When I went there, I was 18, but I knew that was where I wanted to be for the next year."
For the last four years, Monica has been volunteering with Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Enoch, working with mothers with young children, studying the teachings of the Church and the Gospel. Greg volunteers as the music minister at the church.