It is commonly understood that approximately half of marriages in the United States end in divorce. The rate of divorce is higher for second and third marriages. Thus, it is understandable why the Catholic Church has made it a priority to prepare couples for healthy, permanent marriages through thorough, well-developed diocesan programs.

However, even the most highly regarded pre-marriage instruments and intense one-on-one meetings with engaged couples will not guarantee permanency in marriage. Among the variables are the behaviors, influences and environmental backgrounds each future spouse is bringing to that marriage.

This is where "Habits for a Healthy Marriage" becomes an excellent resource for couples planning to be engaged or already engaged, and for those responsible for preparing them for marriage. Individual chapters with their focus on topics such as forgiveness, trust, responsibility, gratitude, respect and generosity can be integrated into preparation as discussion starters.

The chapter on communication is an example of the book's consistency in the quality of material, the way it is presented and its applicability. As with every chapter, it begins with a clearly stated goal: "to assist couples with loving and respectful communication, which is necessary for a happy and healthy marriage."

Fitzgibbons, the director of the Institute for Marital Healing in Philadelphia, introduces Chloe and Chad, who, in the wife's view, are not communicating well: "When I try to talk to him, he doesn't even seem to hear me." He uses the dialogue they have with him in counseling to present possible causes for the problem, e.g., needing to control, lacking gratitude for one's spouse, being emotionally distant.

Throughout the book, Fitzgibbons will ask about how the couple's parents handled the topic being addressed, e.g., communication. The couple's identifying and speaking about what they learned — or didn't learn — from their parents is an important element in resolving the problem.

He references what others have written on the topic being addressed and, where relevant, will include frequent quotations from the work of St. John Paul II as well as references from Scripture.

While "Habits for a Healthy Marriage" is fitting for marriage preparation, those who are married also will benefit from Fitzgibbons' work. The topics he addresses can arise in healthy marriages and the recommendations he offers can be helpful no matter how long one has been married.

For example, in the chapter titled "Generosity conquers selfishness," he suggests expressing love and affection through words and deeds, setting aside time to talk and praying together.

Anyone concerned about healthy marriages — their own or others' — will benefit from "Habits for a Healthy Marriage" no matter how much or how little one reads. However, a word of advice to both the engaged and married: Keep a bookmark and highlighter nearby. There is bound to be something you will want your intended or spouse to read, too.

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Olszewski is the editor of The Catholic Virginian, newspaper of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia.

MLB's first woman coach a 'go-getter' at Jesuit university

By Mark Pattison


Alyssa Nakken, a coach with the San Francisco Giants, is seen at Oracle Park during an exhibition game against the Oakland A's July 21, 2020. She is Major League Baseball's first female coach. (CNS photo/Kelley L Cox, USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Another barrier in the sports world was broken July 20 when Alyssa Nakken coached first base in the late innings of an exhibition game between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics, thus becoming the first woman to appear in uniform on the field during a major league baseball game. The Giants won the game, 6-2.

While Nakken's appearance in the coach's box may have surprised some baseball fans, it didn't really surprise Dan Rascher, director of academics for the master's degree program in sports management at the Jesuit-run University of San Francisco, and a professor in the program.

"To an extent, it's surprising: 'Wow, the first woman to be on a major league baseball staff.' But it's not surprising that it would be her," Rascher told Catholic News Service in a July 23 phone interview. Nakken was "a really strong leader and a very well-grounded student and person."

Nakken — officially listed as an "assistant coach" on new Giants manager Gabe Kapler's staff — took Rascher's sports economics and finance course at USF. "I can't give you her grade, but I thought she was an excellent student," he said. "Her group students liked her. She was an excellent leader."

Nakken, now 30, got her master's degree from USF in 2015. Typically, most students in the program look for jobs or internships with professional teams, sports agents or stadium; Rascher estimates 20 alumni from the program work for the Giants in some capacity. But Nakken landed her job with the club a year before getting her degree.

"Usually by the time they get to me, which is eight months in, they tended to look for jobs or internships in the sports industry. But she was a go-getter, so she was already pretty successful," Rascher said.

Since graduating, "she's been very helpful for many students, both men and women, who are interested, essentially, in working in baseball. She's been great," Rascher said.

Nakken came to her new job naturally. She played first base for Sacramento State's softball team 2009-12 and was a three-time all-conference selection, four-time Academic All American, four-time commissioner's honor roll member, and the 2012 conference scholar-athlete of the year.

In her current role with the Giants, Nakken develops, produces and directs a number of the organization’s health and wellness initiatives and events. She has partnered with first base coach Antoan Richardson in overseeing outfield and baserunning instruction for the Giants.

During the preseason "summer camp," Nakken often coached first base during intrasquad games at Oracle Park in San Francisco, where the Giants trained.

She has a uniform and is assigned number 92. But Major League Baseball rules limit the number of coaches in the dugout to seven, and Nakken was hired as an assistant coach after the other seven coaches were brought on to Kapler's staff.

"Alyssa did a great job out there at first base today," Kapler told mlb.com after the game. "Antoan stepped up and made sure that Alyssa continued her development as well."

Soon after her hiring in January as an assistant coach, Nakken said, "I feel a great sense of responsibility. Coaching — I never saw it. This job has kind of been hidden for so long. I'm so excited to be in this role for the challenge and the opportunity to make an impact for this organization that I love. But also, I'm excited that now girls can see there is a job on the field in baseball. It's really cool."