DRUMS – After 17 years of marriage, Phil and Sue Milazzo both began to realize something was missing. Between work, family life and children, both started to realize that they were unhappy.

“It was a culmination of little things that built up,” Phil Milazzo said.

That unhappiness led to Phil’s poor choice of becoming emotionally and physically involved with another woman. It seemed like the couple, who married on Long Island at the age of 19, was headed for separation and divorce.

“It was very shocking for me when I heard that there was someone else,” Sue Milazzo said. “I ran in circles trying to find something to help us, to try and turn things around, trying to make some sense of what was happening and try to work on our marriage. I had no help at all. No matter where I went, people were helping me get divorced, no one was helping me stay married!”

That is when the Milazzo’s discovered Retrouvaille.

Retrouvaille (pronounced Retro-vi) is a marriage program for couples facing challenges in their relationship. The program is peer-facilitated by other couples that have gone through difficult times in their own marriages. Retrouvaille is Christian-based, and Catholic in origin, but welcomes couples of all faiths as well as non-religious couples.

“It is basically for people who are suffering a crisis in their marriage, whether they are in the middle of the crisis or they may even be separated or divorced,” Phil said.

The Retrouvaille program is broken down into three phases.

The first phase involves a weekend retreat where three presenting couples share the breakdown of their own personal marriage stories and teach tools they have learned to improve communication.

The second phase of the program includes six follow-up sessions which help the couples in healing and rebuilding a new foundation based on love, respect and communication.

The third phase consists of ongoing monthly small group meetings, called CORE (Continuing Our Retrouvaille Experience), to keep marriages on track.

Overall, the Retrouvaille experience is focused on improving a couple’s communication through the sharing of feelings.

“Feelings are a large part of the program because feelings cannot be judged as right or wrong,” Phil said.

While several couples attend a weekend retreat at the same time, there is no large group sharing in Retrouvaille, which puts many people at ease.

Privacy is also a priority.

“There is no group sharing unless you want to,” Phil added. “No one is ever forced to say anything about their relationship. You can go through the entire weekend and not even say why you were there!”

Sue Milazzo is very blunt about the impact Retrouvaille has had on her marriage.

“We would not be sitting here today together if it wasn’t for Retrouvaille,” she admitted.

The program left such an impact on the couple that they have now spent more than three decades presenting it to other couples in need of assistance.

“We’ve been gifted to see people get back together after being divorced,” Sue said.

After moving to Luzerne County several years ago, Phil and Sue Milazzo are now working to bring the Retrouvaille program back to the Diocese of Scranton in coordination with the Diocesan Office for Parish Life.

A Retrouvaille Weekend has been scheduled for Aug. 19-21 at the Townplace Suites in Moosic. In addition to explaining the program and looking for couples that might benefit, Phil and Sue are also in need of help to get everything off the ground.

“We need people to do prayer letters, people to do hosting, people to just get supplies and get set-up for the weekend,” Sue said.

Over the last 37 years, the Milazzo’s have presented a total of 94 Retrouvaille weekend retreats. With an average of 20 couples attending each one, they’ve already helped roughly 2,000 people improve their marriages. They want to keep going.

“We’ve heard the phrase that it’s the best kept secret in the Catholic Church and I don’t know why that is!” Phil joked.

To learn more about attending the Retrouvaille weekend in August, or to learn more about helping to bring this weekend to life, please contact: Phil & Sue Milazzo, philmilazzo2@gmail.com or call (631) 338-5413. Additional information is also available by contacting Jen Housel, Director for Community and Family Development in the Diocesan Office for Parish Life, jhousel@dioceseofscranton.org, (570) 207-2213, x1104.