The Diocese of Des Moines



A wedding date is to be set no sooner than six months from the initial contact with the priest/deacon/pastoral minister preparing the couple.  Couples should begin their marriage preparation at their home parish by contacting the pastor. 

Couples are required to participate in a sacramental preparation process prior to their marriage/validation. In our diocese this process involves attending a sacramental marriage preparation retreat, hosted by either the diocese or the parish, and also meeting with a sponsor couple who will guide a couple through the FOCCUS inventory. To view the diocesan marriage preparation policies click here.

Current sacramental marriage preparation retreats planned for 2018:


  • March 10th, 2018 at Christ the King Pastoral Center, 820 Porter Ave, Des Moines, IA 50315.
  • March 24th, 2018 at St John's Basilica, 1915 University Ave, Des Moines, IA 50314. 
  • April 28, 2018 at All Saints Parish, 650 NE 52nd Ave. Des Moines, IA 50313.
  • May 3rd, 2018 at old St. Patrick Church hall, 223 Harmony St., Council Bluffs, 51503 (Note: this course is run by St. Patrick parish and registration must be done through parish by calling 712-323-1484. The cost of this course is $110). 
  • June 2nd, 2018 at a Des Moines metro parish, exact location TBD.
  • June 23rd, 2018 at All Saints Parish, 650 NE 52nd Ave. Des Moines, IA 50313.
  • August 11th, 2018 at old St. Patrick Church hall, 223 Harmony St., Council Bluffs, 51503 (Note: this course is run by St. Patrick parish and registration must be done through parish by calling 712-323-1484. The cost of this course is $110).  


The cost of this course is $80 per couple, and all Saturday Courses run from 9 am until 3 pm.  Scholarships are available to couples, and can be requested by contacting Adam Storey at  Please register for classes on the diocesan calendar found on this website.


Life Skills Workshop


If couples cannot meet with a sponsor couple, an additional life skills course is required.  The cost of this workshop is $60 per couple.  Scholarships are available to couples, and can be requested by contacting Adam Storey at  Please register for classes on the diocesan calendar found on this website.


Current life skills courses planned for 2018:



March 25th, 2018 from 1-5 PM, at a DM metro parish (location still TBD).

April 22nd, 2018 from 1-5 PM, at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 1627 Grand Ave, West Des Moines, IA. 

May 27th, 2018 from 1-5 PM, Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 1627 Grand Ave, West Des Moines, IA.


In order to make marriage preparation as valuable as possible, the diocese makes an effort to address each couple's particular circumstances.  With this in mind, additional training and resources are available for sponsor couples who work with couples where one or both:

Pregnant or bringing a child(ren) into the marriage

Entering a second or subsequent marriage(includes widow or widower)

Seeking validation in the Catholic Church when there has been a previous marriage

Referred by priest/deacon/pastoral minister



When an engaged couple is civilly married but not Sacramentally married marriage preparation can be adjusted to better suit their needs.  It should be made clear that the couple is not seeking a blessing of the covenant that already exists, but is entering a new, sacramental covenant that has not yet taken place.  To better minister to these couples, the engaged couple should enter one of the following programs:

Work with a sponsor couple who is able to address the unique circumstance of a validating couple. The primary emphasis needs to be on the sacramentality of marriage.

When a couple has been in a civil union less than TWO years, FOCCUS is required. When the civil union has been longer than two years, REFOCCUS is recommended.

If the sponsor couple becomes aware that there are factors present in the relationship that may require further assistance, the priest/ deacon/ pastoral minister will be informed. He/she will then refer the couple to Marriage Ministry.


Natural Family Planning


Within marriage there is a moral responsibility to practice responsible parenthood, although not all practices used to regulate procreation are morally equivalent. Only Natural Family Planning respects the full integrity of the sexual act. Beyond moral considerations, NFP is 100% natural, it has been clinically proven to be 98-99% effective with proper use, and there are no harmful side effects.


 Because of the dishonest and immoral nature of artificial contraception, which has been confirmed in the constant teaching of Christ and His Church, only natural means of regulating births are morally licit.  The following resources can help couples learn about Natural Family Planning, which is great aid in participating in God’s plan for sexual intimacy.


In the Diocese of Des Moines, in order to ensure that our married couples have the opportunity to remain faithful to Christ’s teaching, we offer Natural Family Planning classes to engaged couples prior to their wedding. Approved methods are listed below, and if a couple would like to request the approval of an additional method they can do so by contacting Adam Storey at 515-237-5056 or After completing an NFP course, please fill out this survey in order to help us assess ways to improve marriage preparation.


Scholarships are available for all students based on need if completing a course is too expensive. To request a scholarship contact Adam Storey at 515-237-5056 or


Couple to Couple League:  


Couple to Couple League ( - a modern, scientific and highly effective sympto-thermal method of natural family planning that uses a cross-checking system based on three signs of fertility to postpone or achieve pregnancy.


The Main Course is offered in 3 different learning options: Live Onsite, Live Online, or Self-paced Online. Transition courses for Postpartum and Premenopause are also offered. Go to or contact the local teachers below to learn more.


Teachers in the Des Moines area include:


Mark and Patty Conway:  515-276-0313  or

Kerry and Renee McGuire:  515-278-1623 or

Rick and Alexi Dawson: 515-326-1434 or

Demetrio and Pauline Alamilla (Spanish):  515-265-1139 or

Jose and Ana De la Cruz (Spanish):  515-771-4142 or


Billings Ovulation Method:


The Billings Ovulation Method® is a highly effective and uniquely simple method of natural family planning. The BOM is taught and used in over 100 countries worldwide, and is based on over 60 years of ongoing scientific research, including independent trials by the World Health Organization.  A recent multi-center study found the method-related pregnancy rate was zero; the use-related pregnancy rate was 0.5%.  In another study almost 70% of couples trying to achieve pregnancy using the BOM were able to do so in the first cycle. 


Central Iowa couples may schedule instruction sessions to meet their unique scheduling needs by contacting Betty McGehe, ARNP, FNP-C  at or 515-240-2751.  On-line instruction in both English and Spanish is available at and


Creighton Model FertilityCare System:


Creighton Model FertilityCare System ( - an authentic language of a woman's health and fertility! The CrMS relies upon the standardized observation and charting of biological markers that are essential to a woman's health and fertility. These "biomarkers" tell the couple when they are naturally fertile and infertile. These biomarkers also show when abnormalities exist and can be used to diagnose and treat many gynecologic conditions.


The course consists of an introductory presentation, followed by follow-ups with a practitioner. Follow-ups may be conducted via phone if distance is an issue.


Both practitioners listed below teach at Vitae Family Care Clinic in West Des Moines, and visits are covered by most health insurance plans.


Cassandra Fortino, FCP


Michelle McKernan, CFCP


Marquette Model system:


The Marquette Model (MM) system of NFP brings 21st century technology to NFP by using the ClearBlue Easy Fertility Monitor, a device used at home which measures hormone levels in urine to estimate the beginning and end of the time of fertility in a women's menstrual cycle. The information from the monitor can be used in conjunction with observations of cervical mucus, basal body temperature, or other biological indicators of fertility. The MM was developed by professional nurses and physicians at Marquette University in the late 1990s. A recent (2007) study published in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing demonstrated a 97-98% efficacy of the MM in avoiding pregnancy when taught by a qualified teacher and correctly applied. This method can be learned online at 


There is an introductory session and a one month follow up session.  This class can be taught as a group session or individual.   


If you're looking for more information contact Brooke Tunink R.N, B.S.N at or 515-230-3271


Northwest Family Services:  Symto-Thermal Method


SymptoPro™ Fertility Education (generically referred to as Natural Family Planning, or NFP) is an effective, scientifically based method of natural family planning that treats fertility as a normal, healthy process. SymptoPro™ is a Sympto-Thermal Method of Fertility Education (NFP) based on changes in a woman’s cervical mucus, waking or resting temperature, and cervix. Classes can be taken online at