Catholic & Mennonite

My sister is dating a young man who is Mennonite. They are talking about marriage. She and I are Catholic. I do not know anything really about the Mennonite religion. I am wondering what are the differences in our religions. Any help with information would be greatly appreciated.

Wow!

That could be a big adjustment for her.

We have mennonite communities here. They practice “plain” living. The Amish broke away from the Mennonites and are more strict about being plain, but its the same roots.

That means few modern conveniences, the women always cover their hair and make all their own dresses for themselves and their daughters. Some mennonites are not so conservative and fall closer to mainstream protestant churches.

The women rarely work outside the home, and if they do, its only as a teacher or nurse or similar and only until they marry. Education for girls is not encouraged. Mostly the kids here are homeschooled by their mothers.

It would seem really unusual to me for the wife of a practicing Mennonite to be free to practice Catholicism and raise her children in the Catholic faith. They see men as the spiritual head of the home, he teaches his children the bible and leads daily worship in the home. The ones here take turns hosting the Sunday gatherings in their homes and the man of the house leads for that day. Any man allowing his wife to be Catholic and raise his kids Catholic would lose face with his peers.

They are nice people, they do a lot of charity and social justice work. I can’t see anyone staying catholic in such a marriage though. Based on the ones I know, I’m guessing such a mixed marriage would not be allowed unless the woman agreed to live a ‘plain’ life with all those rules, and joined their religion and renounced her faith.

MarysRoses

Thanks for your help. I do not know much about his parents, except that his dad farms and his mom is a nurse. He has a younger sister. I do not know if she attends college or works or what. I am not sure they are as “plain” as you describe. He and his sister both attended public high school. His mom works as a nurse at the local hospital. They do live in a community where there are a lot of mennonites. Since meeting him, my sister has not been around the rest of her family very much. If they do get engaged and get married, my sister has said that they would move to the community where he is from. My family and I are worried that she will be pressured to move away from her Catholic faith to his. She insists this will not happen. She is in her mid twenties and is ready to settle down. I am just hoping that she will not loose sight of and not quit practicing her faith. From what you have said, it may be very difficult for her to continue practicing her faith let alone raising children in the Catholic church. How do I encourage her to take a second look at this young man and what might happen to her faith if they unite in marriage? What would the church say about a union such as this?

I am a Mennonite. I attend a “Mennonite Brethren” church. Yes there are communities of Mennonites who practice “plain” living. However they are the exception today. The vast majority of mennonites are very modern in many ways. If I could summarize a few things that I think are pretty consistent among mennonites they would be:

  1. Theologically I would say they would be categorized as “fundamentals” or “evangelicals”.
  2. A universal desire to serve and/or support missions (both at home and abroad)
  3. A mindset that children are a blessing and a gift from God. Large families are common although not universal.
  4. That war should be avoided if at all possible and that we should pray for and work toward peaceful solutions. Some mennonites go so far as to be concientious objectors when it comes to military service and will only serve in “non combat” positions (medical service for example).
  5. While we do not dress “plain” I would say that we all agree that our dress should not give cause for scandal.

Our congregation has many farmers and teachers, but we also have doctors, engineers, police officers, fire fighters… I would say that we have a larger percentage of “stay at home” moms than you would find in the general population. This is not because working outside the home is discouraged before or after marriage, but, I would say, that it is more attributable to the fact that we are taught to greatly value our children, enjoy parenting and want to spend time with them. Many of our members also enjoy homeschooling, and are encouraged to pursue this if they feel the Lord calls them to it. However, most of our children attend public or Christian schools. If you met us at the mall or park, you would not be able to tell we were mennonites. However, I think it would not take you long to see that we are a people who are very devoted to their faith and families.

Hope this helps.

Hi GrammyX4

I hope you didn’t take my post as negative. There are many things I admire about the mennonites here. Yes, they are a plain living group, you can tell the women when you see them because of the distinctive home made dresses and haircoverings. The men tend to wear jeans.

I am aware that there are other groups more mainstream. What I would still be curious about is if a Catholic wife would be free to practice her religion and keep her promise (necessary for the Catholic Church to give permission for her to marry outside her faith) to raise her children Catholic. Based on the people here, (who I know are extemely conservative) that doesn’t seem possible. Also based on the people here, there seems to be a lot of negativity towards Catholicism. Even if the OP’s sister converts, she will still have extended family that is Catholic.

Its something the OP’s sister (and possibly her boyfriend) may not be thinking about much now. Often religion becomes more important after one marries and has kids. My Adventist sister married a non practicing catholic in a civil ceremony. I warned her ahead of time, that often after kids Catholics want to have their children baptized and they become active again. That happened! My sister is going through the RCIA process to become Catholic.

God Bless,
MarysRoses

There are also important differences in liturgy. I think the Mennonites don’t pray to the saints, they go directly to Jesus. Also, I think what they have is the Lord’s supper, but to them it’s not really the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, but a symbol remindind the faithful of what happened at the Last Supper…
Isn’t it correct?
Also, we Catholics have 7 sacraments, and the Mennonites only have 2 or 3 of them. Correct?

Also, I remember that in the Mennonite community in Ottawa in 1977 (I had visited several Christian denominations that year and attended IVCF meetings at Ottawa U), someone explained that they would have “communion” only once a month. That one-month preparation seemed to be very important.

I did not know it then, but if someone wants to receive communion in another denomination than his/hers, it means that he/she believes all of what that Church teaches, including what is not taught by his/her own Church. You don’t just receive communion as a sign of friendship, it is much more than that!
The same thing goes for the non-Catholics who would wish to receive communion in a Catholic Church. So I hope this is among the things that both parties will have taken the time to examine before going further. It’s not a small matter at all!

I have definitely learned a lot here! Lots to think about. I’ll see what I can do about talking with my sister. I think she is in the “love is blind” stage and is not thinking much about the “big picture” in the future. I just don’t want her to loose or not be able to practice her Catholic faith if they decide to get married.

In reply to you concern, I certainly did not see any comments as being “negative”.

In response to the original poster, I would like to add that his concern that his sister might be encouraged to abandon her Catholic faith is probably well placed. I would say that most of the other Mennonites that I know and fellowship with are certainly not hostile to Catholics in any way. They believe that Catholics are on the same journey home as they are. However, they probably believe that Catholics are carrying some extra “baggage” along on that journey that is unecessary and might feel obliged to help relieve a Catholic of what they see as the “burden” of that baggage. Interestingly, we have probably about a dozen ex catholics in our congregation. I would say that they would probably be the most vocal in trying to convince someone to leave the Catholic church. If it were my sister, I would probably be concerned also.

That said, I would say that most of the people in my congregation are very tolerant of felow Christians of other denominations.

Hope this is helpful

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