The priest who sparked the international expansion of faith-based marriage enrichment retreats, Fr. Chuck Gallagher, passed away July 21 at the age of 85 in New Jersey.

"He taught us so much about loving each other, loving the world and how to be better people," Diane Baumbach, who attended a Marriage Encounter weekend with her husband in 1973 said.

"He's just been so important in our lives," Mrs. Baumbach told CNA July 22. "We think his memory and legacy will be with us for centuries."

Her husband, Dick, agreed while adding that "I just think that another saint has truly gone to heaven – the miracle that happened on this earth in marriages by Fr. Chuck's determination and vision and guidance, will last forever."

The Baumbachs were so moved by their weekend that they eventually began working for the organization with Fr. Dick Morse as the North American Weekend Pillar team.

"The weekend had such an impact on us that it not only changed our lives, but it also changed our children's lives. His vision and his looking at the future helped us to become a better couple," Mr. Baumbach said.

The couple said that without Fr. Gallagher's vision and determination to expand the movement, they are "not sure we would have continued working on (our marriage)."

Although Spanish priest Fr. Gabriel Calvo is recognized as the founder of the Marriage Encounter
weekend, Fr. Gallagher is known for taking the retreat to an international level.  

Fr. Gallagher attended a Marriage Encounter weekend in 1968 and decided to expand it by it to a broader level. One year later in 1969, he and two other priests and couples had presented 22 weekends in the New York area.

Over the next few years, the weekend retreats had become so popular that they spread across the United States and into Canada. By the mid-1970s, priests and couples had moved as far away to Australia in order to offer the retreats.

Along with his work for the Worldwide Marriage Encounter, Fr. Gallagher was an author and developed other programs to help individuals as well as couples navigate through life's challenges.

Each Marriage Encounter weekend offers couples time away from the busyness of daily life to focus on their relationship as husband and wife. It provides tools for creating and maintaining a strong marriage and is updated frequently to keep up with challenges that modern society presents.

The Worldwide Marriage Encounter is now in nearly 100 countries and has helped millions of couples all over the world strengthen their marriages.