Office of Marriage & Family
Under the umbrella of the Diocesan Respect Life Office, the Office of Marriage and Family strives to build a culture of life and a civilization of love by promoting the teachings of the Catholic Church on marriage, human sexuality, and the family. Programs of marriage preparation, marriage enrichment, family resources, and pastoral support services, serve to invite all people to embrace God’s glorious plan for marriage and the family through each and every human person created in His image and likeness.
In collaboration with national and statewide efforts of the U.S. Bishops’ multi-year Pastoral Initiative on Marriage
) and the Mass. Catholic Conference’s The Future Depends on Love
), we work diligently to counter society’s attacks on the fundamental values of life, marriage, and the family and strengthen Catholic marriage which is rooted in the family as the most vital cell of society.
The past year saw the beginning of the implementation of our updated Diocesan Policy for Marriage Preparation, which was promulgated on August 6, 2009. The policy serves to address the particular challenges of marriage preparation today and to provide a program that will give engaged couples a strong foundation in the meaning of Catholic marriage. Training programs for priests and deacons on the particulars of the new policy were held in the summer and fall of 2009.
In particular, marriage preparation in the Diocese of Worcester is being strengthened by the addition of a new component to the program. God’s Plan for a Joy-Filled Marriage, a one-day seminar offered monthly at various locations throughout the diocese, is a marriage preparation supplement that offers engaged couples a more complete understanding of God's glorious plan for marriage and human sexuality than perhaps any program available in the Church today. Based on Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body, this supplement explains the “why’s behind the what’s” of Catholic teaching and is intended to enhance a key component of marriage preparation: catechesis in the theology of marriage and the gift of human sexuality. Much time and energy has gone into the training and preparation of our seminar facilitators who have become very skilled in this special ministry. We were pleased to discover that after an entire year of hosting the God’s Plan seminars for engaged couples, that the results of our surveys were consistent with the positive results of those from the national level. (See comments from our engaged couples in the box below!)
The Office of Marriage and Family continues to assist parishes by processing the FOCCUS pre-marital inventory, preparing marriage preparation packets, and referrals for NFP instruction and NaPro Technology services. The office also teaches the Theology of Marriage course to the deacon candidates as part of their formation program.
To help strengthen marriages and to assist those in troubled marriages, the office provides referrals to those seeking pastoral care and support. We support the wonderful work being done by the widely known Catholic organizations Engaged Encounter, Marriage Encounter, and Retrouvaille.
The office hosts the annual Diocesan Wedding Anniversary Mass each fall for couples celebrating 25th, 50th, and other significant wedding anniversaries. At our 2009 celebration, nearly 50 couples, representing a combined total of approximately 2,000 years of marriage, were honored.
In the coming year, thanks to a grant from the St. Vincent Health Care Fund, we will be offering scholarship assistance to Natural Family Planning instructors seeking certification from accredited programs. As we continue to work to promote the teachings of the Church on the sacrament of marriage, the office will continue to oversee the implementation of the updated marriage preparation policy into its second year, and to develop our work with ongoing training and formation for our God’s Plan for a Joy-Filled Marriage seminar facilitators and engaged couples. The development of training and enrichment programs for those involved in couple-to-couple ministry in our parishes is underway, with the hope that it will be ready for implementation some time in 2011.
We are grateful for the many clergy and laity in our diocese who work diligently to proclaim and defend the Church’s beautiful teaching on marriage as part of our evangelizing mission. We continue to pray that good fruit will be borne by these efforts to strengthen marriage and the family.
Some comments from engaged couples who attended
the God’s Plan for a Joy-Filled Marriage Seminar:
- “I learned a lot from this session! I wish I had learned more about these topics earlier.”
- “The event was really a very pleasant surprise. It has been very rare that I have been to a [program] that has hit so succinctly on the truth. I thought the presenters were very knowledgeable and represented the faith well and in an engaging manner. It must really be a challenge to address both the deep issues of Christian marriage and cover a lifetime of catechesis in many cases. A good addition to the program I believe would be a scheduled opportunity for confession and possibly a Mass. Thank you for your witness.”
- “I must be honest, at first when I heard about this mandatory retreat I was kind of dreading it. After being here today and hearing all the speakers I can honestly say I will remember the things that I learned today for the rest of my life and my marriage and will practice them. We both learned a lot and I’m happy we got to spend this day together. Thanks so much.”
- “I found this seminar to be very interesting and helpful. I learned a lot of new things today that I wish had been brought to my attention previously (i.e., the joy of sexual honesty before marriage). I also thought it was helpful to hear from couples that have had very successful marriages and how they have accomplished a joy-filled marriage.”
- “I was not 100% [sure] I wanted a church wedding because my parents were never married. My fiancé and his family wanted a formal church wedding so I started taking these Catholic marriage classes. After today I now understand why a Catholic marriage with God is important. I am now 100% sure that I want to get married in a church and not by a justice of the peace. THANK YOU SO MUCH : )”
- “This whole program was helpful. I did not expect to hear what I heard about sex, marriage and the Catholic Church. It definitely gave me a different view point that I didn’t have before. I was very impressed and moved.”