Are we marriage friendly? Strengthening marriage personally and in our parishes Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler, editor   
Thursday, Sep. 16, 2010 -- 12:00 AM

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Marriage and family are the foundation of society and the Catholic Church, yet it seems as if marriage and family life are being threatened in today’s world.

In our country, we see many couples cohabitating or having sexual relationships and bearing children outside of marriage. For those who do marry, husbands and wives are dealing with stress, infidelity, and discontent often leading to separation and divorce.

Strong, healthy marriages are so important, yet many people spend more time taking care of their computers, pets, or cars than they do of their marriage and family life. How can we help turn this around and encourage people to work on their marriages, too?

Strengthening marriage

The Catholic bishops of the United States have decided to make strengthening and protecting marriage as one of their main priorities. They are asking all members of the Church to help them through their own personal commitment and through their Catholic parishes.

The bishops issued a pastoral letter and have developed Web sites and a variety of activities to help implement their letter. This year, the annual observance of Catechetical Sunday, Sept. 19 — the day when the  Church’s religious education efforts kick off for the academic year — is based on the theme, “Matrimony: Sacrament of Enduring Love.”

In the Diocese of Madison, Eric Schiedermayer, executive secretary of the diocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, sent a letter to pastors and parish directors of religious education encouraging them to review the materials prepared by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and “consider how you may use them to bring the Catholic vision of marriage to a wider and more diverse group of people in your parish.”

Schiedermayer points them to the Web sites and, as well as the materials for Catechetical Sunday available online at A variety of free resources are available to assist teachers, pastors, and catechists. Materials are provided in English and Spanish.

Marriage-building parishes

The National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers (NACFLM) has also prepared an excellent document, “Marriage-Building Parishes:  Assessment and Resource Guide.” Its purpose is to help parishes generate creative ideas, discussion, and resources to help improve the way they strengthen marriage in their communities.

Schiedermayer also notes that the USCCB is currently rolling out a new set of materials aimed at promoting and protecting marriage.  They have been developed specifically for parish use:

° Marriage:  Love and Life in the Divine Plan. This letter from the U.S. bishops explores the blessing of marriage as a public commitment between a man and a woman.  It is an excellent resource to make available for parishioners.

° Marriage:  Love and Life in the Divine Plan, Leader’s Guide. A study guide to assist small group leaders facilitating group discussion on the above letter on marriage.  It would be perfect for parish study.

° Made for Each Other:  Sexual Difference and Complementarity — DVD and booklets.  The first of three DVDs that interprets specific teachings on marriage in a very attractive package.  They would be excellent topics for adult catechesis.

If people in our diocese have questions on any of these materials, they are encouraged to call Andy Galvin, marriage preparation coordinator in the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, at 608-821-4517.

There are many ways we can work to strengthen marriage and family life in personal ways or in our parishes. Let’s reflect on what we’re doing now and what we could do in the future to be more marriage friendly ourselves and as a parish community.