Diocese to implement programs to strengthen marriage and family

The foundation of society – marriage and family – is crumbling.

To shore up the disintegrating character of marriage and family, Jake Samour, director of the diocesan Office of Marriage and Family Life, is planning to implement a newly-released document from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Last November, under the leadership of Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, the chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, the bishops approved a new document for dioceses entitled “Called to the Joy of Love: A Pastoral Framework for Marriage and Family Life Ministry.” The document presents guidelines that should be adopted according to the local needs of each diocese in ministering to couples and families. It contains an adaptable set of principles and strategies for pastoral care, the archbishop said.

USCCB helping with funding

The USCCB, through the Catholic Marriage Initiative Fund, will provide financial assistance to implement the framework to strengthen marriage and family. Funds will be distributed on a competitive basis in amounts ranging from $10,000 to $50,000, provided a diocese can match the amount.

The grants help dioceses focus on areas in most need of improvement, Samour said. “So we took an inventory…of the current services we provide and we picked three areas that we believe are areas that are under served in our diocese.”

“We want to continue to focus on those first years of marriage, which are so essential, to strengthen the bond of marriage and strengthen those couples as they adjust to married life and they begin to have children,” he said.

Ministering to those affected by divorce

“We’re also going to do something that focuses on healing those affected by divorce: adult children of divorce and those children who have grown up with their parents either separated,” Samour said. “Adult children of divorce or separation often feel alone and lost and search for lasting healing and love. We will focus on assisting them in their journey.”

Ministering to those who have lost a child

“Whether it’s an individual or a couple, whether it’s a miscarriage or a stillborn baby, or maybe a suicide or an accident, whoever has lost a child experiences a certain hurt and is in need of healing,” he said. “This new ministry will guide individuals and couples through the complexity and trauma that happens with the loss of a child from pregnancy through adulthood.”

Before the ministry can begin, leaders must be trained, retreats must be planned, and the ministries must be marketed, Samour said. “Methods, such as small groups, must be established so that each ministry’s work can continue at the parish level after the retreats and workshops have been held. We need the help of everyone interested in strengthening the foundation of society. Vibrant parishes are made up of vibrant marriages and families. Therefore, we invite anyone who wants vibrant parish communities to join us in this effort.”

The funds to establish these ministries will be secured for a three-year period to fully implement each of them in the diocese, he said.