At the end of June, the MFL team were invited to take part in the Archdiocese of Cardiff’s on-going formation of clergy conference – looking at family ministry through the lens of marriage preparation, and the development of new Archdiocesan guidelines for the preparation of couples for marriage. The conference was organised by Cardiff’s Marriage and Family Life Project Worker, Joanne White, in collaboration with the Archdiocese’s Department for Evangelisation and Family Life Commission. Bishop Peter Doyle gave a keynote on the reception of Amoris Laetitia in England & Wales. Sir Paul Coleridge, from the Marriage Foundation, spoke from a secular perspective on marriage as a promoter of stable relationships. Monsignor Gordon Read gave an expert analysis of recent developments in Canon Law relating to marriage and baptism, and Mark Molden set out the vision of Marriage Care as a provider of ministry to marriage – both in marriage preparation and couple counselling.
Caroline Dollard, gave an input on the development of CRC Departmental Guidelines for the Preparation of Couples for Marriage, underpinned by the theology of domestic church expounded by Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia, and the theology of Christian initiation as the model for a pastoral-catechetical ‘journey’ of marriage preparation and on-going accompaniment. Across England & Wales there have been 8 similar diocesan events, and key directions for implementing the Guidelines are now emerging:
- The need for everyone to understand marriage preparation and family life as a ‘journey’
- To see the whole parish community as responsible for supporting this journey
- To create a culture of vocation to marriage & family life in dioceses and parishes
- To realise the benefits of marriage preparation for not only the couple, but for the parish and wider society
Discussion at the Conference was wide-ranging. There was time to consider the challenge of integrating the full sacramental ‘content’ of marriage preparation across relationship and decision making skills, conflict resolution, the inherent bond between sexuality and spirituality; and supporting couples in their first steps of developing spiritual habits as a couple. The clergy saw the need for a close collaboration with lay people, ‘the experts’ in family life and couple relationships. They also recognised the need for training for all, not only in theology/Church teaching, but in the skills of sensitive pastoral accompaniment – for seminarians, clergy, parish communities, volunteers and lay catechists.
On Saturday, Hannah Moruzzi gave the opening address at a ‘showcase’ day for family ministries, also organised by Joanne White, which offered opportunities to explore the breadth of support available, and to experience taster workshops including: Marriage Preparation (Marriage Care), Listening ministries (Acorn Listening ‘Just Listen’), encouraging belonging, and a sense of family in parish communities (Family Group Movement) Parenting Programmes (Family Caring Trust) and Counting our Blessings – an upcoming national resource which supports family spirituality.
At the close of the day Joanne showed the World Meeting of Families 2018 introductory video and played the hymn composed for it (the lyrics are based on Amoris Laetitia #90-119, in which Pope Francis speaks about the features of true love, found in St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians).