Strengthening Marriages and Families in Today’s Culture is the theme of the 2012 international conference of the National (US) Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers, which takes place in Dallas, Texas this week. I (Elizabeth) try to attend this conference every other year to pick up on the family ministry work in which our US counterparts are engaged, particularly where it might overlap and feed in to the work taking place in dioceses across England and Wales. During past visits, the emphasis has been very much on working with the US Bishops in their Pastoral Initiative for Marriage. A whole host of resources for building marriage-friendly parishes have been developed and promoted through this initiative, presented energetically and enthusiastically at the NACFLM conferences. Visit NACFLM’s website and the US Bishops’ website for more information.
This year I have flown out early to take advantage of the pre-conference trainings. There are 11 options for these 1 day workshops and I’ve selected Robin Laird’s Strengthening Catholic Families Leadership Training for the Year of Faith and the New Evangelisation. Robin is from the Archdiocese of Omaha which has produced a number of well-respected tools for marriage and family ministry over the years. The blurb describing this workshop reads: “grounded in JPII’s Letter to Families, Familiaris Consortio and Redemptoris Missio, helps Catholic families live out their vocation as vibrant members of the Body of Christ, and draw other families to do the same.” I’m interested to see if there is anything we can pick up on for our Passing on the Faith project especially in the light of our own national conference in October. For the same reason I’ve selected a workshop on Friday called Developing a Partnership between Parents and Parishes, delivered by Michael Theizen and Linda Moses. This promises to explore “how we should invest resources and programming to walk with parents in building the next generation of disciples”.
With a plethora of these optional workshops on offer during the main conference, which begins on Thursday, it’s been difficult choosing which to take in. I’ve had to forego a workshop on Bowen Family Systemsdelivered by Eileen Raffaniello Barbello so that I can attend Formation for Family Life Ministry: Elements for Effective Partnership with Lauri Przybysz. (Eileen was one of my teachers during my MA studies in Denver nearly 15 years ago.) This promises to be an introduction to personal formation for “well-rounded and well-prepared lay persons” called to serve the church in parishes and diocesan Family Life Ministry. I’m hoping it will help with planning for future formation opportunities here for parish volunteers engaged in marriage, parenting and bereavement ministries. In a similar vein I’ve selected a workshop on marriage preparation called Marrying with Stepchildren: Not your Parents PreCana delivered by Elsie Radtke. It promises to describe a Marriage Preparation program for couples who are marrying after loss of previous spouse through death or divorce.
Coupled with the keynote presentations, opportunities to browse resources, meet colleagues and take in a Ranch Barbecue this promises to be an interesting week.