What We Do

The Marriage and Family Life Office sits within the Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship at the Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales. It originated in 2003 with the project Listening 2004: My Family My Church when the bishops held a series of diocesan conversations to more clearly understand how best marriage and family life could be supported. On conclusion of Listening 2004 the bishops identified three separate but interrelated projects as priorities. Celebrating Family: Blessed, Broken, Living Love, is the overarching theme of the pastoral initiatives developed by the Bishops in these areas :
  • Everybody’s Welcome - supporting parishes to become more welcoming, friendly and family-sensitive (launched 2006)
  • Home is a Holy Place - supporting families and the wider community to become more aware of the holiness of life at home (launched 2007)
  • Passing on the Faith - supporting parents and grandparents in passing on faith in God (launched 2009)
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The team's work from 2004 onwards focused on supporting delivery of the Celebrating Family pastoral initiatives. In 2008 the Bishops added a new strand of work in the form of diocesan capacity-building for family ministry. From 2014-16 the lens was widened to include following up strategic recommendations on marriage preparation, developing a handbook for the pastoral accompaniment of families and a programme for online formation in marriage and family studies. The Marriage & Family Life Office supports the bishops' work in a variety of ways: developing core resources, monitoring funded projects, highlighting effective practices, discerning strategic support needs, organising national events, facilitating support for diocesan coordinators of marriage and family ministries and advising when invited. Following is a list of our current work:


From 2013-16 the team supported the preparatory and consultative work of the Bishops for the III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, held in Rome in October 2014 and the 14th Ordinary General Assembly which took place from 4-25 October 2015 on The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World. Bishop Peter Doyle, Chair of the Bishops' Committee for Marriage and Family Life, attended alongside Cardinal Vincent Nichols, President of the Bishops' Conference.

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The sacrament of mutual, exclusive, lifelong commitment graces couples as they journey together in love, faith and hope. Christ-centred formation for marriage, integrating the relational and religious dimensions of the couple relationship, is the foundation of the Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship's new 'Guidelines for the Preparation of Couples for Marriage' which were launched in February 2017. The Guidelines aim to support local communities in preparing and accompanying couples and also in celebrating and affirming the sacrament of marriage as it is lived out.

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Work will begin in 2018 to develop a flexible and accessible series of online modules in parish family ministry. The Catholic Certificate in Family Studies will support discrete areas of work including marriage preparation and parenting. It will offer a basic qualification for lay people interested in developing parish family ministry and provide a benchmark for good practice in this field.

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'Seeking God Together' a handbook for the pastoral accompaniment of families aims to support our family, parish and school ministries in serving the life-long faith formation needs and responsibilities of couples and families. It recognises that what happens in our families has profound implications for the wider Church community. This resource is currently in development and we will bring you more information soon.

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In 2006 the Bishops launched the Faith in the Future fundraising campaign to support a range of initiatives including strengthening family life. The success of this campaign made it possible for 13 dioceses to undertake family ministry projects which sought to strengthen parish communities and encourage families as leaders. The impact of these projects enabled the bishops to fund a further 17 diocesan capacity-building projects from 2014 onwards.

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Everybody’s Welcome is rooted in families' expressed needs of the Church and the Church's understanding of God's desire for families. It invites parish communities to reflect on how family-sensitive, friendly and welcoming they are and offers resources to support that reflection and its outcomes.

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Home is a Holy Place sets out to raise greater awareness of God's presence at home among all those who serve families in any way in our Catholic community. It is about recognising and responding to God's presence at home with our families, in the deep joys and sorrows we experience together and in our relationships with one another, whether we are children, siblings, parents, spouses, friends or neighbours.

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Passing on the Faith is an initiative which seeks to support parents and grandparents in passing on their faith in God. Resource and support parents and grandparents in their “irreplaceable and inalienable” task of passing on faith in God, establish what passing on the faith means and identify the complementary roles, rights and responsibilities of home, school and parish.

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