The family is at the heart of the parish and should be the focus of all ministries as the Church seeks to grow, evangelize and build the kingdom of God.
This was the central theme of a very important meeting of Family Life ministers held last week in Cincinnati, Ohio. After three days of top-flight speakers, informative workshops, and close collaboration among the participants, one left the conference with an abiding sense of hope and a mission to spread the good news about marriage and family life.
Believe me: I have lived through the drought years of Church ministries over the past 30 years, and have seen so many diocesan offices run by loud or stealthy dissidents, but if I can judge from this conference, those days are over. The Catechism of the Catholic Church and the wise oversight of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have combined to bring us to a time when so many working within the structure of the Church are on the same page, and spreading the same message. I am very heartened!
The event in Cincinnati, held at Xavier University, was sponsored by the National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers (NACFLM), a group of the nation’s family life leaders at the diocesan and parish levels. Providing strong support for the conference was the USCCB's department of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, which despite its conglomeration of a title, has been doing some outstanding work, including the excellent website ForYourMarriage.org.
Realizing that the most basic aspects of the family are being challenged and denigrated, the U.S. bishops have formed the Ad Hoc Committee in Defense of Marriage, headed by Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville (Kentucky). In Cincinnati, he showed a new 12-minute video that is part of a pastoral initiative called "Marriage: Unique for a Reason." The video provides natural and common sense reasons for upholding marriage as a union between one man and one woman, as well as some basic theological conclusions drawn from the Bible. The message is given by a married couple (actors named Josh and Carrie) who exhibit the virtues they speak about. The DVD comes with a study/discussion guide for parish or small group use. It is well worth your time to view the video through the link given above.
Good things are happening with the Church in America, and there is a strong recognition that renewal will come through the family. I will develop this theme in a series of posts over the next week or so.