“I charge parishes to mentor and accompany families through helping men and women understand their identity and reclaim their sacrificial role as Christian husbands/wives and fathers/mothers.” – Unleash the Gospel, Action Step 1.1.5, Archbishop Vigneron
Marriage Ministry is a newly designated ministry under the Mission Direct area of Family Ministry. The goal of Marriage Ministry is to support and strengthen couples in their vocation of marriage. A healthy, holy marriage serves as the solid foundation for a thriving Catholic family, and for this reason, Marriage Ministry is of prime importance in assisting families in building the domestic Church in their homes.
Marriage Ministry ministers to couples seriously dating and considering marriage, couples preparing for their sacramental marriage, couples living out their marriage vocation, couples struggling or experiencing a crisis in their marriage, and couples who are divorced.
In developing a vision of Marriage Ministry, it is helpful to consider the stages of marriage:
- Engaged couples
- Young married couples
- Child-rearing couples
- Empty nester couples
- Elderly couples, widowed
Each stage of marriage has a set of primary needs and challenges that can guide Families of Parishes in discerning types of Marriage Ministry to implement.
The key to helping couples thrive in their vocation of marriage is the accompaniment and facilitating supportive relationships amongst couples. The hope is that high-quality marriage preparation and marriage enrichment can act as a prevention to couples drifting into avoidable struggles. This prevention occurs by intentional outreach ministry directed toward:
- Accompanying couples across their marriage journey
- Providing content and processes for marriage ministry
- Forming a substantial and ongoing network of couple-to-couple support for one another
As you develop Marriage Ministry in your Family of Parishes, here are some helpful links to become familiar with the landscape of marriage ministry.
- Marriage Ministry in Families of Parishes
- Stages of Marriage - For Your Marriage
- Stages of Growth in Marriage - For Your Marriage
- Difficulties Married Couples Face | USCCB
- For Leaders - For Your Marriage
- For Your Marriage (portumatrimonio.org)
Framework for Developing Marriage Ministry
When developing a vision and plan for Marriage Ministry, it is helpful to segment ministries according to the needs of married life:
- Marriage preparation
- Marriage enrichment
- Marriage support
- Marriage restoration, healing
- Divorce recovery
Marriage preparation is a period of immediate preparation which helps couples develop a better understanding of the sacrament of Matrimony, evaluates and deepens their readiness to live a married life, and helps them gain insights into themselves as individuals and as a couple. Marriage preparation is required for every couple seeking a Catholic marriage, remarriage, or convalidation.
While all couples are unique, there are some common characteristics of couples seeking marriage in the Catholic Church. Most are young adults who have never been married before. Many are sacramentally lapsed, after moving out on their own. As a result, marriage preparation is a prime opportunity for evangelization. The Archdiocese of Detroit Bold Beginnings marriage preparation process was designed to attract these young adults back to the Church and help them prepare for their lifelong sacramental union.
Marriage enrichment offers couples the opportunity to build and strengthen their marriage relationship, through catechesis, formation, skill-building, and networking opportunities with other couples. The goal is to edify couples, build couple relationships, and offer small group series as a follow-up to larger outreach events or standalone enrichment groups. Small groups are particularly effective in providing enrichment and getting couples connected to each other.
Here are some marriage enrichment programs and activities that Families of Parishes can offer:
- Ready-made small group enrichment series: The Marriage Course | Beloved Enrichment Series | Be Light Marriage Enrichment Small Groups | The Choice Wine | Be Light Marriage Enrichment Small Groups | 6 Dates for Catholic Couples | Be Light Marriage Enrichment Small Groups | 10 Great Dates |The 5 Love Languages Group Study | The Marriage Kit Small Group | Marriage Enrichment Ministry to the Newly Married | Unveiled: Discovering the Great Mystery Series | Together in Holiness Formation Series
- Create your own enrichment event using the following: Parish Dinner Date Night How To Manual | Young Married Comedy Dinner Date Night | Not So Newlywed Game | Married Date Night | Young Marrieds Sweetest Day Dinner Date Night | Date Night Comedy - Couples Ministry Made Easy
- Couple Prayer Workshop - Parish leaders can use this recorded webinar and accompanying handouts to run a couple prayer workshop in their parish.
Marriage support is an outreach ministry to couples who are experiencing struggles and challenges in their marriages and are at risk of advancing toward a troubled or crisis marriage, or divorce. Studies of married Catholics show that only 33% said that who would seek for their marriage help from a priest, 7% from a deacon, and 4% from a parish minister (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate). Therefore, marriage support ministry needs to be available and visible in your Family of Parishes. Promoting and providing resources can also allow couples to consider reaching out for assistance in a confidential manner. Marriage Coaching Ministry is an AOD sponsored program that can offer assistance to couples who are in need of marriage support. Families of Parishes may share this Marriage Coaching Ministry Brochure with couples in need or contact the AOD Marriage Support Office for referrals to vetted Catholic marriage counselors.
Marriage restoration/healing is ministering to couples experiencing significant problems, brokenness, or crisis in their marriages. Like wounded comrades on the journey of marriage, Marriage Ministry should have the premise of “no marriage left behind” and serve as being a “field hospital” for those couples whose marriages are hurting, troubled, or in crisis. Families of Parishes are uniquely positioned to be the “boots on the ground” first responders in reaching out to and assisting couples in need of healing and restoration in their marriage.
Couples need to know that often what is missing and is needed the most for their struggles is accessible, practical, and solidly Catholic resources to reduce the sense of isolation and helplessness that they are feeling in their marriage struggles. Families of Parishes can refer couples to marriage restoration and healing resources or vetted Catholic marriage counselors.
More marriage restoration resources:
Divorce recovery is a parish-sponsored ministry to divorced couples and their children. An estimated 28 percent of American Catholic adults are divorced, and of those, roughly a quarter say they or their former spouse have sought an annulment from the Catholic Church (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate). These statistics represent a significant number of Catholic couples and their children who have a need of pastoral accompaniment and care. Often, they feel abandoned, estranged, and disconnected from the sacramental life of the church and faith.
Families of Parishes have the opportunity to pastorally meet the emotional and spiritual needs of divorced Catholics and their families, and to accompany them to a place of healing and hope.
Divorce recovery resources:
Take It to the Next Level
To develop a vision for Marriage Ministry in your Family of Parishes, consider these factors:
- Know your audience. Survey married couples to know their needs, priorities, and preferences as the basis for developing targeted and relevant ministry.
- Create a plan for all stages and needs of marriages. Consider starting small and first targeting the greatest needs in your community and building from there.
- Capitalize on the Families of Parishes structure and resources that are available to you. Consider either centralizing marriage ministry within the Family or distributing different facets of ministry across the Family of Parishes. Collaborate on planning large outreach events and offering small group activities across the parishes.
- Consider forming a Marriage Ministry Team. Recruit volunteers (couples who are passionate and gifted for marriage ministry, deacon couples, etc.) who will serve as the backbone, inspiration, and innovation for a sustained and vibrant marriage ministry.
- Utilize the AOD Marriage Support Office for resources and consultation.
Coordinator of Natural Family Planning and Family Support Ministry
Support for NFP and Family Support Ministry
Marriage and Family Support Ministry Specialist
Support for Marriage Ministry: Marriage Preparation, Marriage Coaching, Marriage Enrichment, Marriage Support/Restoration, and Divorce Recovery