Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP has called for ongoing formation of all Catholics in the area of marriage and family.
A general decline in religious sense and weakening of institutions such as families and parishes along with a rise in anti-Christian ideologies means “we cannot be satisfied with a few evenings or an online course as the whole preparation and support we offer to would-be married couples to live their vocations,” the archbishop said.
Marriage preparation for couples should be just one step, beginning with “marital pre-evangelisation” to ignite in young people a hunger for true marriage and family and continuing with the offering of support throughout their married life, he said.
Discussions are already underway with agencies in education, welfare, and youth ministry of the Sydney archdiocese with a view to developing proposals for a marriage catechumenate, he added.
The archbishop made his comments at the Renaissance of Marriage Conference convened by Francine and Byron Pirola of the Marriage Resource Centre.
More than 200 participants attended the conference from 26-27 July at the University of Notre Dame Sydney.
Presenters also included Archbishops Peter Comensoli and Julian Porteous, US Theology of the Body educator Katrina Zeno, ACU’s Dr Kevin Donnelly, the Sydney archdiocese’s Monica Doumit, psychologists, educators and academics.
Fr John Rate msc, was awarded the Impact Award for his work through Marriage Encounter.
Dr and Mrs Pirola said the conference aimed at gathering leaders who wish to be part of promoting a culture of Catholic marriage.
Madeleine Carrington, co-founder of Fire Up Ministries with husband Simon said they enjoyed the opportunity to meet other couples willing to share their experiences of the joys and challenges of marriage.
“We felt both inspired and encouraged in our own marriage as well as in our ministry,” she said.
Mother of seven Bernadette Jee said the conference provided a good snapshot of the challenges along with “many signs of hope that our sacramental marriage is the greatest gift to society”.
Uncertain future for marriage ministries
Catholic ministries will need to prepare for an uncertain future with creativity and renewed passion for handing on Catholic faith and practice, says the Sydney archdiocese’s Monica Doumit.
In a presentation at the Renaissance of Marriage conference in Sydney last week, the Director of Public Affairs and Engagement told delegates, among them marriage educators, clergy and youth ministers, that the freedom to hold and teach the Catholic faith in its fullness could not be taken for granted.
Changes in marriage and anti-discrimination laws presented risks for Catholics ministries and schools as illustrated in the 2014 case of a Victorian Christian retreat centre which was found to breach anti-discrimination laws by refusing a booking for an LGBT camp that planned to promote same-sex activity.
In addition, Ms Doumit said the proposed federal religious discrimination law would not have protected Archbishop Julian Porteous, who faced anti-discrimination claims after publishing an Australian Catholic Bishops’ document on marriage.
“There may well be a time in the not-too-distant future where it will be illegal for us to proclaim the truth of marriage as we have in the past in our parishes and in our schools,” she said.
“If that is the case, then we will be relying on the creativity of our marriage and family ministries to hand on the Catholic understanding of marriage, life and love.”
Ms Doumit there was “extraordinary opportunity” for promoting the Catholic faith.