Make marriage and family talk real, throw open your home

Keynote speakers at the Renaissance for Marriage: Christopher West, left, and Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP. Photo: Glenn Ong
Keynote speakers at the recent Renaissance for Marriage conference: Christopher West, left, and Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP. Photo: Glenn Ong

According to New York-based marketing guru David Lejeune, the most effective way to promote marriage and the family to the world couldn’t be simpler.

The founder of OPUSfidelis, a strategic communications and marketing agency, shared his secret at the Renaissance of Marriage Conference held in Sydney last month.

“Do you want to share the message about the joy of married and family life?” he asked the 180 delegates.

“I will tell you how – open your homes. Pick a day on the calendar and invite everyone in. Have a barbecue and invite the neighbours, people from work, from your community, of any religion and any state of life.”

His own family throw the doors open for such a large gathering every couple of years. The best way to evangelise to the world the truth of the Church’s vision on marriage is to form relationships with people and invite them into our lives to see marriage in action with all its imperfections, he said.

“We have eight children; believe me, our house is not perfect,” he said. “All our kitchen cupboards are broken, and we have to keep interrupting our conversations to go and change a diaper or whatever. But when people see how we live it is the best way for them to see all the joys of married and family life in all its reality.

“People are intrigued and inspired by that.”

It was a key theme that emerged from the two-day conference hosted by the Marriage Resource Centre.

Dr Ray Campbell, director of the Queensland Bioethics Centre, agreed that married couples who are passionate about supporting and promoting healthy marriages and families are the best evangelisers – simply by allowing others into their lives.

Peter Holmes, lecturer in theology at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney, and father of eight, spoke of the way his family became completely overwhelmed by the generosity of others when their youngest child, Albert, was born with a number of special needs.

“We were provided with meals for five months. At one point we had to put out a call to people to stop sending us food, because our fridge and cupboards were completely full and we couldn’t take any more,” he explained.

“The next day someone delivered a fridge.”

Leading experts covered various dimensions of building resilient Catholic marriages, including Christopher West, founder of the Cor Project and expert on St John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, and Archbishop Mark Coleridge.

Other presenters included Peter Shakhovskoy, a co-founder of the Men Alive movement, Bryon and Francine Pirola of the Marriage Resource Centre, Karen and Jonathon Doyle of Being Catholic, Paul Ninnes, co-founder of Real Talk Australia, Drs Ron and Mavis Pirola, and Kevin Andrews MP.

Bishop Peter Comensoli of Broken Bay closed the conference with Mass for the feast of St John Paul II.

The conference also honoured the closing of the Catholic Society for Marriage Education after 43 years of promoting and supporting marriage, family life and relationship education throughout Australia.

The event was a response to Pope Francis’ call in the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia for a renewed and revitalised approach to equipping young people for Catholic marriage and supporting married couples.

If you missed the Renaissance of Marriage 2016 conference, watch highlights, keynotes, listen to podcasts and access articles at www.rom.org.au

You can also access podcasts at www.xt3.com/marriage