In an effort to assist parishes in their ministry to married and engaged couples, the Diocese of Orlando hosted a resource day Aug. 2 at Holy Family Catholic Church.
The goal was to help pastors, marriage preparation leaders, faith formation leaders, and catechists to discover a number of resources that are available to strengthen the Sacrament of Marriage, a sign of God’s love for his Church.
“We want parishes to empower, cultivate and form couples in the vocation of marriage, as they live the domestic church,” said Gigi Santiago, co-manager of the Office of Family Life.”It’s not just about preparing for marriage, but enrichment after marriage as well.”
The resource day was the opening event for the inaugural Marriage Conference, presented by the Diocese of Orlando Office of Family Life. This year’s theme was “Faithful Marriages: Christ in the Mix.”
“Our goal is that the parishes in our diocese become marriage-building parishes, and that we support more than just marriage preparation,” said Digna Montanez, co-manager of the Office of Family Life. “With many of our parishes attending, it was also a networking opportunity for parishes to speak to each other and share what they do and how they can help each other.”
The Office of Family Life handed out prayer cards and flyers that parishes could provide to couples. Each of the flyers focused on strengthening the union of marriage. One flyer related the Sacrament of Marriage to some of the other Sacraments celebrated in the Catholic Church. For example, marriage is like the Eucharist, in that “marriage is the giving and receiving of flesh and blood for the life of the world, a literal dying to self so that others may live abundantly.”
A number of local and national exhibitors and authors were also in attendance; many of them presented pamphlets and free books that will help parish leaders as they assist married and engaged couples. Participants and presenters spent the afternoon sharing their experiences and resources through Q&A and roundtable discussions. The event’s keynote speakers, Ricardo and Lucia Luzondo, emphasized the Catholic Church’s teachings on marriage and family, designed by God.
“The resource day was just invaluable to me,” said Larann Wilson, steward of children and family ministries for St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church, Altamonte Springs. “The keynote speakers really touched on the foundations of what the Church teaches about marriage and family. That was crucial for me to hear.”
Presentations offered ideas for parishes to attract families; keep couples engaged in parish life after the wedding; and develop mentoring programs for newlyweds. Family Life Office staff members also shed light on the many workshops they offer throughout the year, such as training sessions for FOCCUS facilitators (Facilitating Open Couple Communication, Understanding and Study); classes on parenting and stepfamily issues; and workshops for people who are separated or divorced.
In addition to these workshops, the Office of Family Life offers marriage building weekend retreats, such as Marriage Encounter, Renovacion Conyugal and Marriage SPA. The Office of Family Life also promotes events such as Retrouvaille, a weekend retreat for couples who are struggling with the challenges of their marriages; and Bereavement support groups, for people whom have lost their spouse.