Building a Parish Marriage Ministry
If families are the foundation of the society and marriage is the core relationship in the family, there’s an important parish ministry required if we are to have any hope of strengthen society. Church communities have much to offer in establishing local marriage initiatives but they need coordination and focussed efforts to get underway.
The M-Team is one model for doing this.
Establish a coordinating team of 2-3 couples to plan and execute initiatives for marriage and family in the parish. The M-Team is not just a ‘doing’ group. It’s a community of couples accompanying each other in their marriages and earnestly seeking to further the Kingdom.
Who should be on it?
We would strongly recommend that your M-Team be comprised of couples who have the following characteristics:
- Validly married in the Catholic church
- Both husband and wife eager to be involved
- Faith-filled, regular attendees at Sunday Mass
- Open to growth as evident through recent participation in enrichment opportunities
- Organisational skills and a ‘can-do’ attitude
How do we get members?
- Identify possible candidates by prayerful discernment with the parish priest and parish leadership.
- Approach candidates with a personal invitation to join the M-Team.
- Put a time frame for commitment (eg 2 or 3 years) and plan for a staged rollover so that the M-Team does not stagnate.
- Plan to meet at least four times a year to plan and execute your ideas and events.
What does the M-Team do?
Here’s our suggestions for where to start, but you can easily integrate other options.
This is a great place to start as it is an area of need in almost all parishes. Even if your parish only infrequently hosts a wedding, your marriage team members can enrol in the SmartLoving Sponsor Course and journey through the 9 lessons of the course for their own marriage enrichment. That way they will be familiar with the course content and when an engaged couple does book the Church for their wedding date they can volunteer to be their sponsor couple as they prepare for marriage using the SmartLoving Engaged course. Make sure to tell your parish priest or deacon that your Marriage team is there to help accompany engaged couples as they prepare for the Sacrament.
If the Sponsor system for engaged couples is already running, look to see what you can do to establish it as permanent ministry. Help recruit, induct & support Sponsor couples so that more couples can experience the benefits of marriage enrichment as a Sponsor.
Promote External Marriage Enrichment
You don’t have to host everything in your own parish. Connect with other organisations and movements to promote their marriage and family events.
- Organise a group from the parish to attend a marriage enrichment retreat.
- Fund raise to send a couple delegate to a national marriage conference.
- Check out what's available in your area on your diocesan website.
Celebration of Milestone Anniversaries
This could be as simple as publishing them in the parish bulletin under a ‘We’re Celebrating’ column, an announcement from the pulpit at thanksgiving, or a blessing given to the couple just before the end of Mass.
Alternatively, your parish might like to host a dedicated day or evening for marking significant anniversaries with couples invited to bring their extended family along to a Mass of Thanksgiving and supper.
Regular gatherings of couples to support and grow together builds community and strengthens marriage. There are many small group marriage resources that can be used to host couple gatherings, including the SmartLoving Marriage Kit which can be run in a group (plug and play format).
But you don’t have to be restricted to marriage resources – bible studies, book clubs and faith-based resources can also be very effective in helping couples bond with their spouse and with the group. For instance we recommend you check out Sycamore.
Build a support network of trusted counsellors for referrals.
Good marriage counsellors are hard to find. Many are not specifically trained for couple’s counselling, or approach their couple clients with an attitude of indifference towards whether the marriage succeeds for fails.
Counsellors who are formed in Catholic theology and base their practice on a Catholic anthropology will approach their clients as beloved children of God who desires their eternal wellbeing.
Such counsellors know that present sufferings and difficulties can bear spiritual fruit that is not always valued by the secular mindset that seeks to maximise happiness in this life.
They will more likely honour the sacred vows made at the couple’s wedding day and seek to find solutions to their difficulties that do not compromise their eternal life, but rather lead them into deeper relationship with the God who loves them.
Civilly Married Couples
Increasingly, there are couples in our Catholic parish or school communities who didn’t marry in a Christian ceremony and therefore are not in a marriage recognised by the Church.
For many, this was due simply to a desire to host the wedding in a different location, such as at the beach or in a vineyard. For others, they had a simple civil ceremony due to the cost of hosting a big wedding.
A parish often comes in contact with such couples when they present their child/ren for baptism. This is a great opportunity to invite them to 'validate' their marriage and receive the Sacrament of Matrimony.
Accompaniment by another parish couple through their formation is a wonderful way to form community.
NB: Some civilly-married couples may have desired a Catholic wedding but were unable to marry in the Church due to a previous marriage that had not been annulled. This is a sensitive pastoral situation that may or may not be resolved and needs to be approached carefully and with the involvement of parish clergy.
St Valentines Gathering
Reclaim St Valentine from the secular culture with a dedicated event that celebrates this Saint's life, given in defense of marriage. From a printable handout (free), prayers of intercession, dinners or other celebrations - there are many ways to mark this occasion and to bring a festive spirit.
A St Valentine's couples' date night is also a great community outreach for the parish evangelisation team.
For more on St Valentine and links to printable handouts, go here
Promote healing and reconciliation among fractured families.
We all have someone to forgive. Every single one of us holds bitterness or resentment towards someone who wounded us in some way. These wounds in families can sometimes lead to toxic arguments or even a family member being exiled.
Work to forgive and heal the wounds in your own life, and then look to ways that you can promote the same in others.
A great place to start is the SmartLoving BreakThrough experience. This is available as an individual online experience, but can also be run as a group cohort using the Facilitator resources.
PMRC Resource Hub
Find resources and lots of ideas at the PMRC Resource Hub. You can search by topic, formation stage or key word.
And if you have a resource, you can also upload it so that it’s available for others to find.