.- Issues surrounding marriage and family life have elicited passionate dialogue and public debate recently, and the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Marriage and Family Life is hoping dioceses nationwide will take up the dialogue as well and hold focus groups on these issues this year. It’s all part of a multi-year initiative, whose goal is “to strengthen marriage as a human institution and as a sacramental reality.”
The U.S. bishops undertook the National Pastoral Initiative on Marriage last fall. Bishop Kevin Boland of Savannah said the marriage and family-life committee will sponsor these focus groups around the country in order to solicit input from persons concerned about marriage issues.
The committee chairperson issued a special invitation to married couples to participate. The focus groups would gather six to 10 people to discuss a number of questions, such as: what are one or two things that are most positive about your marriage at this stage? What is the biggest challenge that you are now facing? How has Church teaching on marriage been a support for you? If you have encountered difficulties with certain aspects of Church teaching on marriage, how have you dealt with them? What can your diocese or parish do to support married couples?
In a survey conducted earlier this year, more than 100 bishops identified their highest pastoral priorities regarding marriage. They included: sacramentality of marriage, commitment within marriage, marriage preparation and education, marital spirituality, and marriage as a vocation.
The centerpiece of the national initiative will be a pastoral letter on marriage, emphasizing the bishops’ teaching and their responsibilities as pastors. Dioceses that would like to conduct focus groups should communicate this to the committee by mid-July.
The deadline to submit a report on the focus groups is Dec. 31.