.- Spurred by the current state of marriage and the debate on same-sex unions, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved a multi-year national pastoral initiative on marriage, beginning this year.
The initiative, proposed by the Committee on Marriage and Family Life, takes a “life-cycle” approach and intends to strengthen marriage “as a human institution and as a sacramental reality.”
The Family Life Office of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati developed the life-cycle approach for its own marriage preparation initiative and published "Marriage Preparation Guidelines Throughout the Lifecycle." The guidelines for the program were approved by Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk and may be used as the template for the national program.
The rationale for a life-cycle approach to marriage preparation comes from Pope John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio, which affirms that preparation for Christian marriage is a lifelong journey of faith that must be supported by parishes.
The program is divided into four major areas and teaches skills on such topics as conflict resolution, communication, sacraments, spirituality and intimacy. The program also outlines the developmental needs for each age level, suggestions to parents, catechists and parish ministers. There is also hands-on material that explains how the lessons can be incorporated into other parish programs.