Pope Francis names U.S. Catholic marriage advocates as advisers to Vatican family dicastery

unnamed 1 Mary Rose and Ryan Verret. | Credit: Courtesy image via Be Light

Pope Francis recently nominated two U.S.-based Catholic advocates of marriage and family life to a key Vatican dicastery, an honor that left the recipients both “stunned” and “excited.” 

The Holy Father named Ryan and Mary Rose Verret as consultants to the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life, according to a press release from the Verrets’ marriage ministry Witness to Love.

The Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life says on its website that it “promotes the pastoral care of marriage and the family on the basis of the teachings of the Church’s magisterium” and “works to ensure the recognition of the rights and duties of spouses and of families in the Church, society, and in economic and political life.”

Louisiana-based Witness to Love touts itself as “an internationally used model of marriage preparation.” Mary Rose Verret told CNA last year that the ministry offers a “full-circle” approach to promoting strong marriages in order to counteract the tidal wave of collapsing marriage numbers in the U.S.

The organization said on its website that the Holy Father’s appointment “involves an official consultancy role for the Verrets” in which they will “collaborate with other experts and leaders from around the world to address contemporary challenges facing families, advocate for the sanctity of marriage, and promote the well-being of families within the Church and society.”

Mary Rose told CNA this week that she and Ryan first learned of the appointment from a priest friend who sent them an early-morning text congratulating them. 

“We were not sure what it was in reference to,” she said, after which their friend sent them the Vatican’s press release announcing the appointment. 

“We were stunned and at the same time we were excited to be able to serve the sacrament of marriage in a more impactful way,” she said. 

The Verrets have received official documentation from both Pope Francis and Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin. The couple has been asked to serve as consultants for a five-year term. They are “the only North American married couple to be appointed to such a role,” Witness to Love said in its press release.

“We are excited to work with leaders from around the world to better serve the sacrament and vocation of marriage,” Mary Rose said. 

Pope Francis himself has regularly spoken out in defense of marriage throughout his pontificate. 

He has described the vocation as one that calls husbands and wives to “steer a tiny boat — wave-tossed yet sturdy, thanks to the reality of the sacrament — across a sometimes stormy sea,” though he added that “by virtue of the sacrament of matrimony, Jesus is present in that boat.”

Marriage “is not a formality to be fulfilled,” the pope has said, arguing that couples get married because “you want to base your marriage on the love of Christ, which is as firm as a rock.”

The family dicastery says that it pursues a mission of “enlivening and encouraging the promotion of the vocation and mission of the lay faithful in the Church and in the world.”

To that end, it “cooperates with the various lay ecclesial organizations so that the lay faithful share both their experiences of faith in diverse social contexts and their own secular skills in the Church’s pastoral ministry and governance.”

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