All structures that are built to last need a strong foundation and the right materials and tools to build them. Lifelong marriages are the same; they need proper tools and solid materials to make them strong, and a “blueprint” for building and maintaining the structure.
The Plan for Strengthening Marriage is the blueprint for building strong marriages in the Diocese of Trenton. In order to put the marriage plan into action, each parish needs to call upon couples and individuals in the parish who care deeply about their Catholic faith to form a parish marriage ministry team to oversee the host of marriage-strengthening recommendations provided in the plan.
Parish Marriage Ministry enables married couples involved in the parish to use their experiences of marriage and family life, especially challenges they have overcome, to accompany other married couples in similar situations. Effective marriage ministry helps married couples discern their own unique gifts and talents, and provides opportunities for couples (and divorced or widowed persons) to use their skills in service to the parish community.
Members of the Marriage Ministry leadership team oversee all marriage-building initiatives in the parish, including couple retreats, speaker events, marriage-related parish workshops, World Marriage Day activities, anniversary celebrations, bible studies, prayer groups, marriage enrichment and skill-building resources, and social activities.
Parish Marriage Ministry is a peer, like-to-like, intergenerational ministry of the laity that serves the full range of spiritual, emotional and social/relational needs of all married couples in the parish through every stage of marriage and family life. Intentional, comprehensive marriage ministry is integrated into the parish structure with connections to all other ministerial and formational functions of parish life, including outreach, service projects, adult faith formation, youth ministry, religious education, pastoral ministry, liturgical ministry and sacramental preparation.
Parish Marriage Ministry is founded on the process of evangelization – meeting people where they are and moving them forward in their faith journey, proclaiming the Gospel (bringing the good news of Jesus Christ into every human situation), inviting couples into discipleship and a personal encounter with the living Jesus through their service to others, and providing opportunities for apostleship as couples help to form new disciples in their own family and in the parish community.
One of the seven objectives of the diocesan “Plan for Strengthening Marriage” launched in May of 2015 is “To establish a marriage ministry in every parish to provide intentional support and enrichment for married couples, including those who are struggling in their relationships or family situations.”
As part of this objective, parishes should “Invite and train a core team of married couples to form a marriage ministry, and “Implement a locally-determined set of support and marriage enrichment activities (ie. outreach to newly married couples, support for interfaith couples, parenting, enrichment).”
Couples with strong leadership skills should be encouraged to serve on the core team for marriage ministry in the parish.The Department of Evangelization and Family Life provides all the training needed to get marriage ministry started in your parish.