U.S. bishops want couples to see the importance of their marriage
by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — What would you say if someone came up to you and your spouse on the street, pointed a camera at you, and asked: What have you done for your marriage today?
This scenario — which happened to several couples in five different cities across the nation — is not part of some new reality TV show.
Rather, the person-on-the-street interviews were for television and radio public service announcements sponsored by two U.S. bishops’ committees — Communications and Marriage and Family Life.
The announcements, which began to run nationally on June 27, are part of a multiyear National Pastoral Initiative for Marriage, which was approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in November 2004 and has been directed by the bishops’ Marriage and Family Life Committee. (These announcements are linked and supported by a new Web site at: www. foryourmarriage.org. For information about the National Pastoral Initiative for Marriage, go to: www. usccb.org/npim.)
“Several years ago when the [USCCB] was in the process of trying to identify the most important pastoral priorities for the church in the United States, the need to do whatever we could for marriage and family life emerged as one of those priorities,” said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, a member of the bishops’ Marriage and Family Life Committee.
“Our committee was designated to move forward with a pastoral ini- tiative which was to include, but be more than, a pastoral letter regarding marriage and the family,” he added.
The National Pastoral Initiative for Marriage is an effort that seeks to communicate the value and meaning of marriage not only to Catholics, but also to American society at large.
With this initiative, the bishops seek to bring Catholic belief into a national dialogue about marriage and family. The bishops also want the Catholic Church to be a community of hope and help for marriages, and join with others to build “a culture of marriage.”
“I feel that we’ve done quite a bit as a church in terms of trying to help couples prepare for marriage,” said the archbishop. “And, of course, we know we know we need to do more and can do more.”
“We feel that, perhaps, the church has not been as strong in supporting couples during marriage — particularly in different stages of married life,” the archbishop continued. “So, part of our hope is that all that we do will be encouraging to those who are living the sacrament of marriage in their daily lives, and to help them to understand what they are doing is important and significant — not just for themselves and their family, but for the church and society as well.”
The initiative has three phases. The first, from 2005 to 2007, involved research and consultation. The second, from 2007 to 2008, will involve communication — including the writing of a pastoral letter. The third, from 2008 to 2011, will involve implementation, development of pastoral resources, and evaluation.
“We hope by speaking in a variety of ways in support of marriage that this will be something that couples will find encouraging and strengthening to them in their resolve to try to live their marriage with fidelity and joy,” said Archbishop Naumann.
Currently, the NPIM is in its second phase. Activities for this phase will include publishing a pastoral letter, monthly background briefings for the bishops and pastoral leaders, the public service announcements linked with a Web site (www.foryourmarriage.org), and meetings with leaders of diocesan offices, national groups and movements whose focus is family life ministry.
“Right now with the public service announcements, we’ve asked our archdiocesan communications director, Carroll Macke, to work with the [radio and television] stations, and I’ll probably contact the stations myself, to encourage them to use the PSAs,” said the archbishop. “Catholic radio, I’m confident, will be using them. We’ll at least look into purchasing time to give greater reach to the announcements.”
“[Family life office consultant] Jackie Corrigan has been working on recommendations to me for a task force on how we can strengthen marriages and family life in the archdiocese,” he continued. “Our presbyteral council is examining the issue and has a committee looking into this and making recommendations.”
Archbishop Naumann hopes that by the time the U.S. bishops issue their pastoral letter, the archdiocese will already be in a position to respond to and apply the letter.