Archdiocese Local

Discover your part in prioritizing marriage in America

groom and bride entering the church on their wedding day ceremony

by Joe Bollig

SHAWNEE — The sociological data is clear. There’s an intergenerational retreat from marriage in America, and it’s producing many harmful social consequences.

This is the bad news according to Tory Baucum, director of the Center for Family Life at Benedictine College in Atchison.

The good news is the Catholic Church is doing something about it.

The Opening America’s Heartland to Marriage Symposium will be held on April 12 at Sacred Heart Parish, 5501 Monticello Rd., Shawnee.

The event is sponsored by the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, Benedictine College, Communio and Sacred Heart.

“We’re trying to create and continue a conversation about the mission field that has arisen in America about marriage and family, and how we address it,” said Baucum.

“[The symposium is] about how to address it, how to make marriage and family a priority in our churches and in our culture. [It will also be] not just at the level of ideas but also the level of solutions,” he added.

The symposium speakers will include: Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann; Baucum; J.P. DeGance, president and founder of Communio; Amy Hamilton, research associate of the Austin Institute for the Study of Family & Culture at the University of Texas at Austin; Brad Wilcox, University of Virginia, director of the National Marriage Project; and Mark Regnerus, president of the Austin Institute.

The symposium registration begins at 7:30 a.m., followed by a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Naumann at 8:15 a.m. There will be a light breakfast after Mass and then the symposium from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The event will conclude with a recognition of Archbishop Naumann’s contributions to building the domestic church in Kansas.

This is a free event, but participants must RSVP by April 8 online at: heartlandtomarriage.

Who should attend?

Priests, parish staff, ministry leaders, couples in family ministry and any concerned Catholic, according to Kathleen Whalen, director of missionary discipleship at Sacred Heart.

“Our pastor Father Jaime Zarse wants to place great emphasis and energy behind promoting marriage and family life and wants our parish to become [aware] of the reasons for the fundamental breakdowns so we can attack it in a bigger and bolder way so we can achieve success in marriage and family life,” said Whalen.

“We want to come up with creative and inspiring resolutions to strengthen marriage and family life,” she added.

This symposium is but a preview of something greater to come.

“We’re going to hold a national conference on marriage and family at Benedictine College in March 2025,” said Baucum. “We’ll have some of the top scholars and speakers on marriage and family in the Catholic Church, but not just the Catholic Church. We plan to produce a handbook for marriage catechists coming out of that conference.”

Baucum hopes that the symposium participants will take away not only ideas, but also hope and practical solutions.

“The health of marriage and family in America is the single most important sociological issue facing us as a country,” said Baucum.

“If you solve the issues of failing and troubled marriages and families, you solve about 95 percent of the social problems in America,” he continued. “It’s important because it’s really all about the health of the social fabric and common good of this country.”

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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