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Convocation to explore pastoral initiative for marriage

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Friday, June 12, 2009

ARCHDIOCESE — Ohio priests will gather in Columbus Nov. 5-6 for a statewide convocation focusing on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) National Pastoral Initiative for Marriage (NPIM).

In 2004 the U.S. bishops voted overwhelmingly to make marriage a priority. They launched the NPIM, a multi-year effort to communicate the meaning and value of married life for the church and for society. The initiative brings together Catholic teaching and pastoral practice, social science research and the experience of married couples. It will offer guidance and resources to promote and strengthen marriage.

The bishops acted to address marriage in light of the persistent high rate of divorce, rapid rise of non-marital co-habitation and failing marriage rate, along with the issue of same-sex marriage, which has produced heated debate about the nature and purpose of marriage. The bishops believe the Catholic Church can make a distinct contribution to shaping public awareness about the value of marriage.

Through the initiative the bishops hope to strengthen marriage both as a human institution and a sacrament. This includes offering a Catholic witness to the meaning, value and sanctity of marriage; connecting Catholic belief and teaching with current marriage issues; promoting more and better ministries to marriage; particularly in parishes; and encouraging dioceses, national church organizations and movements to provide leadership and resources on behalf of marriage.

The NPIM began in early 2005 and will run through 2011. The initiative has completed a research and consultation phase, followed by work on developing a bishops’ pastoral letter on marriage. Other activities have included focus groups with married couples and priests, dialogues with social scientists and theologians, a national research project on Catholics’ understanding of marriage and the development of a special website www.foryourmarriage.org, offering marriage information, help and other resources. Work continues with diocesan offices and national groups to promote and improve pastoral ministries that strengthen marriage and family life, with particular emphasis on ministries and outreach at the parish level.

The convocation, which will provide the first-ever opportunity for priests from throughout Ohio to gather, will be held at the Hyatt Regency (Convention Center) in Columbus. It will provide attendees the chance to explore the contemporary social context of marriage with nationally recognized speakers from the fields of social science and theology and gain a hopeful vision of marriage amidst the challenges faced by couples and families today.

Keynote speaker for the convocation is Archbishop of Louisville Joseph E. Kurtz, chair of the USCCB subcommittee preparing the pastoral letter on marriage. Also presenting are Scott Stanley, research professor at the University of Denver, expert on marital preparation and one of the founders of PREP (Preparation and Relationship Enhancement Program); and Joann-Heaney-Hunter, an associated professor at St. John’s University in New York, board certified counselor and author of Unitas: Preparing for Sacramental Marriage.

For more information about the NPIM, visit http://www.usccb.org/laity/marriage/npim.shtml.

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