Story by Christina Leslie | Correspondent
Ahead of the Church’s observances of National Marriage Week (Feb. 7-14) and World Marriage Sunday (Feb. 11), the Diocese of Trenton is introducing three new initiatives to promote the Sacrament of Marriage in parishes and cohorts.
The programs will include three-minute pulpit talks by married couples, lawn signs proclaiming the sanctity of Catholic marriage and creation of parish core teams to conduct marriage ministry, noted Peg Hensler, associate director for marriage ministries and NFP in the Department of Evangelization and Family. These initiatives will be introduced in selected parishes with continued rollout across the Diocese this spring.
Developing a compelling message to urge Catholics to marry in the Church is crucial, Hensler said, and the introduction of these three new initiatives will strengthen marriages and spread the word about the joy of a Catholic marriage.
“As couples see themselves as living signs of Christ’s love in the world, that witness will go out in the streets, like a grass-roots campaign,” she said. “The three-minute pulpit talk by couples in the parish is a witness talk about what it means to understand their vocational call to serve.
“Marriage is a vocation of service,” Hensler continued. “They will speak about the beauty of sacramental marriage and what it has done for them to serve as a couple. There are all kinds of ways that married couples can serve together in a parish now: they can be lectors, do Bible Study, be Eucharistic Ministers, work in marriage ministry, mentor other couples and serve as pre-Cana team members. Through the witness talks, we expect couples will see themselves in those couples and be encouraged.”
An outward sign of a couple’s respect for Catholic marriage will soon be popping up outside homes throughout the Diocese: an 18-by-24 inch lawn sign proclaiming that the Sacrament of Marriage is integral to faith life. The sign bears the photograph of a bride and groom emblazoned with a quote from Pope Francis that reads, “Marriage is an art … where divine love dwells.” The diocesan “strong marriages” logo and website buildingstrongmarriages.org enables passers-by to delve deeper into the message.
“We can draw people to our website, which has great resources to give them everything they need, and learn how they can serve together as a married couple,” Hensler said. “It shares the beauty of Catholic marriage and gives them the tools to realize how they, as a married couple, have a unique role in the Church.”
She continued, “This is for the people who are not in the pews. This is an evangelization sign, to reach out to those not coming to Church or barely coming to Church. We want to bring them back to the pews and encourage couples to see themselves and their marriage as vocations.”
The third of the three new resources is core team training for parish marriage ministry. The Diocese will provide the organized framework and structure to parishes and give married practicing Catholics a platform to serve. Pastors in the initial 20 parishes are approaching couples they feel would best exemplify married Catholic love and might model it to others, Hensler noted.
“If parishes are already doing marriage ministry, and doing it well, we can assist them to share their best practices,” she said. “This will also help strengthen marriages, because as couples see themselves as living signs of Christ’s love in the world, that witness will go out in the streets.”
The initiatives are part of the ongoing “Building Strong Marriages” program, first introduced in May 2015 at the diocesan Marriage Summit in Georgian Court University, Lakewood.