The following comes from a July 13 story in Catholic San Francisco.
The Office of Marriage and Family Life, closed by the Archdiocese of San Francisco in a cost-cutting move in 2005, has been restored in the fiscal year budget that began July 1, the need for it growing exponentially.
A director of the office, who must have experience in marriage preparation and other family life programs and be bilingual in English and Spanish, will be hired, along with an assistant, hopefully by the end of September. The director’s assignment will be to support marriage and family life matters in the parishes, said Auxiliary Bishop Robert McElroy.
During the past 15 years, the number of sacramental marriages in the archdiocese, and across the nation, has fallen almost by 60 percent, an interim task force on marriage assembled by the archdiocese found. Forces behind the trend include the growing secularization of society, while people in their 20s and 30s are statistically least engaged in the life of the church, Bishop McElroy said.
Launching an office amid those challenges, as well as managing other ministries, including support for separated and divorced people, aid to the grieving and providing support for people after they’re married, is a tall order, Bishop McElroy said. “The work of this office will be a lot of start-up work and work with volunteers, and it won’t get done all at once,” he said.
Bishop McElroy is particularly interested in providing a service for couples before their kids are school age. “We do not have a niche for that in parish life in general,” he said.
He added that the Office of Marriage and Family Life is one that Archbishop George Niederauer “felt was needed and wanted to restore.”
The director will report to Deacon John Norris, director of the department of Pastoral Ministry, who said restoration of the office “is a positive move forward to do more in ministry.”
One hurdle to church marriages, said Bishop McElroy and Deacon Norris, is unique to a multicultural archdiocese like San Francisco: It is quinceanera, the expensive celebration of a Latina’s 15th birthday, a passage from childhood to young womanhood – so expensive that it drains money from families that cannot later afford a costly church wedding reception. The church wedding is postponed, and put off again when children are born.
“We are addressing that,” said Bishop McElroy, as numerous parishes are helping couples arrange for long-delayed weddings that will be recognized by the Catholic Church.
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