Bishops back banns

U.S. bishops launch Web site to strengthen marriages

By Connie Berry
SUN editor

One place that a Catholic may not think to look for marital advice is on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Web site. Think again.

In November of 2004 the bishops voted to make marriage a priority and it looks like that’s what they are doing. A visit to brings up a plethora of marriage-enhancing ideas. This initiative by the USCCB offers everything from “cheap dates” to an engaged couple’s blog. A pastoral letter is also in the works, along with a special project in the March 2009 Ministry and Liturgy magazine sent to every parish in the U.S.

According to Pat Ennis in the diocesan Family Life Office, the issue will highlight the church’s understanding of marriage and shows parishes some practical ways they can become “marriage-strengthening parishes.” One of the articles included in the issue was authored by Ennis.

The bishops’ initiative is titled the “National Pastoral Initiative for Marriage,” or NPIM. A combination of research, pastoral practices, Catholic teaching and experience of married couples is being utilized to develop the initiative. The bishops’ work is slated to continue through 2011. Citing the development of marriage as both a sacrament and human institution, the goals of NPIM are many. As stated on the Web site, the USCCB hopes to:
• offer a Catholic witness to the meaning, value and sanctity of marriage;
• connect Catholic belief and teaching with current marriage issues;
• strengthen marriage through the life cycle by listening to the experience of the Christian faithful;
• work with our fellow citizens to promote marriage-friendly laws, public policies, and other social strategies;
• promote more and better ministries to marriage, particularly in parishes;
• encourage dioceses, national church organizations and movements to provide leadership and resources on behalf of marriage.

The bishops concede that marriage as an institution has faced many challenges over the last several years. Rising divorce rates, same-sex unions, non-marital cohabitation and a falling marriage rate have all dealt a blow to the institution.

The USCCB Web site features daily marriage tips and special information for marriage preparation including a list of “must-have conversations.”

Within the Syracuse Diocese, the Family Life Office also offers a comprehensive Web site at Click on

“Marriage Enhancement,” and visit the list of “Six Ways to Nurture Your Marriage” or “How Parishes can Strengthen Marriages.”

It is Ennis’ hope that pastors and parishioners take advantage of the March issue of Ministry and Liturgy.

“Watch for it and do not put it in the recycling bin that sits on the floor. Read it and discuss it,” she recommended.

Anyone who may have missed the issue can request a copy by calling (408) 286-8505.

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