Building marriage, family life for a better society, world

July 9, 2019

A married couple renew their wedding vows during a recent wedding anniversary Mass at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston. The Office of Family Life Ministries hosts the event, among others. TCH file photo.

HOUSTON — Living in a modern culture that challenges the fundamentals of morality dramatically impacts the health of marriage and family life, also called the “Domestic Church.” While Church doctrine does not change with the times, supporting ministries must improve and implement real responses, strategies, and goals to help the faithful create a better society and world.

This is the mission of the Family Life Ministry of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, according to its Associate Director Maritza C. Roman-Pavajeau. The Office of Family Life Ministry is one of 60 ministries supported by the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF).

“Since marriage and family life are being attacked constantly, we also have experienced our own Church struggles and weaknesses,” said Roman-Pavajeau. “The Family Life Ministry seeks to strengthen, inspire hope and bring healing to marriages, families and individuals through abundant charity and the saving grace of Our Lord, along with a clear and sound doctrinal, faith and human formation and education.”

The Family Life Ministry provides marriage preparation, marriage enrichment and parenting education for more than 2,500 couples a year living in the Archdiocese. Also, hundreds of parish family and marriage ministers are given professional training and formation annually. Ministry staff and resources also are available to bring the family perspective into any organization in the Archdiocese and secular world in order to evangelize in, for and within the family.

Roman-Pavajeau said all programs offer education, formation, on many of the essential areas in marriage and marital life.

“In marriage preparation specifically, we have many programs for single, living together, and previously married couples,” she said. “Program instruction is practical and very down to earth, with strong basic content in relationship communication, finances, conflict resolution, intimacy, children, spirituality and sacramental marriage.”

For married couples, the ministry offers marriage enrichment that aims to provide helpful ways for couples to maintain a healthy and holy relationship. This includes retreats, workshops and mentoring/coaching for couples that are having difficulties or challenges in their marriage. Also offered is NFP (natural family planning), a very orthodox way to space, avoid birth or achieve pregnancy and to live the chastity faithfully in marriage, said Roman-Pavajeau.

As far as the mentoring and coaching area, the ministry does its best to help the couple or individual identify and recognize their own challenges, patterns and strengths.

“We work with the couple with hope, understanding, love and structure processes to enable them to change their behaviors,” said Roman-Pavajeau. “We also invite them to a spiritual reflection process centered in the importance of the call to the vocation of marriage. Every year, we also honor couples who have reached the milestone of 25 or 50 years of marriage, couples that witness the devotion and faithfulness in married life.”

She said Family Life also offers parenting education, which empowers parents to fulfill the mission as Jesus Christ taught through His own example.

“As the first educators in faith and in character, we help parents to understand the importance of character formation and their mission as parents,” said Roman-Pavajeau. “Family Life Transitions addresses very difficult and actual issues in society: domestic violence, suicide, divorce, death, bereavement, separation and grief. Many people are touched by this ministry directly or through parishes.”

One couple that reached out to the Family Life Ministry to receive assistance with marriage enrichment was Juan Carlos and Adriana Arias. Through their participation in mentoring and coaching programs, marriage enrichment workshops and parenting classes, several years later they returned as marriage enrichment ministers to share their own testimony with other couples facing similar struggles.

“The Family Life Ministry programs helped us to learn more about the marriage relationship and how to successfully work out our issues,” Juan Carlos said. “As ministers, we want to help other couples achieve a better marriage relationship through our own experience with the ministry.”

The DSF enables the ministry to provide these programs and services.

“DSF covers all ministry operating expenses and makes our services available to all parishes and other organizations in the Archdiocese and community,” said Roman-Pavajeau. “We have an immense sense of responsibility to be good stewards of the money that is generously given to DSF to help in all the ministries. I give thanks to the faithful in the Archdiocese from the deepest part of my heart.”

The Ariases agree the faithful in the Archdiocese should contribute to the DSF, so all ministries impacted can continue to serve those in need.

“It is imperative for each of us to help the DFS every year as the funds are used to help educate, evangelize and serve many people in need, including the couples and families we serve through the Family Life Ministry,” Adriana said.