Giving new life to the domestic Church

September 11, 2018

The Family Life Transitions ministry helps maintain the health of the family, which is the foundation of a just society. CNS photo.

HOUSTON — The Catholic Church holds firm in its belief that the family unit or “domestic Church” is the building block or principle cell of a just society.

Maintaining the health of the family, where each member is encouraged to grow in faith and become a witness of the Gospel in his/her day-to-day life, will bring new life and hope to the domestic Church. And it all begins in the home.

“The family, which is founded and given life by love, in a community of persons: of husband and wife, of parents and children, of relatives…with love the family is not a community of persons and, in the same way, without love the family cannot love, grow and perfect itself as a community of persons.” (St. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation “Familiaris Consortio”, #18)

The ministry focused on strengthening the domestic Church in the Archdiocese is the Family Life Transitions Ministry. It serves individuals and families experiencing challenging situations that require outside support for them to continue and remain united.

Family Life Transitions is one of 60 ministries supported by the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF).

In the past year, the ministry’s staff and volunteers have assisted close to 600 people coping with loss and unforeseen challenges within their families. Situations may have involved death, divorce, separation, infidelity, domestic violence, mental health, substance addiction, financial hardship, suicide, same-sex attraction, pornography and parenting conflicts or challenges. Included in this number were close to 100 families that experienced extensive financial hardship, stress and domestic violence because of the massive flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey.

New programs currently in development focus on a variety of issues experienced by childless couples, single parents and blended families.

According to Elsa Aguilera, MSW, associate director of the Office of Family Life Ministry, two programs created for the Spanish-speaking community are Nueva Esperanza and Serenidad. Based on feedback provided by parishioners who attended a weekend ACTS Retreat at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church, there was a need for assistance in researching and designing a framework to establish a support ministry that focused on substance abuse and addictions. After research, meetings, and prayers by a team of Family Life Transition members, the two new support ministries, Nueva Esperanza and Serenidad, were formed in April 2017.

“The structure and framework are currently in Spanish for both programs,” Aguilera said. “Nueva Esperanza serves as a safe place for individuals suffering from substance abuse or addictions to gather, pray and support each other, and follows along the lines of AA meetings. Serenidad adopted an Al-Anon framework, which assists those who support loved ones with addictions.”

Since the inception of Nueva Esperanza, Mario Moreno has been the lead volunteer that serves as liaison, coordinator and facilitator. His wife, Sofia Moreno, has been the lead volunteer with Serenidad. Both have been positively impacted by leading their respective ministry.

“We have been given the opportunity to help others with their addiction, or those who struggle in dealing with a loved one that has an addiction,” said Mario Moreno. “My wife and I feel a great deal of joy that our testimony can help others and give them hope in their recovery process.”

The Morenos feel it’s important for those in the Archdiocese to support the DSF.

“We feel that supporting the DSF and the Family Life Transitions ministry is important because these addictions are destroying families,” Mario Moreno said. “Furthermore, we need this support, so people know that the Catholic Church has a ministry to help families with this problem.”

According to Aguilera, DSF directly supports all programs offered by the Family Life Transitions ministry, including important new programs like Nueva Esperanza and Serenidad, This allows the purchase of much-needed formation materials and supplies, as well as the ability to offer webinars and in-person volunteer workshops featuring professionally-skilled, Catholic presenters that can assist with these sensitive and challenging areas. According to the Morenos, the DSF ensures these important services may exist.

“Nueva Esperanza and Serenidad are ministries that give life,” Mario Moreno said. “Furthermore, serving has helped me get closer to God and, at the same time, helped me make better decisions and establish boundaries. Moreover, every person attending is an inspiration and a motivation to keep improving my life.”