Living the great marriage commitment for life

July 12, 2016

HOUSTON — When it comes to creating strong and perseverant marriage commitments in a universal culture that possesses signs of crisis around marriage, parenting and families, most couples require additional support to successfully transform and strengthen this lifelong commitment.
The area of Marriage Enrichment in the Family Life Ministry of the Archdiocese seeks to support married couples by providing enrichment opportunities and resources to strengthen their relationships. Through increased mutual commitment and intimacy, enhanced personal human and spiritual growth, and mutual fulfillment, creativity, perseverance, and daily efforts, they may experience a more positive and blessed family life.

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

According to Maritza C. Roman-Pavajeau, associate director of Family Life, in addition to providing resources through parishes in the Archdiocese, the office also creates partnerships with public, private, and faith-based organizations to offer a more extensive and stronger support network.

“We need to be the light of the world by touching, one-on-one, the lives of every single couple seeking help or willing to improve,” said Roman-Pavajeau. “Marriage doesn’t happen naturally, and few people get enough education and formation on how to create a strong and perseverant marriage. Our current culture doesn’t help, and most people need additional support to transform or strengthen this ‘intimate partnership of life and love.’” (Second Vatican Council, Gadium et Spes 48).

Roman-Pavajeau said since 2015, more than 2,000 couples have been helped by Marriage Enrichment, which has doubled over prior years. She believes this is a result of growth in membership within the Archdiocese by Latin and Asian populations, which have sought out the ministry’s help.

“There is a process of assimilation happening in these cultures in relation to marriage, and these couples are constantly looking for ways to learn or improve accommodations and acculturation, especially when they are married and have a family,” said Roman-Pavajeau. “We also have more resources available for Anglophones than for other linguistic cultures; therefore, they are taking advantages of any opportunity that is offered in their own language and culture.” 

According to Deacon Arturo Monterrubio, director of the Family Life Ministry, one of the office’s goals is to support families in each stage of life. 

“Together, we can develop new and better models for strengthening and supporting marriages,” Monterrubio said.

The first stage, he said, is remote preparation in early childhood, which includes the development of interpersonal and social relationships, as well as a foundation for vocational discernment. The second stage is the proximate preparation in the teenage years and young adulthood, which includes an authentic catechesis on the Sacraments and a development of the moral and spiritual dispositions necessary for entering into a Christian marriage. Third is immediate preparation during engagement, which focuses on the skills necessary for well-ordered family life, such as finances, housekeeping and responsible parenthood (cf Familiaris Consortio, 66).

“More than a single program of preparation, this formation resembles an apprenticeship,” said Monterrubio. “Children need to live immersed in a good marriage model to follow from their own parents. In this way, they are learning how to ‘live’ the great marriage commitment for life, as we learn more effectively by example than by words.”

Roman-Pavajeau said mentoring, consulting and coaching services offered by the ministry are some of the most efficient methods to form couples in a marriage of lifelong sharing. As stated by St. John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio, conjugal love is the “greatest form of friendship;” it is a process that includes the formation in virtues and development of abilities to understand the concerns for others, the reciprocity, the intimacy, the stability, honesty, sacrifice, forgiveness, above the natural inclinations of the human person. 

“It also is very important to form and train those that are servicing couples, which is ensured by formation and an education process that will enable clergy and lay leaders to integrate a strong moral and spiritual formation into a realistic view of marriage and family,” said Roman-Pavajeau. “This involves psychology, sociology, marital relationships, parenting and finances, which are the most concerning in family life.”
Roman-Pavajeau said facing the challenges associated today with marriage and family actually have been a blessing to communities of all kinds.

“This crisis of marriage and family has brought us all together; it has taken all our efforts to talk about it, defend it and to intervene,” said Roman-Pavajeau. “The welfare of couples in marriage is decisive for the solid constitution and reconstruction of the families and society, and of course, for the common good. Assisting ministries like those I lead — Marriage Enrichment and Parenting Education — are hands-on opportunities to resolve and minimize the effects of those challenges that are so present in our communities.”

Roman-Pavajeau believes by supporting DSF, the ministry will be able to “professionalize” its current marriage enrichment ministers.

“We will be able to offer more support to those in crisis or willing to survive the threats of culture,” said Roman-Pavajeau. “We will be able to ‘walk-educate-motivate’ couples married for five years or less to prevent more divorces, and develop and tailor programs and services for these newly married couples that are in great need of so much help to resist the pressures and the challenges of contemporary culture. With the funds of DSF, we will be able to form and prepare couples in the real meaning of marriage and family.”

Roman-Pavajeau said through the programs and services offered through Marriage Enrichment, she has personally benefitted from the experience and knowledge gained.

Laura and Roberto Rodriguez, participants in the Charis Retreat for Newly Married Couples (less than 5 years of marriage), said, “This retreat Christ Lives in Our Marriage was something very spiritual. It helped us find God in our marriage. And with Him everything is possible.”

Aidee and Alvaro Santos, who also attended the Charis Retreat, said they would like not only to participate, but to help with the retreats as well.
“This retreat is so important for newly married couples and for every couple,” they said.