A couple of months ago, the Diocese approached me and asked whether our parish might be interested in participating in a program that assists in outreach and ministry to married couples and families. After listening to what they had to say, I saw it as a good opportunity. There seems to be little debate that marriage and family life have an enormous effect on the life of the Church, especially the religious habits of the young. According to the 2018 American Political and Social Behavior Survey, “Millennials from married homes are 78% more likely to attend church than peers from unmarried homes.” Recent statistics show, however, that 40% of all births in the United States occur outside of marriage, and 54% of children born in the United States reach their 17th birthday without a married mother and father in the home. These statistics suggest that, because the number of intact marriages and families is declining, far fewer young people will grow up with a relationship with Christ in the Church, thus missing out on all that the Lord wants to give them through the teachings, the sacraments, and the fellowship found in the Church. So, what is the Church doing about it? Not much, it seems. According to a survey by the Barna Group, 72% of all Christian churches in the U.S. lack a substantive marriage ministry. 74% provide no support for newlyweds during their first years of marriage. 93% of churches lack any ministry for singles, and a large majority of churches do not allocate any resources for marriage and relationship ministries. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that marriage and family ministry could hold great potential for evangelization.
To enable us to begin this work, our parish received a grant from Foundations in Faith to partner with a nonprofit called Communio that specializes in helping parishes develop strategies to engage and minister to couples and families. An important component to developing the strategy is participation in a survey of parishioners to gauge what the pastoral needs of our community are. The survey is anonymous and can be completed easily by clicking here. I ask you to please participate, whatever your state of life may be.
We all know people who have drifted away over the years from the Faith, not really knowing what they’ve drifted away from. If we care about them, we must try to find ways to invite them back into the community, filled with hope that God’s grace will touch their hearts (and ours) and awaken us to the joy of authentic Christian discipleship. Many studies show that religious practice comes with significant mental health benefits, and that religious people report being more fulfilled and satisfied in their relationships. These are likely effects of the fact that our Catholic faith is actually true, since we find greatest happiness and fulfillment when we live in the truth. I’m hopeful that our collaboration with Communio this year will help us fulfill our central mission as a parish, to share the gospel and make disciples, while building up the Church here in Stamford and having some fun in the process.