12 MARCH 2005
PRESIDENT OF ACCORD AND BISHOP OF KILLALA, DR WILLIAM WALSH,
OPENS 2005 CONFERENCE:
“CARING FOR MARRIAGE IN A PLURALIST SOCIETY”
ACCORD’s 35th annual conference was opened on Friday evening last by ACCORD President
and Bishop of Killaloe, Dr William Walsh. Its theme was “Caring for Marriage in a
Pluralist Society”. The two day event took place in Cavan’s Slieve Russell Hotel.
Bishop Walsh said in his opening remarks [see full speech below], “The theme of
our Conference: Caring for Marriage in a Pluralist Society is in itself a statement
about ACCORD’s eagerness to respond to the changing needs of marriage in today’s
“We need more people coming forward for selection if we are to meet the demands
for our service especially in the areas of preparation for marriage and marriage
counselling. I use this occasion to appeal to people who care about the future
of marriage to look seriously at the possibility of working in this area.”
Bishop Walsh said, “I believe very strongly that professionalism is about more
than basic training, following of rules, regulations and protocols. Professionalism
in the area of conflict resolution and healing must encompass that human caring,
compassion, empathy which ought to characterise Christian relationships in which
the sacred dignity of every person is recognised and respected. I believe that
this caring element has always been central to the work of ACCORD. We must never
set it aside or undervalue it in the name of any cold professionalism.”
Keynote speaker Dr George Worgul addressed the conference with sessions on
Marriage Myths, Family Systems, Marriage in Post Modernity based on US Research
and separately on Faith and Spirituality in the Marriage Process. Dr Worgul
said, “It is crucial to dispel prevailing myths about relationships, marriage
and the family.
“By examining solid statistical data we can see trends emerging in Western society,
identify crucial issues and questions, and thereby help people realize their hopes
in forming a vibrant, fulfilling relationship.”
Dr Worgul continued, “Both society and the Church must work in partnership in
order to focus on, and successfully undertake, these profound social duties
ACCORD’s National Director, Mr Shay Ellis, warmly welcomed the 300+ attendees.
Mr Ellis said, “The high level of interest in the annual conference underpins the
voluntary commitment shown by ACCORD members to marriage and family, to our clients
and to continuous professional development. ACCORD, as the largest provider of
marriage education and counselling – both north and south – has a particular
responsibility to provide a first class service, and feedback from clients and
from our own reviews confirms that this is the case. Our door is always open:
clients are welcome to ACCORD, regardless of their cultural background or religious
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm Communications Officer (087 233 7797)
Notes for Editors
* ACCORD is an agency of the Irish Bishops’ Conference. ACCORD provides care
and support for those preparing for marriage in the Catholic Church, for those
already in married relationships, through its enrichment programmes and for
those experiencing difficulties in their relationships, through its counselling
* The Mission Statement for ACCORD is: “Empowering people. Fostering relationships.
Caring for couples facing the challenges of Christian marriage. This is the work
of ACCORD in today’s World.”
* ACCORD volunteers are trained in counselling (e.g. supporting clients in dealing
with Marriage and Relationship issues) and in education (e.g. marriage preparation
and marriage enrichment). We are also committed a schools programme for both Primary
and Secondary Schools, (in certain locations). Details of our services and locations
can be found on our website www.accord.ie
* ACCORD started out in Belfast in 1962 as the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council
(CMAC). In 1964 it was launched in Kilkenny and Wexford while other centres opened
around the country between 1965 and 1967. Currently ACCORD has 58 centres, nine of
which are based in Northern Ireland. Ten years ago CMAC changed its name to ACCORD.
* ACCORD has 731 volunteers, who in 2004 undertook:
Marriage Counselling Hours: 28,939 hours
Marriage Couselling Cases: 5,288 cases (individuals & couples)
Marriage Preparation Hours: 17,300 hours
Attendees at Courses: 15,318 people
* Key note speaker Dr. George S Worgul, JR was born in Queens, New York in 1947.
He is a Professor of Systematic Theology and an Associate Director in the Family
Institute of Duquesne University, Pittsburgh. In addition to teaching an
undergraduate marriage course, he is researching the impact of marriage counsellors
on divorce rates and is writing a book which integrates sociological studies of
marriage with theological views. Dr Worgul has completed extensive research into
Marital and Family trends in the USA and will discuss how these trends may impact
on society now and in the future with a focus on Marriage, Faith and Spirituality.
* Representatives from the following organisations are attending the conference:
Scottish Marriage Care; Marriage Care England & Wales; MRCS (MRCS Counselling:
Non-denominational marriage and relationship counselling services within Ireland);
Relate (relationship counselling agency in Northern Ireland); Mr Gerry Mangan,
Director, Dept of Social & Family Affairs; Diocesan staff working in the area
of social services.
Address by Bishop Willie Walsh
at Opening of Accord Conference 2005
I am happy to be with you for the opening of our Accord Annual Conference 2005.
The Theme of our Conference “Caring for Marriage in a Pluralist Society” is in
itself a statement about Accord’s eagerness to respond to the changing needs of
marriage in today’s society.
In responding to those changing needs it continues to work towards the highest
possible standards in the care of family and marriage. This is evidenced by
our commitment to minimum hours for client contact. It is evidenced by the
new Accord DCU/counsellor training which will add a new dimension to and further
enhance our service. It is evidenced by Accord Northern Ireland’s work in
co-operation with the Government and the Catholic Education Office towards the
launch of their 5 year schools programme entitled “Love Rejoices in Truth”.
That this programme is to be offered to all the schools in Northern Ireland
is an indication of the esteem in which the work of Accord is held in this
As we continue to enhance the quality of our services we need to be always
mindful that quality is about mind and heart. And the heart of Accord is
about valuing and respecting the dignity and sacredness of each person whom
we are privileged to serve.
We have seen a very significant increase in recent years in the whole area of
therapy –counselling, psychotherapy, psychiatry, psychology or whatever.
People who work in these fields emphasise the need for professionalism and they
rightly do so and I hold no brief for anything less than the highest standards
in this area.
I believe very strongly however that professionalism is about more than basic
training, following of rules, regulations and protocols. Professionalism in
the area of conflict resolution and healing must encompass that human caring,
compassion, empathy which ought to characterise Christian Relationships in which
the sacred dignity of every person is recognised and respected. I believe
that caring element has always been central to the work of Accord. We must
never set it aside or undervalue it in the name of any cold professionalism.
In our quest for high standards we are, of course, only too well aware that we
make serious demands on our members in terms of time and energy. And because
we live in a world which is characterised by busyness of people it has become
more difficult in recent years to recruit new members. We do need more people
coming forward for selection if we are to meet the demands for our service
especially in the areas of preparation for marriage and marriage counselling.
I use this occasion to appeal to people who care about the future of marriage
to look seriously at the possibility of working in this area.
I want to issue another gentle invitation and that goes to couples who are
experiencing difficulties in your marriage. Can I say to them that there
is help and a high quality of help available. It is vital however that
they avail of that help at the earliest possible opportunity – the longer
these difficulties are allowed to grow and develop the more difficult will
be the road to reconciliation.
I am happy to welcome Senator Wilson who comes to us representing the Minister
who is unable to be with us. I welcome the Senator and ask him to convey
to the Minister and his Department our appreciation of the funding we have
received from them. I ask him to assure the Minister that this money is
well spent in the care of marriage and family.
I bid you Senator Wilson the warmest of welcomes. I wish all of you a fruitful
Conference and God’s blessing on every aspect of your lives.