Bishops’ Council for Marriage and the Family holds inaugural conference in Maynooth on the theme ‘Marriage at the Heart of the Church’
“I am very pleased with today’s gathering which had at its heart a focus on marriage and the family … which lies at the centre of the Church and society.” – Bishop Jones
The Council for Marriage and the Family of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference whose members, lay and ordained, have a particular interest and commitment to supporting family life in society and the Church, organised its first national conference on the theme ‘Marriage at the heart of the Church’. The conference took place today at the Glenroyal Hotel in Maynooth.
Few institutions have been subject to such pressures and change in recent years than the family. From the emotional and practical turmoil of dealing with the fall out of the economic crisis to wider societal and attitudinal changes, the unit which is regarded by our Constitution as the very foundation of society has passed through some very turbulent waters in recent years. The time seems right for fresh heart and new energy to be given to this vital social entity in which so much of our personal emotional, spiritual and financial well-being is vested and from which so much of our personal and social life draws its strength.
Today’s event sets out to explore family in all its dimensions, including the family in Irish society today, the family in difficulty, and the family under threat. The conference was designed to (i) introduce publicly the Council for Marriage and Family, (ii) invite a wide network of individuals and groups into collaboration with the Council and (iii) provide opportunity for participants to explore together and at depth the vision of marriage and family in Catholic theology and spirituality today.
The guest speaker was Dr Stijn Van den Bossche, from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. Stijn is a lay man, married with three grown-up children. The general theme of a new course on marriage in which he collaborated last year was: how does marriage teach us what being a Christian is about, how does being a Christian teach us what marriage is about?
The conference programme facilitated maximum involvement of participants because the Council was very eager to hear their views and ideas based on their experiences. There were two presentations made from guest speaker Dr Stijn Van den Bossche, followed by group conversations leading to extended dialogue.
Commenting on the conference Bishop Christopher Jones, Chair of the Council for Marriage and the Family said: “I am very pleased with today’s gathering which had at its heart a focus on marriage and the family. It was a wonderful opportunity to explore and deepen our sense of marriage and family which is at the heart of the Church and society. Renewing our appreciation of how married couples can be a support to each other and how the Christian vision of marriage can become a catalyst for renewal of good neighbourliness and support in local communities could offer something timely and important for us all. My hope is that today’s Conference will contribute to this reimagining of the link between the sacrament of marriage, the call to witness to the faithful love of God for his Church and the renewal of community and good neighbourliness in our society. This hope extends to our understanding of the Christian vocation of the family, based on marriage. The family is where the Christian faith is first encountered and lived. It is where we learn, in concrete experience, what it means to love and care for others, what it is to be ‘a good neighbour’, what it is to be a good friend.”
The Family Prayer Book
The Council for Marriage and the Family in conjunction with Veritas also used the opportunity of today’s conference to launch a new hardback prayer book entitled The Family Prayer Book. This prayer book can be used by those preparing for Marriage and married couples, by family members and families, by individuals and by those who want to pray for marriage and family life for personal prayer and prayer together. It offers prayers for daily use or it can be dipped into from time to time, allowing the section and prayer titles to guide the readers towards their choice.
Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland launched the prayer book saying: “We are all familiar with that saying ‘the family that prays together, stays together’ and in launching this new family prayer book I am encouraging families to do just that – to take time out for prayer. This prayer book is a very accessible and user friendly collection of prayers we know, prayers we may have forgotten and new prayers gathered by the members of the Council for Marriage and the Family. I congratulate Bishop Jones, all the members of the Council and Veritas on this production.”
Notes to Editors
- Attendees at the conference included priests and people from dioceses and parishes, as well as other associations who work to support marriage and the family. Bishop Christopher Jones, Bishop of Elphin and outgoing chair of the Council, hosted the conference on behalf of the Council for Marriage and the Family. Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh, Bishop Liam Mac Daid, Bishop of Clogher and Bishop Brendan Leahy, Bishop of Limerick were also in attendance.
- Photographs are available on request from today’s conference by calling Brenda Drumm on 087 310 4444
- The Family Prayer Book is available from Veritas – www.veritas.ie
- Biography of Guest Speaker Stijn Van den Bossche
Stijn Van den Bossche is married to Grace and they have three grown-up children. He has a doctorate in theology from the Catholic University of Leuven. He is secretary-general of an Interdiocesan Commission for Catechesis in the Bishops’ Conference of Belgium. He is also involved in theological training of lay people for teaching and pastoral work. At the Leuven he teaches a course of theology of marriage.
Stijn’s area of interest is church renewal, theology of the sacraments, and faith initiation. His publications include ‘On the Gift of the Sacrament of Marriage’, in Studies in Liturgy, 89 (4), 238-259.
Stijn is also member of the staff of the Ignatian Center for Spirituality in Drongen (near Ghent). There, he collaborated last year in a new catechetical-spiritual course on marriage, consisting of ten evenings. The general theme of the course was: how does marriage teach us what being a Christian is about, how does being a Christian teach us what marriage is about?