Accord data reveals strong demand for Catholic marriage

13 Feb 2023

  • 4,590 couples on Accord marriage preparation programmes in 2022 – see data below

Today at the shrine of the holy relics of Saint Valentine in the Carmelite Church in Dublin city, Bishop Denis Nulty blessed engaged couples Orla Gavin and Patrick Corcoran, and Ilona Catharine Dorrepaal and Patrick Michael Lennon.

In welcoming the couples to the Shrine of Saint Valentine, Bishop Nulty said, “celebrating the sacrament of marriage is a profound decision in the life of a couple.  Today I am honoured to join with Ilona and Patrick, and with Orla and PJ, at the shrine of Saint Valentine. Our two couples represent the many couples across this island who will celebrate the sacrament and thereby connect their love for one another to the source of love, who is God.  A sacrament is like the 3-D glasses we watch movies with; love is not just between the couple themselves, but firmly united with God.”

Following the blessing, the Catholic marriage care service Accord released its latest attendance figures for couples undertaking Sacramental marriage preparation courses. 

Speaking at Saint Valentine’s shrine, Mr Tony Shanahan, director of Accord CLG, said, “it is reassuring to see that attendance figures for Accord marriage preparation courses are back up to their pre-Covid levels.  In 2019 – the most recent full year available for comparison – we provided 285 marriage preparation programmes to 4,610 couples.  This figure equals our service in 2022 when we hosted 4,610 couples on 297 programmes.

“When we consider that, for 2021, the Central Statistics Office reported that religious ceremonies accounted for 57% of all marriages in the State; and that the 6,721 Catholic marriages that year amounted to 39% of the total figure, then Accord’s data of today paints a positive picture in terms of the numbers who are planning a Church marriage in the future.

“As marriage is the greatest undertaking in life for most people, we encourage preparation as a prerequisite to success.  For over sixty years Accord has helped couples to prepare and, from our experience, it is best to undertake a marriage preparation course six to nine months ahead of the wedding date.  This provides a valuable opportunity for couples to discuss the current strength of their relationship, and identify key elements that are handled well, and those areas that would benefit from further development.  In terms of atmosphere our programmes are relaxed and facilitated by professionals with lived marriage experience. 

“Couples on our courses benefit from sharing experiences and concerns in open, stimulating and fun discussions.  Afterwards, couples regularly provide feedback that they had believed they had discussed everything with each other until their marriage preparation programme, only to realise that they had made many assumptions.” Mr Shanahan said.

Profile of engaged couples to receive the blessing at the Shrine of Saint Valentine

  1. Ilona Catharine Dorrepaal and Patrick Michael Lennon are both primary school teachers who first met in the Gaeltacht in Dingle.  Ilona says, “Patrick was new to my year in college in Marino, Dublin.  Pretty soon we were dancing together at the céilís.”  Ilona is originally from Dublin, her Mam is from Wicklow and her Dad is Dutch.  Patrick is from Meath, his Mam is from Dublin and his Dad from Roscommon; They live in Maynooth, Co Kildare.  The couple have been together for five and a half years; their marriage will take place on 16 February 2024 in the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, (Saint Mary’s, Keadue), Roscommon, Diocese of Ardagh & Clonmacnois, followed by a reception in Kilronan Castle.
  • What do you like most about your fiancé/e?  Patrick likes that Ilona is a kind and helpful person and is generally always happy.  Ilona likes that Patrick loves to make her laugh, he supports her and always tries to make sure that she is happy.
  • Why have you chosen to be married in the Church?  “We both grew up going to church with our parents. Ilona’s Mam and Patrick’s Mam and Dad come from strong Catholic backgrounds.  We were both altar servers when we were children.”
  1. Orla Gavin and Patrick (PJ) Corcoran: Orla is a Psychiatric Nurse originally from Mullingar and Patrick is a Quality Controller who hails from Tipperary Town. The couple first met the night before the first day of college in the ‘Stables Club’ at the University of Limerick, and have been together since.  PJ proposed to Orla a week before finishing her nursing internship on the 16 September, this being exactly four years and a week after they had first met.  Their wedding is planned for the 20 December next in The Cathedral of Christ the King, Mullingar, Diocese of Meath.
  • What do you like most about your fiancé/e?  Orla: “Patrick’s kindness”; Patrick: “Orla’s caring nature”.
  • Why have you chosen to be married in the Church? “Because we both share a strong faith and our Irish tradition.”

Notes for Editors

  • Bishop Denis Nulty is Bishop of Kildare & Leighlin and President of Accord Catholic Marriage Care Service CLG
  • Information on Accord courses, or on becoming a facilitator with Accord, please see or contact us by email [email protected] and phone: 01 5053112
  • Key statistics

Couple numbers attending Accord marriage preparation courses from 2018 to 2022

2018 5087
2019 4610
2020 2518
2021 3963
2022 4610


2022 Accord data on registered bookings for marriage preparation demographics


Age ranges getting married:

Years 0 – 20 21 – 30 31 – 40 41 to 50  
  29 1293 2661 282  
  0.63% 28.79% 59.27% 6.27%  


Number of years in the relationship:      
Years 0 – 2 3 – 5 6 – 10 11 or more Other
  236 1341 1977 765 171
  5.26% 29.87% 44.03% 17.04% 3.81%
Children from current relationship:      
  Yes No Other Total  
  1138 3181 171 4490  
  25.35% 70.85% 3.81% 100.00%  
Children from previous relationship:      
  Yes No Other Total  
  333 3985 172 4490  
  7.42% 88.75% 3.83% 100.00%  


For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long +353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Lisa Sheridan +353 (0) 86 084 3175.