Cdl. Wuerl’s plan strengthens outreach to married couples

WASHINGTON — Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl has called on all parishes and individual Catholics in the Washington Archdiocese to help expand and strengthen the Catholic Church's marriage and family outreach, guided by Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation "Amoris Laetitia" ("The Joy of Love.")

He was joined at a Mass March 4 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle by families from throughout the archdiocese for the release of his broad and detailed pastoral plan for implementing "Amoris Laetitia" at the parish level.

After Mass, the cardinal personally greeted the families in attendance — they represented the archdiocese's 139 parishes in Washington and surrounding Maryland — and handed them copies of the plan, titled "Sharing in the Joy of Love in Marriage and Family."

Cardinal Wuerl invited local Catholics to join in that work. He said hoped the gesture of handing the plan to the families after Mass "will be a sign of the commitment of each parish to renew its efforts to share the joy of marriage and family life."

He said he also hopes it would show the archdiocese's "dedication to try to be there for all who may be facing difficulties, so that we — as Christ's Church — can accompany them on the journey."

An archdiocesan statement said the cardinal's pastoral plan is the first of its kind to implement "Amoris Laetitia" at the parish level.

Printed copies in English and Spanish were sent to all the archdiocese's parishes in preparation for the official release of the document. Cardinal Wuerl encouraged priests to read the plan and preach about it at all parish Masses the weekend of March 3-4.

The apostolic exhortation, released April 8, 2016, brings together the results of two synods of bishops convoked by Pope Francis in 2014 and 2015 to examine challenges facing married couples and families in today's world.

The cardinal's plan summarizes teaching on marriage and family life found in "Amoris Laetitia"; examines challenges faced by couples and families in contemporary culture; emphasizes Pope Francis' call to accompany people where they are; offers specific ways that people at parishes can reach out to families in many different circumstances; and lists resources to support people in all stages of married and family life.

"I think it's a great idea, the fact he (the cardinal) is making an effort to bring in families from all around the archdiocese, to inform us, energize us and let us go back to our parishes to share the message," said Peter Righi of St. Pius X Parish in Bowie, Maryland.

He attended the Mass with his wife, Mayka, and their three sons, Julian, Andrew and Sebastian. Afterward, he and many others at Mass were asked what they thought of the cardinal's new plan to implement Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation "Amoris Laetitia" ("The Joy of Love") at the parish level.

"Families need to get a little more involved," Mayka Righi told the Catholic Standard, Washington's archdiocesan newspaper. "We're all busy with work, family, school and life in general, all the commitments we have. It's good to get us all together, to reach out in the community and to become more of a family in the parish."

In a homily, Cardinal Wuerl noted how in that day's Gospel reading, Jesus offered "gentle and consistent accompaniment" to the Samaritan woman at the well who had been married many times, an encounter that helped her experience Christ's love and changed her life.

When carried out through the Church's pastoral ministry, such accompaniment, he said, "helps move us beyond hearing the Word, to come to understand it, to appreciate it, to appropriate and live it."

But the cardinal noted that, "Not every marriage, however, goes forward with 'they lived happily ever after.' In fact, for many in our heavily secular culture today, there is little understanding of the true meaning of love, marriage, commitment and self-giving which are all part of the Catholic vision of love."

Whatever the situation of other Catholics' lives and circumstances, "we're called to remember they are part of our family," the cardinal said.

That reality, he said, underscores the call for Catholics to reach out people where they are and accompany them. It motivated him to issue the pastoral plan to strengthen marriage and family life.

"It is in the light of both the effort to experience the joy of love in marriage, and the challenge to address its brokenness when that happens, that we, in consultation with this whole archdiocesan Church including laity, religious and clergy, offer the pastoral plan as our effort to share in the joy of love in marriage and family, and to be with others in their life's journey," Cardinal Wuerl said.

The pastoral plan spells out ways that parish priests, staff and volunteers can support married couples and families. It lists ways they can reach out to engaged and newly married couples; young families; older couples and adults; and families in special circumstances — immigrant families, military families; families with members who have special needs; people in ecumenical and interfaith marriages, single parents and families of divorce, and families with loved ones who identify with same-sex attraction.


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