Article written by Karin Abrams, read full article here

Marriage Educators from the Diocese of Parramatta were delighted to attend the Renaissance of Marriage Conference on 26 – 27 July, hosted by the Marriage Resource Centre at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney. This annual Conference brings together local and international speakers that inspire those working in the area of marriage preparation and support.

The Friday morning session was opened by Archbishop Julian Porteous, Archdiocese of Hobart, who spoke on the Matrimonium Project, a new initiative in the Archdiocese of Hobart. This program focuses on developing strategies to rebuild a culture of marriage and family. These strategies include the idea of vocational preparation for marriage that develops over the life cycle, the specific formation given in Catholic schools, the identification of and training of ‘Matrimony Couples’ in each parish and a longer-term preparation through a summer school program.

Matthew and Julie McDonald from the Life, Marriage and Family Office in the Archdiocese of Melbourne spoke on the topic of ‘Delicious and Seditious – The Gospel and the Kitchen Table’. They spoke on how families can evangelise through hospitality in their home. They pointed out that our culture is hostile to Catholic ideas and traditions but working with the family – the Domestic Church can be a way to welcome in those who are on the margins or who are injured. They gave examples from their own family including the installation of a pizza oven in their front garden and the weekly pizza and chat afternoons with their neighbours.

Noel Mifsud, Principal from Adelaide and the Northern Territory, spoke of the mission of Catholic schools not being only to prepare children for life but for eternal life. He explored three areas – the role of educators to support parents to teach and model the faith, through the lens of marriage and family life; elevating the family as the school of love; teachers to be called to be unambiguous and unapologetic in their role in the full formation of children. This includes the faith and their understanding of marriage and family life; finally, teachers are called to be counter cultural warriors who are explicit, innovative and informed as they teach children about their sexual identity within the context of the vocation of self-giving.

Father Jerry Browne and Stephen Conway joined the Conference from South Africa to share their passion for ‘Retrouvaille,’ a peer ministry that helps couples to rediscover each other and find joy in their relationship again. They spoke of the key component of the programme which is to help couples to develop communication skills that go beyond simply sharing information or facts, to sharing what is happening in their emotional lives. This program helps couples to understand each other more fully freeing them to live together in new and positive ways.

Monica Doumit, Director of Public Affairs and Engagement, Archdiocese of Sydney, spoke about Marriage and the Law. She examined the change to the definition of marriage in Australian law and if it impacted on Marriage Ministries, the effects of the debate around religious freedom and what these changes mean to those working at the coal face of marriage ministry.