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A message from the bishop

Michigan bishops celebrate year for marriage
(December 2014)
 
My dear friends,
 
In 1993 Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act with overwhelming bipartisan support. President Bill Clinton signed the bill into law which demonstrated a  overnmental investment in marriage. The fact that such a law was necessary in 1993 was a sign that cultural
views about marriage were changing. Today, state marriage laws are being challenged at a rapid rate. What is marriage? Who should determine it?
 
What’s a Catholic to believe? As Catholics we have a vison of marriage. That vison is rooted in the revelation
and love of Jesus Christ. While the Church’s view had been widely accepted by society, it is no longer the only view of marriage being embraced by culture. All of us are deeply immersed in our culture and the forces acting upon it. Today there seems to be a disregard for permanence and faithfulness. How are couples able to withstand the trials and challenges they face and embrace them as moments of grace, instead of moments of defeat? Marriage, in good times and in bad, is a gift not only to the married couple and their families, but to society and the Church as well. This is the truth that the Church proclaims afresh in an attractive and compelling way.
 
Starting on November 30, the first Sunday in Advent, the seven dioceses across the state of Michigan will spend the next year focused on the topic of marriage through prayer, study, worship and outreach. This will be known as a “Year for Marriage.”
 
Earlier this year the Michigan bishops and the Michigan Catholic Conference Board of Directors formed an ad hoc committee to create a broad plan to educate about and reinforce the true nature of marriage. A priest and a diocesan staff member representing each diocese worked together to create a proposal
for implementing a provincewide observance. That team included Mark Mann, our diocesan Director of Family, Youth and Young Adult Ministry, and Father George Darling, pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Grand Rapids. The committee met monthly from January to June. The bishops and the MCC board accepted the committee’s proposal this past September.
 
The main goal of this observance is catechetical—to present a clear and positive message emphasizing why marriage is important for every person and society as a whole. We want to express our confidence
in marriage and to encourage those who are living in the sacramental bond of marriage. We also want to extend a message of hope to those are facing challenges or questioning whether permanence, fidelity and openness to life is possible in today’s world. Above all, our efforts will seek to witness to the love of Jesus Christ as both the model and the source of the mutual love of spouses for one another, and in turn as parents for their children.
 
Many aspects of the Year for Marriage will be implemented at the diocesan and parish level. In particular, special attention will be given to five specific Sundays during the coming liturgical year when readings are tied to marriage, family and the relationship of marriage and family to God. But throughout the entire year, it is my hope that Catholics in the Diocese of Grand Rapids will be inspired to work with others in their parish to strengthen and support those called the vocation of marriage and spread the good news about the Year for Marriage effort in whatever way you can.
 
By bringing together one man and one woman into a lifelong commitment, marriage fosters a unique partnership of love, stability and mutual self-giving for that unique relationship and for any children to come from their union. It is an essential institution in society which unites children with their moms and dads, thus promoting the common good.
 
Parishes in our diocese will certainly each observe the Year for Marriage in their own way. Please contact your parish office for ways to get involved. You may also visit the diocesan website, dioceseofgrandrapids.org, for more information and resources.
 
Please prayerfully join me in celebrating marriage in the coming year and actively participating in this important effort. Let us rediscover God’s beautiful plan for marriage!
 
Sincerely yours in the Lord,
Most Reverend David J. Walkowiak