Two marriage experts recently joined the Denver archdiocesan team to help transform rocky relationships into God-centered domestic churches.
The newly-hired Carrie Keating, natural family planning (NFP), family life and marriage specialist, and Viviana Martinez, coordinator of Hispanic Family Ministry, joined forces to lead Denver Catholics to the truth of marriage.
“Without God, I don’t know how marriages stand a chance,” said Keating, who’s married with two children. “Our relationship with Christ and having the Holy Spirit active in our marriage can change it.”
Martinez, married with five children, said: “Our Hispanic community is faithful to the Church. However, we have to be sure that faith and religion is not taken for granted. We need to encounter Jesus.”
Marriage and the family are increasingly under assault in the modern world. Some 42 percent of marriages with no religious affiliation end in divorce and 28 percent of Catholic marriages end in divorce, according to a 2012 General Social Survey.
Co-habitation, same-sex unions, interreligious marriages, single-parent families, and secular feminism also threaten the traditional family, which is the foundation of society.
The Vatican announced the Church will hold a Synod of Bishops Oct. 5-19, 2014, to address the “pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.”
In the Denver Archdiocese, Keating and Martinez are developing a cross-cultural approach to marriage preparation and enrichment that reaches inner-city and rural communities.
“The teachings of the Church and Jesus Christ are not targeted to one culture or one language in particular but is a universal call in a multicultural word,” Martinez said. “With that in mind, we don’t need to change any of the teachings of the Church but adapt them to the reality of each community.”
Martinez, a member of the Christian Life Movement at Our Lady of Loreto Church in Foxfield, spent years with her husband ministering to Hispanic engaged couples. Together they launched the website www.vivaenfamilia.com to promote family values.
“I am taking this opportunity to provide families the tools and resources they need to become a real domestic church,” she said.
Early in 2014, the Hispanic ministry center Centro San Juan Diego will launch a new part of their website (www.centrosanjuandiego.org/familia) with resources on marriage preparation, natural family planning, raising children, private schools, counseling and an events calendar, Martinez said.
The Denver Archdiocese’s website will also be updated to help streamline the marriage preparation process with easy access to resources, Keating said.
The two are also working to expand natural family planning education through the recruitment of parish-based teachers across the archdiocese.
“NFP teaches us to understand and respect our God-given fertility,” Keating said. “He doesn’t withhold love from us, so we are to mirror that and give a total gift of self to each other in marriage.”
Keating, of All Souls Parish in Englewood, was a convert to the faith in 2000 and came to see the beauty in Church teaching on sexuality and fertility. She and her husband also mentored couples and made it their mission to support marriages.
“I really love teaching NFP and talking about it,” Keating said. “NFP is good for the body and soul. I want people to know about medically sound and moral ways to treat women’s health issues and infertility.”
The Hispanic community, Martinez said, is largely unaware of natural family planning.
“They don’t know,” she said. “Nobody explains it to them in their own language and in their own style. That’s the main challenge in the Hispanic community.”
Keating said they will also simplify the marriage preparation process.
“We’re not asking anything less of engaged couples; we’re not watering anything down,” she said. “We want them to feel the process is easier to understand.”
The two experts will work with staff to create training programs, retreats, marriage-strengthening initiatives on an archdiocesan and parish-level, develop programs in conjunction with other ministries, and visit parishes to offer guidance.
“The first step is to encounter and accept families where they are, no matter how close or far they are from the Church, no matter their immigration status, or professional level,” Martinez said. “What we all have in common is the longing from God, and we need to provide the necessary tools to help them discover that and put their faith into action.”
Office of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries
Centro San Juan Diego
Hispanic Family Ministry