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Supporting healthy marriages, families

October 18, 2023

By Stephen Tartaglia
Diocesan Family Life director

People want to be happy more than anything else. We pursue happiness throughout our entire lives. Sometimes young people go down roads that offer pleasures but not real happiness and are left disappointed and unfulfilled. It makes sense to figure out as early as we can what is most effective in helping us to be happy.

Sociologist Bradford Wilcox makes the connection between marriage and happiness for Americans. His research shows that both men and women who are married are almost twice as likely to report that they are happy than their peers who are unmarried, and that the number one predictor of happiness is being in a good marriage. On the other hand, those that aren’t marrying are struggling with issues of loneliness and meaninglessness and experience much less happiness, no matter how much money, free time, traveling, education or sexual activity they have. Wilcox says that young adults are having a hard time finding partners that are worthy or interested in being married or simply a good fit for them.

Additionally, intact marriages bring a variety of measurable benefits to the couple themselves and to their children. They experience a greater level of economic prosperity. They have less truancy from work and school. They live longer and experience better physical and emotional health. Their children achieve better grades in school. They commit fewer crimes and have greater levels of civic participation in their communities.

The big challenge is to help young people enter relationships that will lead to good marriages, to support them as their families grow, and to help them as they face challenges that threaten the sanctity of marriage and family life. This, of course, is exactly what the Family Life Office does. Programs that the Family Life Office provides include, but are not limited to: The Dating Project, Pre Cana, Family Guggenheim, Surviving Divorce, Life-Giving Wounds Retreat, Marriage Jubilee, and Loving Authentically.

The Dating Project teaches parents and teens about how to avoid the cultural pressure to engage in “hooking up,” that is, having one-night stands, and instead, to practice dating properly. Pre Cana is a marriage preparation course that is offered while a couple is engaged to help them understand what the Sacrament of Matrimony is, to help them discern if they are truly being called to this Sacrament, and to prepare for a healthy and good marriage if they are.

Family Guggenheim is a retreat offered three times each year for the entire family at Camp Guggenheim on Lower Saranac Lake. The two sessions held in late August begin Thursday afternoon and end on Sunday afternoon. The third session, held on the weekend preceding the Columbus Day holiday, is shorter, starting Friday evening and ending Sunday afternoon. Families spend time praying and playing together and practicing skills that enable families to thrive and grow in holiness.

Surviving Divorce is a 12-week support group that helps people who are going through a separation or divorce to stay connected to the Church and to deal with the painful and complex thoughts and emotions that are entailed in their situation. Life-Giving Wounds is a retreat for adults who, at one point or another in their life, experienced the separation or divorce of their parents. They carry wounds with them that, unless addressed, stay with them for the rest of their lives, causing many to reject the faith, leave the Church, and not get married. Those that do get married have a significantly greater likelihood of having a divorce themselves. The retreat, offered annually, is very successful in addressing these wounds and gives the participants the opportunity to begin healing.

The Marriage Jubilee, is an annual gathering of married couples, no matter how long or short they have been married, to celebrate their commitment within a mass celebrated by Bishop LaValley. Couples renew their marriage vows, and have their rings blessed. The Mass is followed by a reception in which the couples receive a certificate, signed by Bishop LaValley, acknowledging their years of marriage.

The Loving Authentically program is a two-part presentation which teaches people about the connection between sex, happiness, and Catholic teaching, explaining why the Church teaches what it does in the area of sexuality. The first part is a showing of the video Unprotected: A Pope, The Pill, and the Perils of Sexual Chaos, with a talk and discussion led by Diocesan Natural Family Planning Directors, Angelo and Suzanne Pietropaoli. This is followed by two talks on achieving happiness in relationships by Catholic Theologian, Dr. Maura Hearden Fehlner. The presentation is for everyone, although most appropriate for those 13 years and older. Lunch is provided and it is free admission.

The ministry of the Family Life Office, including all of these valuable programs, is made possible by contributions made to the Bishops Fund. Thank you so much for your generosity. Your contributions are making a world of difference!

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