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Supporting marriage and family in the archdiocese

October 15, 2015
Valerie Schmalz

Pope Francis has made it clear that supporting the family is a top priority of his pontificate. From Oct. 4 – Oct. 25 the XIV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops meets in Vatican City, with the theme “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world.”

Encouraging families, married couples, in their vocations, and young people to make the commitment to marriage and building a family is a recurring theme for the pontiff.

“From December through September, his Wednesday audiences have been on the family,” said Ed Hopfner, director of Marriage and Family Life, Archdiocese of San Francisco. “He came to the U.S. primarily to attend the World Meeting of Families” in Philadelphia.

“… how important it is for us to share our home life and to help one another in this marvelous and challenging task of ‘being a family,’” Pope Francis said in his talk at the World Festival of Families Sept. 26 in Philadelphia. “God did not want to come into the world other than through a family. God did not want to draw near to humanity other than through a home.”

Speaking to the bishops participating in the World Meeting of Families at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary Sept. 27, Pope Francis said, “We are living in a culture which pressures some young people not to start a family because they lack the material means to do so, and others because they are so well off that they are happy as they are. That is the temptation, not to start a family.”

He called on the bishops to encourage families: “As pastors, we bishops are called to collect our energies and to rebuild enthusiasm for making families correspond ever more fully to the blessing of God which they are! We need to invest our energies not so much in rehearsing the problems of the world around us and the merits of Christianity, but in extending a sincere invitation to young people to be brave and to opt for marriage and the family.”

In the Archdiocese of San Francisco, a variety of resources are available for married couples and families at various times of their lives, Hopfner said.


Retrouvaille: Retrouvaille is a weekend experience that offers practical tools for couples in troubled marriages to rediscover a loving relationship. It is designed for couples who are considering separation or divorce, or who are already separated or divorced and want marriage help. Joel and Sharon Walter, (415) 250-9851 or sfretro.walter@gmail.com.

Worldwide Marriage Encounter: The largest pro-marriage organization in the world promotes weekend experiences for couples who want to make their good marriage even better. It is recommended for any couples married for three years or more. Programs are offered in the archdiocese in English, Spanish and Chinese. English: Contact Dean and Claire Simonich, dcsimonich@comcast.net, (650) 726-1226 (home) (650) 619-7684 (cell); Chinese-Mandarin, Anthony Lau, tonylau2000@hotmail.com, or Father Peter Zhai, ZhaiP@sfarch.org; Spanish, Javier/Marcella Ferrer, arugarmar@yahoo.com or (415) 756-2069.


Individual parish efforts 

Covenant of Love (Alexander House): Monthly program of prayer, education and fellowship for married couples; St Hilary, Tiburon. Contact Ron and Melanie Ash; (415) 789-1145.

Parish ‘date night’: Bimonthly program of prayer, fellowship and education for married couples; Church of the Nativity, Menlo Park. Contact Deacon Dominick and Mary Ellen Peloso dominickpeloso@aol.com; (650) 269-7794; (650) 269-6279.

Married couples’ group: Monthly program of prayer, fellowship and education for married couples; St Dominic, San Francisco. Contact Dominican Father Isaiah Mary Molano; isaiahmary@stdominics.org; (415) 567-7824; Michael O’Donnell Smith dre@stdominics.org; (415) 674-0446. 

Marriage Mentorship ministry: Pairs newly married couples in the parish with ‘experienced’ married couples; St Dominic, San Francisco. Contact Laurine Garrity, (914) 819-8531; laurinemegarrity@gmail.com.

Bukas Loob sa Diyos: St Veronica, South San Francisco. Open in Spirit to God Catholic Covenant Community offers a one-night Marriage Encounter weekend annually. “It’s an opportunity to look more deeply into your relationship with each other and with God.” Contact Ray and Ruby Urbino Urbino5@aol.com; Emil and Chilla Lucero, (415) 994-2194; emilpma76@hotmail.com.


Other programs in the archdiocese

Couples for Christ: Couples for Christ is an international Catholic lay ecclesial movement whose goal is to renew and strengthen Christian family life and values. Members meet regularly for education and formation. Celestino Marquez, cgmarquezjr@gmail.com.

Movimiento Familiar Cristiano (Christian Family Movement): Christian Family Movement is a national network of parish/neighborhood small groups of Catholics and their families, who meet regularly for education and formation. Contact Vicente and Reina Cortes (415) 577-6083; Fermín and Angelica Salas, angie_salas32@yahoo.com (650) 776-9538.

Pastoral Familiar Hispana: This is an archdiocesan-level formation and education program for Spanish-speaking couples and families. Currently about 100 couples are participating, in all three counties. Contact Temo and Sonia Alvarado (650) 588-1970; temoysonia@sbcglobal.net.

Natural Family Planning: Offers modern, medically based information and natural methods for postponing pregnancy or achieving pregnancy. www.sfarch.org/nfp.


Other resources 

U.S. Catholic Bishops: Comprehensive website with many, many resources for engaged and married couples; www.foryourmarriage.org/

Ignatius Press /Beloved’ DVD series: Six-part DVD series for marriage enrichment (another set is available for marriage preparation), includes study guide.

Agape ministries/Communication cure: This is an online program for couples to improve their communication skills, between themselves and within the family. www.agapecatholicministries.com/enrichment/the-catholic-communication-cure.

Online Catholic Counseling: Online counseling services by Catholic counselors. https://catholiccounselors.com and www.catholicmarriageprep.com/counselor/the-counselor-is-in.

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