BRIGHTON -- The four dioceses of Massachusetts are collaborating on an effort to strengthen the vocation of marriage in the Commonwealth.
A statewide prayer campaign for marriag is scheduled to be launched on June 22, the feast of St. Thomas More. One million prayer cards bearing an icon of the Holy Family will be distributed in parishes throughout the state.
The effort is the first step in a wider campaign of prayer and education on the vocation of marriage, recommended by the Massachusetts Catholic Conference’s Family Life/Pro-Life Committee, which began meeting in November of last year. The MCC is the public policy arm for the Catholic Church in Massachusetts.
Fran Hogan, chair of the committee and MCC board member for over 20 years, said, “A tremendous amount of people don’t have an understanding of the joyful and beautiful nature of the Catholic vision of marriage.”
Last year, the MCC reorganized, creating six new subcommittees in an effort to work more efficiently. The Family Life/Pro-Life Committee soon found that there is a need to bring forth the Catholic vision of marriage in the wider community, Hogan said.
Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, in a letter to pastors and another to religious superiors, said the campaign is meant to strengthen the vocation of marriage in the Commonwealth. Marriage is “in crisis,” he said, citing statistics that show a decline in marriages in the Archdiocese of Boston from 12,274 weddings in 1986 to 4,519 in 2006.
“Over the past 20 years, there has been more than a 60 percent decline in the number of marriages recorded in the Archdiocese of Boston,” he wrote. “We are concerned also about the well-being of newly married couples and those who have been married for many years.”
The letters outline how recipients can assist in the effort. Priests and religious are encouraged to distribute prayer cards and pray for marriage daily.
Cardinal O’Malley said that the campaign for marriage is not directly related to the marriage amendment, which was defeated on June 14. Planning for the effort began early this year, long before the constitutional convention.
“In light of our state Legislature failing to allow the voters of Massachusetts the opportunity to vote on marriage, we are even more committed, he added.
The Church locally and nationally is attempting to respond to the many challenges facing married couples today. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is in the midst of a multi-year National Pastoral Initiative on Marriage. Cardinal O’Malley also established a Committee on Marriage, which began meeting in January of 2006.