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Catholic Celebration of Marriage Week, February 12-18, will be observed at parishes throughout the state to honor and raise awareness about the vocation of marriage
| February 10, 2006
Posted in Local News


BRIDGEPORT, Friday, February 10 - With February already synonymous with Valentine's Day, it's highly appropriate that yet another observation of love - married love - should fall within the same month.

This year, Catholic Celebration of Marriage Week (February 12-18) will be observed throughout Connecticut for the first time under the auspices of the Dioceses of Bridgeport and Norwich and the Archdiocese of Hartford. The week begins on "World Marriage Day," a longstanding event sponsored by Worldwide Marriage Encounter.

In a letter to priests in the Diocese of Bridgeport, Bishop William E. Lori urged their participation in solidarity with the Catholic community throughout the state to honor and raise awareness about the vocation of marriage. "A healthy marriage is crucial to every family, the 'domestic church,'" he writes. "We hope that this effort will provide encouragement and support for married couples and for those considering the vocation of marriage."

Marriages Down, Divorces Up

Marriage in America has been on a roller coaster ride in recent decades. According to 2005 statistics from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the median age has risen (27 for men, 25 for women) while the marriage rate (annual number of marriages per 1,000 adult women) has declined 50 percent over the last half-century. The divorce rate hit its all-time high in 1980 before beginning a modest decline from 22 to 18 per 1,000 married women.

Meanwhile, cohabitation has increased a whopping 1,100 percent over the last 40 years. Over half of all first-time married couples live together beforehand. And in our own state, civil unions became law last October 1, despite a strong protest from the Catholic Church and other Christian demoninations who believe that traditional sacramental marriage is under threat.

As a fruit of continuing effort, Catholics are substantially less likely than Protestants to get divorced (25 vs. 39 percent). More than 80 percent of couples seeking to be married in the Catholic Church participate in a marriage preparation program like Pre-Cana or Engaged Encounter. For Father Ernest Esposito, director of the diocesan Family Life/Respect Life Ministry, those stats explain the impetus behind the Catholic Celebration of Marriage week.

Focus and Honor

"The overall intention is to have married couples focus on the dignity, joy, and fulfillment of marriage," he says. "Along with that, it's to honor, support, and inspire them. We also want to have an impact on those who are not married so that as they feel the call to marriage they'll get the correct perspective."

Father Esposito adds that the week will honor husbands and wives as heads of the family, the basic unit of society. "The celebration salutes the beauty of their faithfulness, their sacrifice and joy in daily married life," he says. "It also acknowledges the sacredness of the vocation of marriage as a sign of God's love for all the Church and society."

Parish Observances

All parishes in the diocese are encouraged to offer special observances during the week.

Ann Calcutt and her husband, John, of Saint Thomas Aquinas Parish in Fairfield, report that their pastor, Father Victor Martin, was very enthusiastic about the idea. "He'll bless all the married couples at Mass on Sunday, preach on marriage, and distribute 800 copies of enrichment materials," Calcutt says.

The Calcutts have been involved for nine years with Worldwide Marriage Encounter, which is collaborating with other organizations on Catholic Celebration of Marriage Week. Ann says many couples who attend their weekend retreats don't focus on marriage as a vocation.

"We talk about the idea that the community is part of your relationship. That's why a wedding is in front of God and the community," she explains. "It's not just a vocation to each other, but to the community - and the community gives back. When couples experience that, they want to get more involved in their Church."

(In addition to Worldwide Marriage Encounter, other participating organizations in the celebration include Marriage Preparation Ministry, Catholic Engaged Encounter, Hispanic Family Ministry, Natural Family Planning, and Retrouvaille. For more information on these programs, call the Family Life Office: 416-1445.)