A panel discussion at the World Forum on Marriage.

Around the world, the traditional notion of marriage is under siege.

Against this bleak backdrop, Catholic couples are being called to live out their sacramental vows and serve as a beacon of hope.

“One reality today is that marriage is not so hot an item in the minds of many people,” Msgr Ambrose Vaz, vicar general, said in his keynote address at the World Forum on Marriage 2016.

The inaugural event took place on Jan 16 at Catholic Junior College.

Drawing on key points raised at the Synod on the Family held last October in Rome, he outlined various threats to the sanctity of marriage.

These include the declining role of religion in society, growing pressure to recognise same-sex marriages and “exaggerated individualism”, where people now focus on the “I” and “me” instead of the “we” and “us”.

But Msgr Vaz had a clear message for his 210-strong audience: “You are very important people. Don’t believe the world when it says marriage is no longer something relevant, no longer something we should be aiming for, let’s just do what we like.”

The mission of the family is to be signs and instruments of God’s love and grace, he stressed.

“Remember, you make a difference… We are proclaiming, through our marriages and our families, the unity and love, the joy and mercy of God.”

The forum on marriage was the first ever by the Worldwide Marriage Encounter (WWME).

It was held in conjunction with the Worldwide Marriage Encounter World Council Meeting, which Singapore last hosted in 1990.

This time, the WWME World Council Leaders meeting was hosted by ME Singapore from Jan 14-20. Daniel and Shelley Ee from Singapore, together with Fr Nathaniel Gomez from the Philippines are the International Ecclesial team leaders.

This year’s meeting drew 21 delegates from six continents, who lead the worldwide movement to foster strong marriages through retreats, workshops and other activities.

Same-sex marriage was a hot topic at the Jan 16 forum, with seven participants submitting questions related to it during a question-and-answer session.

The insights gleaned from the forum have inspired Mr Eric Loh, 38, to serve in the ME community.

“One of the speakers said we are the eyes, hands and body of Christ. We are doing His work. The thought of being able to help one married couple at a time, one parish, one nation and then the whole world motivates me,” said the sales representative.

For senior IT consultant Joy Abaja, 39, the call to be a living example of God’s love struck a chord with her.

The mother of four said: “Our most helpful takeaway is that long-lasting marriages start within the family. By showing our kids how we respect and treat each other, they would want to do the same in their own relationships.”

By Tee Hun Ching

More help for newlyweds
Young couples will soon get help to weather storms in the crucial early years of their marriage.

The Archdiocesan Commission for the Family (ACF) will launch an initiative in June that pairs engaged and newly wed couples with mentor couples.

This was announced at the recent World Forum on Marriage, where several participants pointed out the gap between the Marriage Preparation Course, which targets couples planning to get married, and Marriage Encounter, which usually draws couples who have clocked at least a few years of marriage.

Details of the programme are still being worked out. More details will be released in due course after meetings with parish priests.