However, the Archdiocesan Commission for the Family (ACF) feels that this ideal is quite removed from the reality here. According to ACF, our pre-marital and underage sex rates have increased to levels of concern. Recent surveys suggest that about 60 percent of Catholics have had pre-marital sex by the time they leave tertiary institutions. Families are being torn apart by ever increasing rates of divorce, which have trebled since 1985.
It was precisely to address these and other issues which affect the family that ACF was formed in June 2014, at the behest of Archbishop William Goh.
ACF FAMILY PARTNERS
In the organisational exercise, 12 family ministries across the diocese were gathered under the umbrella of the ACF to form a supportive network of expert resources. They include Beginning Experience, Catholic Engaged Encounter, CHOICE, Christian Family Social Movement, Couples for Christ, Couple Empowerment Programme, Family Life Society, Marriage Encounter, Marriage Preparation Course, Marriage Retorno, Natural Family Planning and Retrouvaille.
“These are storehouses of wonderful, but lowly-utilised programmes,” said ACF chairman Dr John Hui. “Much needs to be done to promote these Family Partner programmes and improve their outreach to families,” he added.
One of the first tasks that ACF undertook was to organise the inaugural Archdiocesan Catholic Family Dialogue in October 2014. The aim was to facilitate discussions about family matters, and the key points that surfaced were work life balance; a lack of understanding of God’s plan for marriage; parenting; and prayer (as individuals and family).
As part of its response, ACF set up parish engagement teams to help parishes start their family life groups and also produced a starter kit to help them in this endeavour. It also launched Evangelising Families, a series of pamphlets for families.
ADDRESSING DIFFICULT ISSUES
In July, ACF organised a Symposium on what the Catholic Church teaches about divorce, separation and annulment. The full-house event helped clarify areas of doubt and confusion surrounding the topic. A participant remarked in tears how he had mistakenly and painfully stayed away from the sacraments after his divorce, and how glad he was to have attended the symposium. He was heartened to discover that his decision not to enter into another marriage had actually kept him in full communion with the Church all this time.
As a follow-up to the Symposium, a Catholic Divorce Survival Guide programme was also launched to help participants work through the important healing process.
Dr Hui remarked, “Because marriage is the very foundation of family life, ACF is convinced that marriage preparation needs to start as early as during the infant years, incorporating elements of remote, proximate and immediate marriage preparation into the catechesis and formation of young Catholics.” Besides optimising the reach of parenting programmes, ACF will be collaborating with the Catechetical Office to review the catechesis and formation of young Catholics here.
CONFERENCE ON CHASTITY
According to ACF, it has begun preparations to organise a Theology of the Body Conference in January 2017. Aimed at raising the awareness of Pope John Paul’s compelling vision of chastity and God’s plan for human sexuality, the conference will also feature internationally-renowned husband-andwife team Jason and Crystalina Evert.
Explained Mr James Wong, executive director of ACF: “The event seeks to establish a pervasive awareness of John Paul II’s compelling vision of chastity and God’s beautiful plan for human sexuality. Hopefully, this will restore a profound appreciation of the sacredness and beauty of Chastity.”
In the area of sexuality education, ACF added that a group is being formed to assist in the continued formation of post-confirmand youths.
ACF will be launching The Couple Mentor Journey Programme (CMJ) in June 2016, with mentor couples journeying with mentee couples through the pre- and post- wedding stages. “Catholic Engaged Encounter (CEE) and the Marriage Preparation Course (MPC) are presently very good marriage preparation programmes which give the engaged couples an insight into living out the sacrament of Matrimony”, said Mr Wong. “However, the CMJ, as a follow-up to CEE and MPC, will augment the existing marriage preparation programmes in the diocese. The couples will then be launched into marriage enrichment ministries two years into marriage. That's when they can then move on to the next stage of growing together and enriching their marriages through the various Family Partners,” he explained. Dr Hui summarised: “The importance of building healthy families cannot be over emphasised. As our dear Pope Francis put it: 'The family is important, and it is necessary for the survival of humanity'. Hence, we must protect the sanctity and unity of the Family with everything we have.”
by Jeanette Alexander
Archdiocesan Commission For The Family