Once again the priest appreciation dinner, which was held Thursday, was a great success. There was an outpouring of love for our priests.
It was a very successful fundraiser as well. Nearly $1.5 million were raised to support the Clergy Funds, which supports the medical needs of our active and retired priests and provides for our priests in their retirement.
The dinner was attended by 1,500 people, making it perhaps the largest event we hold in the archdiocese during the course of the year.
We are very grateful to all those who worked so hard to make this event possible, especially this year’s chairs Michael and Janet Daley.
Each year, the ministries of certain priests are highlighted during the evening. This year we were presented with a video about priests in their role as “first responders”, which featured father Sean Connor, who works with the Boston Police Department and provided such wonderful care both during and after the Boston Marathon bombings; Father Richard Uftring who is the chaplain at Logan airport and was present on September 11 and father Arthur Calter who was a chaplain in the military.
I found the video very inspiring and I want to share it with you here:
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That very evening, I left for Rome for my meetings with the Holy Father and seven other Cardinals that he is appointed to advise him.
Since arriving in Rome I have been blessed to be able to be present at a number of liturgies and events with the Holy Father.
Sunday we attended his Mass for Catechetical Sunday, which was attended by hundreds of catechist from throughout the world who were in Rome for a conference. I continue to be impressed by the extraordinary number of people attending this and other papal events. Be it for the Angelus or the audiences, the crowd fills St. Peter’s Square and often extends even out to the Via della Conciliazione.
On Monday, I joined my brother Cardinals at the consistory where the Holy Father declared the date of the upcoming canonizations of Blessed Pope John XXIII and Blessed Pope John Paul II.
Their canonization will be held on mercy Sunday, April 27, 2014. It was a rather large consistory and in fact, I was surprised by the large number of Cardinals in attendance. I believe there were 50 or 60.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, we had Mass with the Holy Father in Casa Santa Marta. Tuesday was, of course, the feast of the Little Flower, Saint Therese. The Holy Father has a great devotion to the Little Flower and he gave a very beautiful homily. Wednesday he did not deliver a homily because on Wednesdays he gives the allocution at the public audience.
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This week, while I am in Rome, I have asked Kari and Stephen Colella to share their reflections with you about their new nationally published marriage preparation program, Transformed in Love.
I am so grateful to Kari and all her collaborators who worked so hard to make this program a reality. It is a valuable tool for evangelization and preparing people for life of discipleship beyond their wedding day, and I have asked them to tell you more about it:
First, we thank Cardinal Seán for this privilege. Similar to many of you, we have developed a deep respect and admiration for Cardinal Seán and the ways in which he serves the Church. We ask you to join us in prayer that the Holy Spirit continue to guide the Holy Father, the Cardinals, and most especially our Cardinal Archbishop, in their consultations: “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.”
Who are we?
We both work here at the Archdiocese of Boston. Since 2001, I, Kari, have served as the Coordinator of Marriage Ministries. My husband, Stephen, began working here in 2000. He has served in various capacities (ministry and development) and is currently the Assistant Director of the Office for the New Evangelization of Youth and Young Adults.
We have been married for sixteen years and thank God for our faith and the opportunity to work here at the Archdiocese. Both things have transformed our lives and marriage. Like many of you, we are convinced that true joy, peace and happiness in life and in marriage comes through Jesus who is the way, truth and life and who transforms us in His love.
We have been privileged to work with many others here at the Archdiocese to develop a marriage preparation program that proposes this truth, seeks to give witness to it, and aims to equip couples with skills and tools to assist them to be further transformed by Jesus’ love.
Why a new marriage preparation program?
In 2006, Cardinal Seán established a Committee to provide him recommendations for strengthening the vocation of marriage. Many cultural and pastoral challenges influenced our work and the development of Transformed in Love. It is a blessing to have a Cardinal Archbishop who is aware of these cultural challenges (frequently citing relevant studies and statistics) and who wanted to do something to make a difference.
Among our concerns were:
· a significant decline in the number of weddings in the Church;
· a decline in active participation in the life of the Church;
· increased rates of cohabitation, sexual activity prior to marriage, and divorce;
· current cultural debate regarding the nature and purposes of marriage as a natural institution;
· lack of understanding of the sacramental character of Christian marriage;
· lack of interpersonal relationship skills to maintain a lasting, loving, fruitful marriage;
· lack of witnesses of faith-filled, fruitful marriages.
To address these concerns, we created Transformed in Love: Building Your Catholic Marriage
Transformed in Love is designed to respond to the pastoral challenges and cultural attitudes mentioned above. It integrates the teaching of John Paul II on human love and the Catholic vision of marriage with practical relationship skills and tools. It is designed to help couples build a loving, life-giving marriage beyond the wedding day.
Published materials include an Engaged Couple Workbook and Leader and Team Manual. The Leader and Team Manual includes a disc with all electronic presentations and password access to online support, videos and resources for implementation.
Practically speaking, the program is about 16 hours long including breaks and meals (if offering in a format where meals would be included).
Transformed in Love can be offered in multiple format options:
- Four sessions: 4 hours each
- Six sessions: from 2 to 3 hours each
- Two days: 8 hours each day
- Retreat weekend: Begins at 6:30 pm on Friday and ends at 12:00 pm on Sunday
- Mentor couple: Individual meetings set by mentor couple
Transformed in Love’s four goals are to:
1) reconnect couples with the faith;
2) educate clearly, concisely, and accurately regarding the nature of marriage and, for Christians, its sacramental character;
3) provide practical skills that will help engaged couples live out their marriage vows; and,
4) provide the witness of faith-filled married couples.
In addition, Transformed in Love seeks to address the whole human person, body and soul (including intellect and will), and integrates both human and spiritual formation throughout the program. Ultimately, Transformed in Love seeks to help individuals, couples and families to become transformed in love by God’s grace.
As Cardinal Seán said in the forward, “It is [his] hope that Transformed in Love will be an instrument of God’s grace in the New Evangelization and that it will serve to strengthen the vocation of marriage not only in our archdiocese but also in the wider Church.”
How was Transformed in Love developed?
From 2007- 2009 over 40 individuals worked together to develop the program. Among the group were priests, deacons and their wives, religious sisters, psychologists, theologians and many married couples.
Marriage Preparation Recommendations Implementation Committee Members
A Steering Committee met monthly during this time to guide the project: the Most Reverend Walter J. Edyvean, S.T.D, Auxiliary Bishop of Boston and Episcopal Liaison for the project; the Very Rev. Mark O’Connell, J.C.D, Judicial Vicar, Archdiocese of Boston; Maria Galindez-Bianco, J.C.L, J.D., Tribunal, Archdiocese of Boston; Mary Finnigan, Natural Family Planning Services; Angela Franks, Ph.D., Director of Theology Programs, St. John Seminary’s Theological Institute for the New Evangelization; and, J. David Franks, Ph.D., Professor of Sacred Theology, Saint John’s Seminary and Vice President for Mission, St. John Seminary’s Theological Institute for the New Evangelization and Stephen and myself.
From 2009 to 2013, the program was piloted 20 times with over 850 participants. Each time, extensive evaluations were completed by participants and team members to evaluate program effectiveness and to identify areas needing improvement. Many revisions were made prior to submission for publication.
The Daughters of St. Paul published the program in August 2013 through their publishing house, Pauline Books & Media.
The Daughters continue to support the program with assurances of prayer, social media resources, and program promotion. Promotional efforts include:
· 25,000 brochures sent to bishops, priests, deacons, pastors, marriage and family life offices.
· 10,000 tri-fold brochures printed and distributed through book centers, individuals, by request, etc.
· A full page advertisement in the National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers Resource Guide, of which 25,000 copies were printed and mailed to every parish and diocese in the U.S.
· Display and promotion through thirteen Book Centers throughout the U.S.
As you can see, the development of Transformed in Love has been a collaborative venture. We are very grateful to everyone who has helped this project as it could not have happened without the involvement and contributions of so many people. The acknowledgement section of the published books thanks by name those from among the 40 committee members and 20 pilot programs who contributed most substantially to the project.
Is Transformed in Love meeting its goals?
Included below are some of the statistics that reveal changes in attitudes and behaviors as a result of the program. More can be found at www.TransformedinLove.com in the downloadable Facts and Figures Brochure.
· Upon entering the program, 26 percent of the participants said they were active in the practice of their faith; upon exiting, 66 percent said they are more inclined to be active in their faith. Responses were as high as 88 percent.*
· Upon entering the program, 26 percent of the participants said they could explain marriage as a sacrament; upon exiting, 69 percent said they could explain marriage as a sacrament.
Responses were as high as 94 percent.*
· Upon entering the program, 38 percent of the participants said they were intending to use NFP; upon exiting, 70 percent said they are either considering or definitely using NFP.
Responses were as high as 86 percent.*
* All statistics are based on 422 participant surveys from the first 10 programs.
What are people saying about Transformed in Love?
More endorsements can be found at www.TransformedinLove.com.
· “Transformed in Love far exceeded our expectations. It helped us to understand ourselves and each other better, to communicate better, and to anticipate issues we will have to face in our marriage. It did all this in a deeply faith-filled way that clarified the meaning of marriage as a sacrament. We would recommend Transformed in Love without hesitation to all engaged couples.” Michael Demkowicz and Carmen Lara of Massachusetts, engaged to be married in Concord, North Carolina.
· “Transformed in Love was undoubtedly one of the best things we did during our engagement. We came into the program looking to learn more about each other and the Catholic Church’s teachings on marriage, and we came out of the program enriched, enlightened, and totally excited to be husband and wife.” Katie Gohn and Benjy Sung of Waltham, MA, engaged to be married at St. Michael Parish in North Andover, MA.
· “Transformed in Love provides a contemporary, comprehensive and thoroughly Catholic approach to marriage preparation that will greatly assist couples in understanding and embracing the many dimensions of their vocation. A particular strength of the program is the way in which it considers important issues like communication, finances and sexuality in the broader and deeper context of virtue, liturgy and spirituality. Transformed in Love has the potential to help engaged couples lay a foundation that will last a lifetime.” Most Reverend Kevin C. Rhoades, Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Chair, USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth
· “Marriage preparation in today’s morally relativistic culture is a challenging endeavor. This is why Transformed in Love: Building Your Catholic Marriage is such an incredibly valuable gift to the Church as a resource for parishes that truly want to prepare couples to receive a sacrament. This comprehensive and transformative program covers everything from communication and prayer life to finances and sex. Transformed in Love lays a solid foundation for a lifetime commitment of love, fidelity, and faithfulness.” Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, EWTN Series Host, Made in His Image: Family Life Today, Author, The Mass in Sacred Scripture
· To date, Transformed in Love has gained interest from persons in the following places: Edmonton, AB; Chandler, AZ; San Diego, CA; Palm Beach, FL; Honolulu, HI; Libertyville, IL; Rockford, IL; Springfield, IL; St. Louis, IL; Waterloo, IL; Lexington, KY; New Orleans, LA; Kansas City, MO; Portland, ME; Lewiston, ME; Detroit, MI; Manchester, NH; Santa Fe, NM; Lindenhurst, NY; Brooklyn, NY; Tulsa, OK; Dallas/Fort Worth, TX; El Paso, TX; Richardson, TX; Bremerton, WA
Please pray that Transformed in Love will continue to be an instrument of the New Evangelization, not only in our Archdiocese, but wherever God wills it to be.
Please also prayerfully consider if God is calling you to be a part of Transformed in Love. If you live within our archdiocese and are interested to become a team member please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to become involved. We need your help! Please also visit www.TransformedinLove.com for more information on how to bring the program to your parish, diocese or even country.
Most importantly, let us continue our prayers for our Holy Father, Cardinal Seán and the Council of Cardinals as we pray together for them with the prayer that Bishop Edyvean opened our Transformed in Love Steering Committee meetings with: “Father, may everything we do begin with your inspiration, and continue with your saving help. Let our work always find its origin in you, and through you reach completion. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. AMEN.”
“I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” John 10:10