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More couples attend ACCORD pre-marriage courses

By Ann Marie Foley - 14 February, 2018

Bishop Denis Nulty with engaged couple Anna Keegan and Seamus Walsh

Accord is looking at revising marriage preparation in the light of Pope Francis’  Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia. This is according to Bishop Denis Nulty, who said that the current Marriage Preparation Programme’ has been in use for fourteen years during which it has been completed by 115,267 couples.

“It is an opportune time to step back and see exactly how we prepare and journey with couples for sacramental marriage in 2018 and beyond,” he said at the blessing of an engaged couple at the Shrine of Saint Valentine in the Carmelite Church, Whitefriar Street, Dublin.

“Pope Francis in his 2016 Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, is very encouraging that as Church, as parish, as community, we make much more of this engagement period and indeed, find ways of supporting the young people in the early years after their marriage,” said the bishop. In the light of Amoris Laetitia, Accord is also reflecting on how it offers relationship counselling.

The number of persons who attended sacramental marriage preparation courses has been steady, with a slight rise, over the last five years at 15,262 in 2013 and most recently 16,864. The number of counselling sessions delivered, has fallen each year, and during the same period from 42,467 sessions in 2013 to 26,946 in 2017.

Couples who have attended Accord counselling sessions say their problems include: not listening and ignoring; anxiety and stress; criticisms and insults; conflict; intimacy issues; sexual issues; finance; separation and loss; and emotional abuse. Communications problems are top of their list, and problems relating to addiction (alcohol, drugs and gambling) are nearer to the bottom.

“From strong marriages come strong families, and from strong families comes a strong society,” said Bishop Nulty who emphasised how important it is for church communities to support married couples.

Speaking ahead of Saint Valentine’s Day which falls on Ash Wednesday, the bishop said that the last time this happened was 73 years ago in 1945.  According to the Central Statistics Office (CSO) there were 17,301 marriages registered during 1945. The average number of children in a family was five.  The average age for brides then was 28, while grooms were 33.

The most recent CSO figures on marriage cover 2016 and there were 21,570 marriages during the year and for the first time, same sex marriages were recorded of which there were 1,056. The average age for brides was 33.8 years old and for groom 35.7. The 2011 and 2016 census indicates that the average number of children per family is 1.38.

Anna Keegan and Seamus Walsh at the shrine of the Holy Relics of St Valentine

The bishop noted that the World Meeting of Families 2018 (WMOF2018) is just 189 days away. He highlighted that the organisers are offering special tokens to mark Saint Valentine’s Day.  He presented a set of these tokens to Anna Keegan from Dublin and Seamus Walsh from Mayo, a young couple who he blessed at the special mass for engaged couples.

The WMOF2018’s book of free gift tokens that people can give to their loved ones, includes invitations to share: a journey down memory lane – taking time to remember how they met; a technology free evening together; or a hand-in-hand walk together.

Saint Valentine, a priest in ancient Rome, is regarded as the patron saint of couples in love, preparing for marriage and of married life. Saint Valentine was martyred on 14 February 250 AD and in 1836, relics that were exhumed from the catacombs of Saint Hippolytus on the Via Tiburtina, near Rome, were identified with Saint Valentine.  These relics were placed in a casket, donated by Pope Gregory XVI, and transported to the Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin where they continue to be venerated to this day.

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