The archdiocese of Zamboanga is the capital city of the peninsula region of the same name, which in turn is a part of the island of Mindanao. It serves a population of some 620,000 Catholics. Already in the past the archdiocese had established a training programme for lay pastoral workers in the 27 parishes of the diocese, whose task was the preparation of young couples for the sacrament of marriage and the support and counselling of married couples and families.
Now, in the face of the deepening crisis in the area of marriage and family - a situation in which more and more couples are simply living together and many marriages and families are being torn apart - the archdiocese is planning to train up some 127 lay pastoral workers who will work in the parishes, counselling and supporting married couples and families. They in turn will be supported by volunteer helpers, who will also help and support the families. The aim of the programme is to ensure that families are profoundly rooted in the Word of God and in the Eucharist, so that they too can witness to the Gospel, respect the dignity of life from the moment of conception and deepen their understanding of the Church‘s teaching on the sacrament of marriage, the family and human life, and bear witness to it in their lives.
(Participants of the 3-year training and formation program of family life leaders © Aid to the Church in Need)
Among the many challenges facing families in this region are poverty and the constant threat of natural disasters. In this precarious situation many couples simply live together, since they have their priorities wrong and think they cannot afford to get married. Unfortunately, the externals have become more important for them than the sacrament itself. Many other challenges also spring from the new media and technologies, which are often a harmful influence, damaging to families and human relationships generally.
The idea is to offer these couples and families workshops, seminars and annual retreats, as well as individual counselling and support, to help them in these difficulties. The lay pastoral workers who will run these programmes must themselves first undergo a three-year training course. The Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has been supporting this training course for the 127 lay workers involved since 2014, and this year, the final year of the training cycle, ACN will once again help with a grant of $14,500.
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