Church Must Promote and Encourage Family Ministry

Saturday, November 22 1997

Vatican City (CCCB) — Archbishop Francis J. Spence of Kingston, in an intervention at the Synod of Bishops’ Special Assembly for America, asked the Synod delegates “to send a message of hope to all families.” Archbishop Spence said the Synod must explore ways to encourage families to take up the task of family ministry, and to promote the vocation of fatherhood as central to the well-being of families.

The past president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops was responding to No. 28 of the Instrumentum Laboris concerning aspects of today’s society requiring conversion. The Archbishop presented three significant dimensions for the Synod members to examine: communicating the Christian vision of marriage and family; the present social, moral and economic context in which families live, and the critical role of fatherhood. “Most families are aware of the deep significance of their task, but have difficulty making the connection between the Christian vision of marriage and family and the daily realities of their lives,” he said. “For some, the abstract language of Church teaching is a barrier,” he continued, “and emphasis on the ideal can result in discouragement and a sense of exclusion.”

Archbishop Spence noted that pastoral experience indicates the importance of a model of family ministry that is led by families, creates multiple opportunities to experience the link between daily life and faith, and promotes solidarity among families. Pointing out that families do not live isolation he emphasized that social and economic factors must be taken into account in developing pastoral approaches.

The Archbishop of Kingston said the present situation calls for “careful reflection on the responsibility of both mothers and fathers toward their children.” One of the factors he was particularly concerned about was the number of children in single-parent families who have limited or no contact with their fathers, which he said leads to a situation with “far reaching and harmful consequences.”