By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) announced Mar. 28 the creation of a new Life and Family page at the cccb.ca website that publishes a multi-year initiative for rebuilding a culture of life and family and promoting the new evangelization.
The new page is meant to provide resources and suggestions for dioceses, movements and associations to help them participate in the initiative, which has already been underway since January. The vision proposes strengthening the family as “the domestic church,” making it a vehicle for evangelizing not only its members but the wider culture.
“It is obvious that many of the dominant cultural influences in our society are stacked against the Church’s vision,” says the 16-page National Pastoral Initiative for Life and Family posted on the page. “In the midst of such opposition, we must learn in the family to be credible witnesses to Christ.”
The initiative was adopted by the Canadian bishops at their 2011 plenary session last October. It calls the crisis resulting from multi-pronged attacks on the family “urgent.”
It stresses the importance of changing hearts and the culture so people choose to exercise sexual restraint, honor marriage and the family and care for the poor, the sick, the elderly and the dying. But it also outlines the role Catholics must play in working to provide a legal framework to protect life and family.
“Christian families are today called to witness to the Gospel in difficult times and circumstances, when the family itself is threatened by an array of forces,” it says. These include widespread abortion; the redefinition of marriage and family; promotion of euthanasia and assisted suicide; liberalized divorce; and threats to religious freedom and freedom of conscience.
The document also examines the role the family plays as a building block for society and in poverty-prevention.
“Let us make the family our fundamental option, remembering that virtually every form of poverty—material, emotional, moral or spiritual—has its origin in some kind of deprivation within the family,” the document says.
The proposal, developed by the CCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee for Life and Family, offers of vision of young families whose members have experienced an authentic relationship to Christ and a solid faith and moral formation becoming effective agents of evangelization that will bear fruit in the wider culture in the next 20 years.
“The Christian family, like the Church as a whole, should be a place where the truth of the Gospel is the rule of life and the gift which family members bring to the wider community,” the document says. “The family is not simply the object of the Church’s pastoral care; it is also one of the Church’s most effective agents of evangelization.”
The plan focuses on three elements: helping become Catholics aware of their baptismal call to holiness, especially within the vocation of marriage; strengthening the understanding among Catholics of the role of the laity in their sanctifying work in the world; and in familiarizing Catholics with Pope John Paul II’s teachings on the theology of the body (TOB).
The proposal stresses faith formation and targets the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and marriage as ways to evangelize nominal Catholics who may not have experienced a relationship with Christ or received a firm foundation for their faith.
It recommends mandatory marriage preparation based on Theology of the Body; baptismal preparation that educates parents about the call of baptism to holiness and about the family as domestic church; national support for training in Natural Family Planning; confirmation preparation that includes teaching on chastity; training in evangelization to help Catholics become comfortable sharing their faith; and formation on a number of issues ranging from abortion and euthanasia to the use of the media and civic responsibility in furthering the common good.
The initiative also includes recommendations on promoting life and family, including an annual National Week for Life and Family (May 12-19 this year) to be celebrated in dioceses; participation by bishops with members of their flocks in the National March for Life in Ottawa May 9 or in marches in their dioceses; and intervention by bishops in the public sphere whether concerning bills before Parliament or cases before the Supreme Court of Canada; and encouragement for families to engage in the public debate.
The plan includes recommendations on an outreach for life such as support for existing crisis pregnancy centres and post-abortion healing; and specific suggestions on how to involve youth and the elderly in the initiative, including helping elderly people establish prayer apostolates.
The plan has suggestions concerning communications, which include the new website page as well as increased involvement in social media and the secular media. The website also links to the Catholic Organization for Life and Family’s (COLF) website http://www.colf.ca. COLF will provide resources for the initiative, according to the site.
Another document on the website Building a Culture of Life and Family in Canada focuses on the 2012 preparatory year in the dioceses. It suggests the bishops pass on to their pastors COLF documents that could become the basis for workshops on the family’s role in teaching children to love Jesus Christ; in cultivating vocations to marriage or priestly or consecrated life; and on the relationship of work to holiness.
The preparatory plan included COLF’s recent seminar in Ottawa that discussed the importance of the male-female married couple in the healthy development of children and adolescents.
The plan also proposes a meeting of pro-life and pro-family movements and associations later in the year to be attended by the CCCB President Archbishop Richard Smith and the two bishops on the board of COLF.