5.6.3 Preparation for Marriage and Special Circumstances

1. Couples who wish to marry are required to notify the pastor at least six months prior to the anticipated date of the wedding so that the Church can help them to prepare adequately for the holiness and duties of the married state.

   a. For a serious cause, the pastor may modify this requirement for an engaged couple in a particular case. However, he must first establish their canonical and civil freedom to marry validly and lawfully, and he must judge them to be adequately prepared. [1] (Any restrictions imposed by decrees of invalidity must be resolved for the canonical lawfulness of marriage.)

   b. When limitations of personnel, facilities and scheduling require a longer period for notification and preparation in a parish, the pastor is advised to consult the diocesan bishop for guidance and assistance, so that the rights of those who are properly disposed and free to marry are not injured. [2]

2. The Office of Marriage and Family Life is competent to recommend programs, resources and instruments for pre-marriage preparation after they have been reviewed and approved by the diocesan bishop. (See details at the diocesan webpage of the Office of Marriage and Family Life.)

3. The proximate preparation of engaged couples, which the pastor may adjust according to his pastoral judgment of their needs and readiness for marriage, ordinarily includes:

   a. Participation in We C.A.R.E. which presents communication skills and techniques to handle conflict and promote intimacy in Christian marriage. (It is facilitated by the various Catholic Charities agencies and the Office of Marriage and Family Life of the diocese, conducted in various locations and involves six hours. The acronym stands for Christian Communication and Relationship Enhancement.)

   b. Attendance in adult faith formation which presents an overview of basic Catholic teaching. (The Catholic Information Series is conducted in certain parishes and vicariates of the diocese. If an introduction to natural family planning is included, it involves four two-hour sessions. If natural family planning is treated separately, it involves three two-hour sessions. Other parishes offer similar programs with various titles, such as Foundations of our Faith, Perspectives in Faith, etc., and they vary in length.)    

   c. Completion of the introductory course in Natural Family Planning sponsored by the Diocese. However, the Natural Family Planning Series is highly recommended. (The introductory course consists of two to three hours of video assisted discussion and explanation of the Church’s teaching on human sexuality and married love. The series consists of three sessions, and may be required by a pastor.)    

   d. An inventory or assessment, designated by the pastor, which assists the engaged couple to methodically raise, discuss and address important issues under the guidance of the pastor or a specially trained married couple. (Information about the various recommended instruments may be obtained from the Office of Marriage and Family Life.)

4. Pastors may also provide or recommend additional opportunities for the spiritual formation of the engaged through special times or retreats set aside for reflection and prayer. (Information about various approved and recommended programs may be obtained from the Office of Marriage and Family Life.)

5. If either party is marrying for the second time, special additional preparation is required. [3] (Details about the remarriage program “ReMarriages” is available from the Office of Marriage and Family Life and local Catholic Charities agencies. Preparation may include the Smart Steps for Step Families program and/or the remarriage inventory/questionnaire as well as consultation with a local Catholic Charities agency.)

6. It is highly recommended that neighboring parishes, groups of parishes and vicariates collaborate in proximate preparation for marriage as well as in activities and programs of marriage enrichment. [4]

7. The General Provincial Policies Guidelines, Proposals, and Universal Law Regarding Marriage Preparation and Celebration are observed when preparation for marriage presents special circumstances.  (See under Specific Provincial Policies.) Other circumstances may be referred to the Office of Marriage and Family Life.

[1] c. 1066 and see August 31, 1999 letter of Bishop Mengeling accompanying Notification of Pastor/Pastoral Coordinator.

[2] cc. 213, 843 §1 and 1058.

[3] See August 31, 1999 letter of Bishop Mengeling, Part II: Notification of Pastor/Pastoral Coordinator under Commentary. 

[4] c. 1063, 4º.

Date approved by Bishop

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Pending Provincial