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Marriage and family life celebrated at Walsingham

Marriage and family life are being celebrated at Walsingham this year through two major retreats: the Marriage and Family Life week and the Loving For Life marriage enrichment retreat. Dr Bonnie Lander Johnson reports.

The Family Life week welcomes whole families together and enjoyed its third year in August, when over 30 families gathered at the National Shrine to hear daily talks by Professor William Newton of Steubenville, Ohio.

While the children were occupied with craft sessions run by the Sisters from The Community of Our Lady of Walsingham, William led parents through John Paul II’s Familias Consortio and Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae.

We discussed questions about how we could build better community within our families, how we can help to build stronger community in society though hospitality, witness, charity, and political activism, while still nurturing the needs of our own children. We were reminded that one of the key missions of the family is to foster vocations, but also, in an increasingly unchurched society, to be one of the most visible points of contact that non-Christians have with the faith. Most families camped at the Shrine but during this one week of the year the sisters reserved the beautiful new Dowry House in the village for noisy families.

On October 6 and 7, a much quieter Dowry House will host Walsingham’s first Loving For Life marriage enrichment retreat. This event has been running in the UK for the past 11 years.

It originated in the USA where it is known as ‘Living in Love’. It then went to Australia where it was re-named Celebrate Love and originally came to the UK with that name. After making it a better fit for the UK audience and incorporating more of the teaching of John Paul II it was re-named Loving For Life. 

The coordinator of this programme, Jane Deegan, has studied Theology at Maryvale and psychology at the Divine Mercy University. She understand how hard it is to amalgamate the spiritual and the psychological aspects of Catholic marriage enrichment and believes that Loving For Life has met this challenge with great success.

The retreat aims to help couples understand themselves and their relationship at a new level.  It will look at formation in the family, sexuality (in its widest sense) as a gift, male and female differences and complementarity, what creates and sustains trust and what threatens it, forgiveness and healing.

It provides couples with a safe space and tools/skills to enable them to connect/reconnect at a deep level. The presenting couples give examples from their own marriages so as to help the teaching come alive and to help couples see that they are not alone in many of the issues they face.

A recent participant said how much they appreciated “this opportunity to help us see God’s plan in our marriage, sexuality and spirituality. This weekend has enabled us to revisit past hurts, challenges, joys and accomplishments in a safe and guided environment.”

For more information and bookings go to the website at www.loving4life.co.uk or contact Jane Deegan on jane@loving4life.net, or 07595 724300