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A practical theology of family ministry: the role of the Diocesan Coordinator of Family Ministry in the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales

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posted on 2023-08-30, 14:51 authored by Elizabeth Davies
Diocesan Coordinators are the principal drivers of activities within the Catholic Church in England and Wales to sustain and nourish healthy marriage and family life. This is the first study of their professional context, practices and purpose, further informed by North American accounts of family ministry in Congregational, Reformed and Roman Catholic settings, mainly from the 1980’s. This study aimed to better understand the Coordinator role so as to inform capacity-building efforts within dioceses for family ministry. This is an inductive study using the methodology of qualitative description. Fourteen diocesan coordinators participated in an online survey. Job descriptions, person specifications and diocesan vision statements were reviewed. Four Coordinators were selected for telephone interview. The tripartite conceptual framework draws on the Church’s understanding of family ministry, the diocesan-parish relationship and the ecclesial identity of the family. This study reveals that diocesan Coordinators are primarily responsible for training and networking activities with volunteers engaged in family ministry. Work with families in crisis is largely unacknowledged by their employers. Relationships with parishes are ambivalent. Coordinators tend to develop supra-parish networks of marriage preparation or parenting facilitators, rather than processes which enable autonomous parish family ministry to develop. Diocesan structures of support, including guiding visions for family ministry, are weak, compounding a lack of training for their role. Nonetheless Coordinators have developed important pragmatic approaches and moral frameworks to manage the sensitivities of this ministry. Their practice has implications for broader Church efforts to pastorally accompany families following publication of Amoris Laetitia, the pope’s post-synodal document on marriage and family life. More attention to recording practice is strongly recommended in order to facilitate reflective practice, particularly on pragmatic approaches and moral frameworks. Coordinators and their dioceses need greater theological competence, especially regarding the ecclesial identity of the family, in order to better serve the complexity and realise the potential of parish family ministry.



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