Marriage & Family Life

"In the family we learn to embrace and support one another, to discern the meaning of facial expressions and moments of silence, to laugh and cry together." Pope Francis

As a diocesan community we recognise the amazing joy found in family life, along with the challenges and difficulties it sometimes presents. Through different events and groups we work together to support a variety of activities which enrich life in the various fields of family life. If you want to get in touch about anything Marriage and Family Life related please contact our Formation Team Marriage & Family Life Adviser.

To access Letter of Freedom or Declaration of Freedom forms please visit our Curia page.

The 'Amoris Laetitia Family Year' (June 2022)

"Everyone is called to lovingly care for the life of the family, because families are never a problem, they are always a gift and, in terms of the future, they are an opportunity." Pope Francis

Pope Francis is releasing a series of 10 videos over 10 months, reflecting on the material offered in his Encyclical Amoris Laetitia. The Pope has invited all to a renewed and creative pastoral drive to place the family at the centre of the attention of both Church and society. Each video will be accompanied by a guide that can be used flexibly, in a variety of different ways. This tool is intended to be helpful for pastoral ministry to families and contains proposals and suggestions that can be adapted to a range of situations. The objective is to nurture reflection, dialogue, and pastoral practice and, at the same time, to provide encouragement, stimulus and help to families in their spiritual and concrete daily lives. The Dicastery has provided a range of supporting materials, you can watch the latest video here.

The year will conclude in Rome at the X World meeting of Families, the theme for which is “Family love: a vocation and a path to holiness”. As part of our Diocesan plan Bishop Richard hopes to accompany a group of people to Rome in July 2022 to share in the richness of this celebration.

‘I thank God that many families, which are far from considering themselves perfect, live in love, fulfil their calling and keep moving forward.’

Pope Francis

Marriage Preparation

We recognise that discerning whether marriage is the right decision for you is an important process. Joining yourself to another person for life is supported not only through the grace of the sacrament but also an exploration of the skills you will need to make a solid start to this journey. Within the Diocese we offer a range of different means of preparation which your parish priest will discuss with you when you first make contact with him. You are required to give a full 12 months’ notice in order that we can make the discernment process as fulfilling as possible. Pope Francis calls this an 'initiation into marriage'.

The Journey from Engagement to Marriage

By choosing a Catholic wedding you are responding to a call from God to draw closer to him. We hope that you will find the preparation for your wedding day joy-filled, providing an opportunity to connect more deeply with your faith and your parish community. There are a number of steps you need to undertake before your wedding day can take place:

- Contact your parish priest to book the date. Complete initial paperwork to ensure that there are no obstacles to your union.
- Use the 'Are You Ready?' document below to begin initial conversations with your partner.
- Complete the necessary legal requirements.
- Book the reception venue, inform family and friends when and where your wedding will take place.
- Attend the marriage preparation course that your parish or deanery provides.
- Make contact with your parish mentor or sponsor, if you have been provided with one.
- Attend a series of regular discussions with the member of clergy who will officiate at the service.
- Make any final decisions about the liturgy.
- Enjoy the first day of your life-long journey, your wedding day!

‘Young love needs to keep dancing towards the future with immense hope.’

Pope Francis

Marriage Enrichment and Support

‘At the moment of saying their vows, the couple does not know what will happen, nor what joys and pains await them. They are setting out, like Abraham, on a journey together, and that is what marriage is, Setting out and walking together, hand in hand, putting yourselves in the Lord’s powerful hands. Hand in hand, always and for the rest of your lives.’ Pope Francis

A marriage needs nurturing and attending to. It might be worth considering marriage as a verb, an ongoing action that changes over time and requires careful consideration to keep it healthy. A good question to ask ourselves is ‘how recently have we given ourselves time to focus on each other and our relationship?’ Marriage time, time set aside each week just for you to spend together is precious and necessary for our marriages to thrive.

Recent Popes such as Pope Benedict and Saint Pope John Paul II, have emphasised the importance of a strong, healthy family unit, which starts with a strong marriage. Strong marriages tend to be those where the couple work together to provide for their family needs, where they recognise their own strengths and weaknesses and they communicate lovingly and effectively. They are a close team, supporting one another in nurturing their family - Natural Family Planning (NFP) can help couples to space their family appropriately. The Diocese works with someone trained in this area of work, to find out more please contact our Marriage & Family Life Adviser here.

We encourage you to celebrate your marriage by inviting you to our annual Celebration of Marriage Mass - if this year has a special resonance for you for whatever reason please contact our team.

There are a range of supporting resources available for married couples. The website Two in One Flesh is run by married couples and is part of the the Worldwide Marriage Encounter movement. The group produce several publications: I Am With You, Marriage Matters, and Two In One Flesh, aimed at enriching marriage through scripture. You access these materials using the button below.

Marriage Resources

The following websites include some helpful relationship resources; Retroveille and Marriage Care offer support to troubled marriages, Restored Lives is a new resource that enables those whose marriages have ended to begin to rebuild their lives. 

Grandparents’ Groups

Our parish-based Grandparents’ Groups provide an important opportunity for people to come together through prayer, learning, encouragement and friendship. Our groups are affiliated to the Catholic Grandparents Association and welcome everyone, including honorary grandparents, who play an important role in many families’ lives.

Our mission statement is: to pass on the faith, to keep prayer at the heart of family life and to support grandparents.

Most groups meet once a month after Mass and begin with tea or coffee. Each meeting offers an opportunity to pray, share news, plan events or days out, support one another, and reflect. We know that where two or more people are gathered together in Jesus’ name, He is there with us. While each of our groups is different, we have a common purpose; to enrich the lives of our grandchildren and help our families flourish in faith. We aim to keep prayer at the heart of family life so that our grandchildren will grow up aware of the goodness of God and His love for them.

Getting Involved

We have a growing network of Grandparents’ Groups with meetings in Horsham, Hastings, Effingham and Fetcham, Eastbourne, Thames Ditton, Woking, Frimley, Lewes, and Haywards Heath. With monthly meetings and three diocesan events each year: a pilgrimage to the Shrine at West Grinstead, a Nurture Day and an annual Grandparents’ Week celebrated in our many schools and parishes there are plenty of opportunities to meet new people and get involved. If you would like to find out more, please contact our Marriage and Family Adviser.