“Remain in My Love” is a beautiful phrase from the Gospel of John, 15:9: “As the Father loved me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.”
That phrase also is the title of a new three-year initiative of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced by Archbishop Charles Chaput that will be directed to every member of the clergy and lay faithful, and to every parish and institution, to reinvigorate Catholics’ understanding of Christian marriage and family life.
The archbishop, who will attend the sessions, has appointed Father Gerald Dennis Gill, the director of the Office for Divine Worship as coordinator for the project, with Meghan Cokeley, director of the Office for the New Evangelization, as his assistant.
“I’m hoping that it will invite people to look at the Gospel and what it teaches us about marriage and the family and the compelling power of the Gospel will help them to adjust attitudes, practices and mindsets, to embrace a Christian concept of marriage and the family and put it in place in their lives,” Father Gill said.
Although Pope Francis convened synods of bishops on the family in 2014 and 2015, Remain in My Love is related only inasmuch as it addresses questions and concerns raised by the synods coupled with the archdiocesan situation regarding marriage and family, according to Father Gill.
“Our situation concerning married life and the family is being formed and impacted by a culture that is not Christian,” he said. “This gives us an opportunity to face the situation with truth and see what we can do about it head on. I think this is our only option.”
While Remain in My Love is directed to the Church of Philadelphia as a whole, it is being presented in three phases, each with its own syllabus and its own team.
In the first year, May to December 2017, the participants will be staff members of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center. Attendance by those in supervisory roles of all departments is mandatory. It will also be mandatory for all administrative and support staff of the Vocations Office, Secretariat for Evangelization, Office for Divine Worship, Office for Catechetical Formation, Office of Clergy, Office for Parish Support, Department of Media Affairs and the Metropolitan Tribunal.
The goal will be “Renewing Our Mission in Service to Married Couples and Families.”
The second year, January to December 2018, will be for staff of parishes, schools and other archdiocesan institutions. The goal will remain the same as that of the first group.
The third year, January to December 2019, will be for married couples and families in the archdiocese, and the goal will be “Rediscovering the Mission of Marriage and the Family.”
For the first year there are three sessions:
— Monday, May 8, “Marriage: Created by God for God.” Speaker: Dr. Timothy Gray, Augustine Institute, Denver;
— Thursday, Oct. 5, “Marriage: He Saw That it Was Very Good.” Speaker: Dr. Maria Fedoryko, Ave Maria University, Fla.
— Friday Nov. 3, “Families — Become What You Are!” Speaker: Dr. Jonathan Reyes, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Each session will also include a video, personal testimony from a married couple and time to discuss the implication of one’s department’s ministry to families.
Year two and year three will have similar formats but different curricula.
There will also be small reading groups on marriage, utilizing materials developed by a national group CanaVox. These could include women’s groups, men’s groups, mixed groups and married and single persons.
“They are pretty new but doing good stuff,” said Meghan Cokeley, director of the Office for the New Evangelization, which is very involved in the planning and execution of Remain in My Love.
“We have known for a long time there is a crisis in catechesis. A lot of folks don’t know what the church teaches anymore; there is a lack of exposure. We are hoping to articulate the beauty of the teaching. It is not just a set of hard rules.”
The program is organized by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and there are many local groups that will participate, according to Cokeley. They include Theology of the Body Institute based in Downingtown; Ascension Press, West Chester; Love and Fidelity Network, Media; Institute for Marital Healing, Conshohocken; and a local natural family planning group. CaraVox is in Princeton, which is fairly local.
At this point the entire program is unique to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, but dioceses around the country that might want similar programs have made inquiries about it, according to Father Gill.