The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Lagos Ecclesiastical Province (LEP) has launched a comprehensive Marriage Preparation Curriculum to prepare couples aspiring towards the vocation to Christian marriage for the long haul and bring down the country’s high rate of divorce. According to the Lagos Province Episcopal Conference, the primary objective of the curriculum is to promote better and more intensive programmes of marriage preparation, and subsequently eliminate as much as possible, the difficulties that many married couples find themselves in post marriage.
The comprehensive premarital curriculum was unveiled during the Opening Session of the 2024 first Plenary meeting of the CBCN, Lagos Ecclesiastical Province held recently at St. Agnes Catholic Church, Maryland, Lagos. Speaking at the brief launch ceremony, Most Rev. (Dr.) Alfred Adewale Martins, Chairman of CBCN, LEP, and Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Lagos stated that the curriculum is of great importance to the Church, considering the values it portends for the good of the spouses, Church and the society at large.
He said, “In the past, the support of the society could be counted on in this regard because such values were held in high esteem. Experiences of the recent past, however, have witnessed the deterioration and corrosion of these values to the detriment of the sanctity of marriage and family life. “It has also resulted in a myriad of complications, challenges and eventual breakdowns of which Christian marriage and family are the chief victims. Consequently, this development has necessitated an urgency in the area of preparation of marriage because it has caused questions to be raised and solutions to be sought. “Indeed, it became necessary to ask if the persons contracting marriage are really prepared for it, and if they understand what they are preparing for.”
The Lagos Province Episcopal Conference Chairman outlined the essence of the Comprehensive Marriage Preparation curriculum, produced specifically for the intending couples in the Archdiocese of Lagos as well as the Dioceses of Ijebu-Ode and Abeokuta. “We present this Curriculum to all those involved in the preparation of young people for marriage, comprising Pastors (Priests), Parents, Marriage Preparation Facilitators, Counsellors, other experts and the family at large. “Our plan is to give them a comprehensive tool that engages every stage of marriage preparation from childhood to adulthood, in a gradual and continuous process of formation. “
This extensive curriculum is an initiative to address with focus and renewed resolve, the deterioration and corrosion of family values that has led to the breakdown of marriages and destruction of family life, including the challenges young people face in matters of sexuality. “The aim of the curriculum is to guide the process of marriage formation in a way to enable families undertake the great task of building their families with loving attention and care. We also need to proclaim to our young people God’s good news about human love and sexuality, as it is bound up in a deepened understanding of our human dignity and intrinsic worth.” Observing that the Curriculum for the Lagos Ecclesiastical Province has long been a missing instrumentum laboris, Archbishop Martins further stated, “It is the goal of the Curriculum to fill this vacuum and offer to Pastors of souls, their collaborators, family and human life facilitators and intending couples, a unified and common programme of marriage preparation. “
The Curriculum has also taken cognizance of the peculiarities of the varied local contexts within the Province and sets forth an uncompromising Gospel of the values of marriage and family that the Church advocates and teaches. “The Curriculum provides a template, as well as guidelines for the Marriage Preparation Course which, though it allows for some local adjustments, will in its general outline, effect a good level of uniformity for the local Churches in our Province.”
Most Rev. Francis Obafemi Adesina, Secretary, CBCN, Lagos Ecclesiastical Province, disclosed that the theological framework of the Curriculum leverages on the giant shoulders of the updated Church Magisterium, subsequent to the Second Vatican Council till date, paying heed to its contextualisation by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN). He said, “This is especially very interesting because it takes cognizance of the situation, challenges and developments that are peculiar to our local Church both at the national and diocesan levels. “In faithfulness to the constant Magisterium of the Church since Pope John Paul II’s ‘Familiaris Consortio’ (1981), the scope of the Curriculum covers the “Remote Preparation”, for the “Proximate Preparation” and the “Immediate Preparation” for marriage.
It develops themes and methodologies for Remote and Proximate Preparations; it defines targets and age ranges for the various stages of marriage preparation; it makes recommendations on the qualities and competence of the required personnel; and gives workable options and suggestions on “Training of Trainers Programme” for parents/guardians and those working with children.
“Working with the canonical stipulation: “Before a marriage takes place, it must be established that nothing stands in the way of its valid and lawful celebration” (CIC. Canon 1066), the Curriculum develops rich content and structure for immediate preparation for marriage that cannot, but yield the desired result if followed accordingly. Inter alia, it gives the general outline of immediate preparation – some aspects of which can easily be overlooked; it provides a realistic modality and strategy for it, and highlights the spiritual dimension of such preparation, which is very important for couples themselves.”
Bishop Adesina noted that the Curriculum is further enriched with the recommendations on Marriage Enrichment Programmes for couples; the implementation strategies at the end of the work; and references as well as resource documents for each theme or topic of the Immediate Marriage Preparation Programme.
Continuing, the Secretary of CBCN LEP said that one of the most important recommendations is the establishment of a systemic and systematic programme of marriage preparation in three stages: the remote, proximate and immediate stages of preparation. He added, “Both Pope John Paul II (in Familaris Consortio) and Pope Francis (in Amoris Laetitia), also advocate marriage enrichment programmes to provide pastoral accompaniment for married couples for a period of at least 5 years after the wedding day. The aim of the pastoral accompaniment for married couples is to strengthen them by continuous marriage education and guidance so that they can become better equipped to live their commitment to each other, contend with, and address successfully, the contemporary challenges of marriage and family that confront them in their own situations.
The 52-page Marriage Preparation Curriculum has five chapters entitled:
• The Church on Marriage and Family.
• Remote Marriage Preparation.
• Proximate Marriage Preparation
• Immediate Marriage Preparation.
• Implementation Strategies.
The appendix unit of the Curriculum featured exclusively Familiaris Consortio (The Family in the Modern World), an Apostolic Exhortation of Pope John Paul II. The Exhortation provided additional resources and explanatory details to the subjects of the respective chapters.