COMMUNIQUE ISSUED BY THE NATIONAL CATHOLIC LAITY COUNCIL, GHANA AT THE END OF ITS 40TH NATIONAL PLENARY ASSEMBLY HELD AT POPE SAINT JOHN PAUL II FORMATION/ TRAINING CENTRE, OFOASE KOKOBEN (CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF OBUASI) FROM 15-18 MARCH, 2018.
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations (cf. Deut. 7:9)
We the National Catholic Laity Council of Ghana met at our 40th Annual National Plenary Assembly Held at Pope St. John Paul II Formation/ Training Centre, Ofoase Kokoben (Catholic Diocese of Obuasi) from 15-18 March, 2018, to deliberate on the theme: “Integral Pastoral Care for the family in the light of Amoris Laetitia” which was inspired by the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference held at Ho in November, 2017.
In the course of our plenary, we held an opening ceremony that focused on the theme, and then a study session on the annual Laity week study booklet. The keynote address delivered by Most Rev. Emmanuel Kofi Fianu, SVD, Episcopal Co-President of the Laity, Women and Youth called on Catholic lay faithful to understand, promote and implement what is contained in Pope Francis’ Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation “AMORIS LAETITIA” (the Joy of Love).
As our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was despised by the very people whom he came to save, we equally sometimes despise the very people who try to correct us when we are going astray. It is this dispensation that has allowed the proliferation of so much immorality, and social vices that are threatening the very existence of the basic unit of society i.e. the family. As a result, the increase in co-habitation and other sexual unions which were initially socially unacceptable, teenage and single parenthood, poor or irresponsible parenting, separate parenthood and distant marriages have almost become norm. Other effects are socio economic factors that are taken a negative toll on the family system.
For these challenges, we call for a more radical approach to evangelism where pastoral care training is intensified at every level of the church hierarchy. Practical and identifiable/ suitable activities should be incorporated into to the order of things. Such unions, must be awakened to the dangers that lurk, and given the needed attention towards reintegration and regularization of those unions in order to receive the blessings that abound in obeying the commandments of our creator in the light of Amoris Laetitia.
In support of the recommendations made by the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference, we call for the institutionalization of “remote care, proximate care, immediate care, and post marriage care at every stage of one’s development from childhood to adulthood.
Preparation for marriage begins from childhood, and in fact from birth, therefore Remote Care is necessary.
In preparing for marriage, pastoral agents and marriage counselors should assist prospective couples to recognize the good times and bad times of marriage and encourage them to discuss honestly what each expects from marriage. When this is done, Proximate Care would have been administered.
Immediate Care is the preparation for a full understanding of the Holy sacrament of Matrimony as not just a single moment that becomes part of a past and its memories, but a reality that permanently influences the whole married life.
The Post Marriage Care becomes necessary when the pressures of society begins to erode on the joys of love, and those who accompany couples in their marriage are encouraged to teach them that love needs time and space to: talk things over, share plans, listen to and appreciate one another, in order to build a stronger relationship” (GCBC,2017).
Further to the above calls, the 2018 Laity Week Study Booklet provides for us a guide and tools to be used in propagating an “integral pastoral care for the family in the light of Amoris Laetitia”. The study booklet treats topics like; the Christian vision of marriage and family life; marriage and the family in Ghana Today; the Laity and Pastoral care for the family; Family situations needing pastoral care; and General principles of pastoral care for the family.
In sharing our thoughts on the study booklets, we state the following, that:
• The Christian vision of marriage is based on the nature of God (God the father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit), a triune God that is inseparable.
• The positive sides of the traditional format of marriage should be progressively incorporated into the Christian union
• Christian Virtues like Chastity should be encouraged in order to have model family lives.
• Every family needs some level of pastoral care at one stage or another, therefore a closer attention to details are required in order to identify such families that seem well of on the outside, but privately are challenged.
• The Laity should make it a duty to also cater for the pastoral care needs of the clergy and the religious.
We conclude by saying that:
• In view of the above, we call on the church and the state as a whole to come out with pragmatic and innovative ways to reduce the level of negative socio-economic factors in our societies, also in order to reduce social vices that come about as a result.
• Clergy and lay formators should use collaborative measures to deal with marriage and family life issues.
• There should be the establishment of pastoral care ministries at every level of the church structure.
• The move by the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference, for every society/ ministry/ association in the church to adopt their theme for every annual plenary assembly, deliberate on, and implemented should be respected.
• The Youth should be encouraged to take up leadership roles in the church eg. Executive positions in the Laity Committee/ Council, in order to deepen their understanding of the church’s teachings.
• All ministries and societies should consciously set days aside to celebrate families and encourage them to build stronger bonds.
• We call on every lay faithful/ family to make it a duty bound to own a copy of the 2018 National Laity week study booklet.
• Finally, integral pastoral care for the family is fundamental to the continued growth of the church and therefore, we the National Catholic Laity Council call on all the lay faithful not to stand idle, but to participate fully in the pastoral care ministry of the church.
The psalmist writes “Happy are those who obey the Lord, who live by his commands. Your work will provide for your needs; you will be happy and prosperous. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine in your home, and your children will be like young olive trees round your table. A man who obeys the Lord will surely be blessed like this. May the Lord bless you from Zion! May you see Jerusalem prosper all the days of your life! May you live to see your grandchildren! Peace be with Israel!” (cf. Psalms 128:1-6 GNBDK)
Issued on this 18th day of March, 2018 at Ofoase Kokoben in the Ashanti Region.