Archbishop Joseph Harris has advised married couples to never stop working at their relationship and to court each other as they did before the wedding.
He said all marriages would have “difficult moments” but couples must “pray together, continue to court each other and love each other”. He suggested putting aside 1% of one’s salary to surprise one’s spouse with a gift, and advised couples with children not to concentrate solely on the youngsters. He explained: “Build your relationship so you can concentrate on the children TOGETHER…. Learn to pray with each other. Ask God for the graces needed to make your marriage a success.”
Archbishop Harris issued this marital advice at the 23rd Anniversary Convention of the Ministry to the Separated, Divorced and Widowed (SDW), a ministry of the Archdiocesan Family Life Commission.
Last weekend’s (Jan 21-22) convention was held at the Seminary of St John Vianney and the Uganda Martyrs, Mount St Benedict. Among the more than 100 participants were persons from Grenada, Guyana, St Lucia, Suriname and Dominica.
Archbishop Harris opened the discussions on the Saturday with a talk on “Why the Catholic Church allows Annulments”. As Judicial Vicar, Archbishop Harris oversees the Metropolitan Tribunal, the vicariate established by canon law as the judicial arm of the Archbishop’s government of the Archdiocese. Considered the Church’s court system, it handles matters of permissions and dispensations pertaining to marriage.
During the archbishop’s 30-minute talk, he said it was wrong to call an annulment a Catholic divorce because “the Church has no authority to annul a valid sacramental marriage”. Divorce was a civil process which stated that a marriage no longer existed, he said, adding that he preferred to use the term “Declaration of Nullity”, meaning there was never a marriage.
Archbishop Harris went into great detail explaining the defining factors of a marriage, the grounds on which a Declaration would be granted, and the process from application to judgment. He clarified that a Declaration did not affect the legal status of children, and stressed the need for an applicant to ensure a civil divorce was granted before starting the process. He replied to a series of delicate questions during a Q&A session following his talk.
Diego Martin parish priest Fr Wilfred John gave the other talk on Saturday, “A Testimony of My Journey”. Speakers on Sunday were attorney Hugh Clarke on “The Advantages of Having a Power of Attorney and of Preparing a Will”, and Leela Ramdeen, chair of the Catholic Commission for Social Justice, who spoke about “Revitalising Catholic Identity: Separated, Divorced and Widowed”.
The archbishop was the main celebrant and homilist for the opening Mass, with Fr Clifton Harris of Grenada as concelebrant, assisted by Rev Harold Woodroffe. Episcopal Vicar for Family Life Msgr Robert Llanos was main celebrant at Sunday’s closing Mass.
During the convention, Zena Ali was introduced as the new SDW Ministry chairperson. Retired Justice Monica Barnes, who delivered many a presentation at previous conventions, was recognised for her contribution over the years. – RS