MAI Holds First Dating and Marriage Conference In Effort to Reduce Catholic Divorce Rate

Dating and Marriage Conference 2024 in San Antonio
February 13, 2024

14 February 2024 SAN ANTONIO, TX - Mother of the Americas Institute (MAI), a non-profit dedicated to evangelizing the Catholic faith across the US, held our first Dating and Marriage Conference last week in San Antonio. This event is the only conference which discusses the importance of formation for courtship and marriage, especially addressing the need for formation in virtue from a Catholic perspective. The success of this unique event is a testament to the growing interest within the Catholic community for discussions about dating, marriage, and the meaning of relationships.


The divorce rate among Catholics who have ever been married is still an alarming 34% according to a 2015 Pew Research Study. Unfortunately there are few resources available for couples before their marriage hits a breaking point, and even fewer resources for couples to discern marriage before they commit to tying the knot. Director and Senior Fellow at MAI, Deacon David Delaney, PhD believes that the key to lowering divorce rates is to change the current paradigm of marriage preparation. While there are a host of Catholic marriage preparation programs available, there has not been a decrease in divorce rates among Catholics. The solution lies in integral formation (intellectual, human, spiritual and discipleship), especially in virtue formation.


“In many ways, Catholics in America are like the Hebrews in Egypt. We’ve adapted so much to the culture of our country that we aren’t able to recognize how much we have left behind a Christian worldview for a secular mindset. We no longer understand the virtues we require if we are to maintain healthy relationships,” says Delaney.  “This conference was intended to start a broader conversation about the urgent need for integral formation of the Catholic laity, especially before marriage.”


MAI Fellow Deacon Chris Sperling discussed the challenges he has found in his counseling career and diaconal ministry with inadequate formation in communication. The inability to communicate authentically too often leads couples who begin their relationship in love with each other, unable to live peacefully together. Integral formation is needed to help make communication more fruitful.


Adding a unique perspective to the conference was Anastacio Hinojosa, former director of the Tribunal for the Archdiocese of San Antonio. Hinojosa shared his experience with Catholics seeking annulments in a speech aptly titled "Lessons from the Tribunal." Attendees gained a deeper understanding of the importance of canon law in the context of marriage, as a means of pointing to the need for formation. One member of the audience admitted that though she was married in the Catholic Church and had been involved in marriage ministry for a number of years, she was surprised she had never learned about what makes a marriage valid.


“When we give these talks about relationships, we often hear people say ‘Wow, I wish I knew this earlier. It would have changed a lot of things,’” says Gabriela Gast, Associate Director for MAI. “I think that speaks to both the need for more catechesis and a desire from the laity to know how to apply the theology of the Church to our everyday lives.”


The Dating and Marriage Conference will also be held in Austin later this year.


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