Focus groups, surveys seek answers ahead of synod on the family

By Kristi Anderson
The Visitor

Bishop Donald Kettler is asking Catholics in the Diocese of St. Cloud to share their views regarding the needs of today’s Catholic families and what the church can do to provide better pastoral care, especially to families here in central Minnesota.

The diocesan Office of Marriage and Family is seeking input through online surveys and three focus group sessions planned for late February.
The sessions will address four topics: ministry to the divorced, cohabitation, support for newly married couples and the education of children.

The focus groups also will assist Bishop Kettler in providing input for the Synod of Bishops on the family, set for Oct. 4 to 25 at the Vatican.

“We are part of the universal church, but we have our own nuances that are different from other parts of the world,” said Chris Codden, director
of the Office of Marriage and Family. “We want to know how we can best provide pastoral care for families in our diocese.

“Our hope is to get some concrete ideas and solutions to plan a pastoral strategy that helps families, specifically
in these four areas,” she said.

How to participate
Attend a discussion session
• Feb. 23 at St. Anthony Parish Center, 2405 N. 1st St., St. Cloud.
• Feb. 24 at St. Paul Church (basement), 304 Sinclair Lewis Ave., Sauk Centre.
• Feb. 26 at St. Ann Parish Center, 514 SE 1st St., Wadena.

All sessions begin at 6:30 p.m. and are expected to last until 8 p.m.

To prepare for the discussion, participants are asked to read the document “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization” ahead of time. Access it at

Take the survey
The 10-question survey focused on the four topics is at: If you wish to participate in the full questionnaire, visit

In writing
If you do not have access to the Internet, you may respond to the 10-question survey in writing (see questions, page 19) and mail your answers to: Office of Marriage and Family, 305 7th Ave., N., Suite 100, St. Cloud, MN 56303. If you have questions, contact the office at 320-252-4721.

The deadline to participate in these initiatives is March 4.

The initiative is grounded in the work of last October’s extraordinary synod on the family. The final report of the synod, along with a list of 46 questions on a range of topics, form the preparatory document, called a “lineamenta,” for this fall’s assembly, which has the theme: “The vocation and mission of the family in the church and contemporary world.”

Bishop Kettler asked Codden to organize the focus groups around topics identified in the document.

Those who are unable to attend one of the focus groups may complete a 10-question survey on the four topics at:

A longer survey with the 46 questions from the Vatican document has been distributed to a sampling of priests, deacons, religious and lay people from the Office of Marriage and Family’s online database. Others choosing to complete this survey can access it at

The deadline to complete the surveys is March 4.

Once the survey responses are received and the focus groups completed, Bishop Kettler will compile a summary that will be submitted with responses from bishops from all over the world. Their findings will be the focus of the synod in October.

Focus group questions
Contact Information
• Please tell us your name, parish and phone number.
Choose one
• Single, married, divorced, clergy, consecrated religious
Topic: Divorce
• What do you find most challenging about the church’s teaching regarding divorce?
• In what ways could the church improve its outreach to the divorced? What needs to be done differently?
• Based on your personal experience, or your experience with family members and friends, what have you found challenging (or helpful) about the
     church’s annulment process?
Topic: Cohabitation
• How can the church make a more compelling case for marriage to couples that are cohabitating or considering cohabitation?
• How can the church assist couples living together to marry?
Topic: Newly Married Couples
• In what ways can the church better support newly married couples (0-5 years)?
• What strategies or initiatives would be most effective in today’s culture?
Topic: Upbringing and the Role of Family in Evangelization
• In what ways can the church better help families to nurture the faith life of their children so they will live a life in Christ and remain active in the