By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News
[Ottawa – CCN] – A new organization focused on supporting families within the Catholic Church in Canada is now up and running.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) newly-created Office for Family and Life started on Feb. 15, which was “Family Day” in six Canadian provinces.
The new office, which replaces the previous Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF), is expected to also work closely with a new CCCB Standing Committee for Family and Life.
“The new office will undertake its mandate to grow the Conference’s engagement with diocesan personnel for family and life issues, as well as to cultivate relationships with external organizations and individuals,” a CCCB statement said, adding it is hoped that it will foster “the exchange of ideas, network-building and advocacy focused on the pastoral care of families and the dignity of human life from conception until natural death.”
As reported by the Canadian Catholic News previously, COLF ceased operations at the end of 2020 after the creation of a new office was discussed at the CCCB annual plenary that was held online last September.
“One of the national priorities for the CCCB is to accompany families in light of the changing realities of Canadian society by working with diocesan/eparchial life and family networks. During the 2020 Plenary Assembly, and following an extensive period of discussion, consultation and discernment by the CCCB in collaboration with other relevant organizations, bishops approved the creation of a new Office for Family and Life within the CCCB’s current structure to better respond to the needs of families at the national and local levels,” the CCCB statement explained.
“Given the centrality of life and family issues with respect to the ministry of bishops, the alignment of the work to be accomplished by the new national Office, with an emphasis on strengthening and supporting the role of families in our local communities, will allow us to fully realize this pastoral priority,” said CCCB president and Winnipeg Archbishop Richard Gagnon.
The CCCB has appointed Michelle Dabrowski, who joined the CCCB in September 2020 as the research and resource development assistant for the Office for Evangelization and Catechesis, as director of the new Office for Family and Life.
Dabrowski, who worked on initiatives related to palliative care, youth consultations, and online resource development with the CCCB previously, will be responsible for the implementation of all national projects to be carried out by the new office in both official languages.
As well, the new Standing Committee for Family and Life will be a consultative body within the CCCB. Its mandate is to provide the CCCB with information, insights and recommendations on questions related to family and life issues.
At this point, the committee will include four bishops (Christian Lépine, Christian Rodembourg, Douglas Crosby and Gérard Pettipas) and there will also be non-episcopal members representing the English and French communities and a Knights of Columbus representative as an ex officio member. The non-episcopal members will be appointed by the CCCB Permanent Council at some later point in 2021.
According to the CCCB, the mandate of the new standing committee is to respond to the pastoral needs of married couples and families to assist them to affirm and strengthen the domestic church in every household, proclaim the Christian teachings on marriage and the family, promote the dignity and sacredness of human life at all stages, and respond to new questions raised by contemporary ethical debates.