On Tuesday 13 February, at the Shrine of Saint Valentine in Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Whitefriar Street Church, Bishop Denis Nulty, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, blessed engaged couple Anna Keegan from Glenageary in Dublin, and Mr Seamus Walsh from Ballycastle Mayo. Speaking at the Blessing, Bishop Nulty said ‘From strong marriages come strong families, and from strong families comes a strong society’.
At the gathering Bishop Nulty, who is President of Accord, also launched the Accord 2017 figures for sacramental marriage preparation and for marriage and relationship counselling.
Ms Anna Keegan is from Glenageary in Dublin, and Mr Seamus Walsh from Ballycastle in Mayo. Anna works as a project officer for the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference and Seamus is an engineer. The couple met in November 2015 and will be married on 5 October this year in Saint Joseph’s Church, Glasthule, in the Archdiocese of Dublin.
Bishop Nulty said at the blessing, ‘The last time Saint Valentine’s Day fell on Ash Wednesday was 73 years ago – it was 1945. So we customarily gather at the wonderful shrine of Saint Valentine here in the centre of Dublin, where the holy relic of the Saint’s heart is venerated by pilgrims each day of the year. We gather this year on the eve of Saint Valentine’s Day! An appropriate question to ask this year is whether Saint Valentine’s Day a feast or a fast, I suppose we will all settle for a bit of both.’
‘Families and friends, the guests who attend wedding ceremonies, understand marriage as a fundamental human reality and the commitment of the young couple getting married is so moving because it says against all odds, no matter what happens ‘we’ll be there for one another’.
‘We also realise in today’s world it is a difficult commitment. Different stressors can take their toll on the mood in a marriage, and that’s why the accompaniment work of Accord is so essential. I think we are all interested in the stories of how people meet and fall in love. An equally important story is that of the many couples and individuals supported by Accord over the years. Accord, Catholic Marriage Care Service has been accompanying couples in preparation for marriage and in relationship counselling for fifty-six years.
‘For our most recent figures which we published today, 8,432 couples, in 2017, completed Marriage Preparation with us, while 7,079 individuals were counselled, attending often as a couple and sometimes individually.’
Bishop Nulty continued, ‘The World Meeting of Families, the biggest church event in Ireland since we hosted the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in 2012, is just 189 days away. It will be hosted here in Dublin as we welcome families from all over the world to Dublin and to Ireland to reflect on family life in 2018. From strong marriages come strong families, and from strong families comes a strong society. Once again this year the World Meeting of Families are offering special tokens to mark Saint Valentine’s Day – these tokens were very popular last year and the fact that the feast-day falls tomorrow on Ash Wednesday, I think they’ll even be a bigger hit this year.’
He went on to say, ‘Becoming an engaged couple and having your rings blessed is a little like setting out on Ash Wednesday and realising Easter Sunday is still some distance down the road; for the engaged couple, like Anna and Seamus – who are with us here today – they realise their Wedding Day is the focal point of their journey. The Church is honoured to accompany couples in these preparatory and exciting times in their lives. Accord is privileged to be the face of the Catholic Church offering marriage preparation and relationships counselling in its centres right across the country, north and south, east and west.’
‘We believe in marriage, we believe in couples and we believe in individuals. In counselling we help heal the hurt first in the individual, then in the couple and hopefully in the marriage. On this the eve of Saint Valentine’s Day, I very much think of couples in broken marriages and relationships who need support and accompaniment. Accord never closes the door to an individual or a couple who are hurting. Accord will be there through its relationship counselling service to support these people with our accompaniment and our skill set, a skill set that specialises in couple counselling. Accord is best placed to provide these services and has been counselling individuals and couples for over fifty-six years.
‘On behalf of Accord, Catholic Marriage Care Service, I wish every blessing on Anna and Seamus.’
Bishop Nulty concluded by offering a prayer to Saint Valentine:
O glorious advocate and protector Saint Valentine,
Look with pity upon our wants.
Hear our requests.
Attend to our prayers.
Relieve by your intercession the miseries under which we labour
And obtain for us the divine blessing
That we may be found worthy to join you
In praising the Almighty for all eternity,
through the merits of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.’
The full text of Bishop Nulty’s address and Accord 2017 figures can be found on www.catholicbishops.ie.