CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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A golden anniversary eyes golden marriages

HONG KONG (SE): The Hong Kong Catholic Marriage Advisory Council celebrated its 50th anniversary on November 18 in combination with its annual general meeting.

The chairperson of the council, Joseph Lee King-chi, shared about its newly-launched marriage formation programme for couples who have hit what is referred to as the third age.

At the Caritas Restaurant in Caine Road, the president of the council, John Cardinal Tong Hon, said that it has a three-pronged dedication, to maintain the value of marriage and family, to help young people respond validly to their vocation and support couples with a difficult relationship.

Cardinal Tong also talked about the nature of marriage. He described it as a relationship allowing both husband and wife to reveal their true character within the nest of their own home.

“After marriage, there will be one to laugh and cry with, to stand by your side and share your joy and pain in life,” he said, adding because married life involves challenges, he wants to encourage couples to be honest, have empathy and keep on forgiving each other.

Reporting on the council’s work over the previous 12 months, Lee pointed out that services have been extended to senior couples in a project called Coupling in the Sunset, which was launched in July this year.

The three-year project provides formation and personal counselling to help strengthen the relationship of the couples at what he termed the third age.

He also shared about the Grace and Harmony Parenting Coordination Centre, which was opened in Tsui Ping (North) Estate, Kwun Tong, in June.

Lee pointed out that the council has been concerned about the welfare of the children of separated parents.

He expressed doubts about the legal parental rights of child custody and “joint parental responsibility model” being proposed by the Law Reform Commission of Hong Kong.

This recognises the importance of maintaining a direct involvement of both parents in the lives of their children as far as is possible.

However, Lee believes there should be supportive facilities before legal action begins, especially in the area of education and professional services, so as to avoid the increase in the number of lawsuits that will undoubtedly follow with the new law.

Long service awards were given to eight staff at the council who have clocked up between 10 and 20 years’ service. This was followed by a cake-cutting ceremony and toast to mark the golden anniversary.

Dominic Lee Yin-chun, the coordinator of the Coupling in the Sunset project, said it aims at strengthening relationships among senior couples aged between 55 and 65, by guiding them through the challenge of adjusting to life in retirement.

Lee explained that the council has held various gatherings for golden oldie couples in cooperation with four parishes.

Besides input talks and workshops, organised in cooperation with Elder Academies and other service centres, it provides individual consultations for couples to look into the changes in their relationship and the family roles that retirement brings, as well as providing counselling services for couples experiencing difficulties.

The project also provides hobby classes, charitable services, formation groups and sponsors outings, among other things.

Lee explained that many couples experience difficulties for a long time and claim that they only stay in the married relationship for the sake of their children.

However, in the empty nest period after their children have graduated or married, the problems will certainly surface.

The Catholic Marriage Advisory Council was originally set up to provide natural family planning services in Catholic hospitals. Its services later expanded to family life education, marriage counselling and pre-marriage formation.

In 1988, it began offering marriage mediation counselling in cooperation with the Legal Aid Department.

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