“Is there one single Catholic centre in this country that we can call a healing centre for Catholic marriages? Is there a place that we can send couples to where they’re not just going to get psychology and therapeutic advice—which is necessary also—but from a Catholic and Christian perspective, a centre that’s solely dedicated to the saving of Catholic marriages or Christian marriages?”
These words spoken by Fr. Pat Lynch of the Sion Community to a conference in Birmingham in 1990 were to fan into flame a unique ministry for marriage some two years later to fill this need. That there was a need was not difficult to recognise with 1 in 3 marriages currently breaking up. Although there was already a number of Christian organisations running marriage enrichment courses dealing basically with stable marriages—and also at the other end of the scale a number of national marriage counselling organisations which seemed to be mostly secular—there was certainly no Centre to help save marriages in crisis.
The needs that were specifically identified were for Christian teaching about marriage together with Christian counselling and healing prayer. It was necessary to provide this in a residential setting in order to attract people nationwide; so running a series of residential courses for various options seemed the best way to accommodate this unique combination.
The Catholic Centre for Healing in Marriage was established by Betty and Tony Dady to provide these courses for married couples who wanted to enrich, repair or rebuild their marriages and bring a lasting peace into their lives and homes. The couples could choose from a number of variously structured week-long courses the one they felt most suited the needs of their marriage. It was firmly believed that if both partners were willing to co-operate they were opening themselves to the healing power of God’s Holy Spirit. The Centre could be His humble instrument in helping them rebuild their relationship and fulfil God’s original plan for their sacrament of marriage.
Months of prayer, training, research and hard graft resulted in the Catholic Centre for Healing in Marriage being able to offer couples a completely unique formula to help heal their marriages, inspired we know by the intuitions of the Holy Spirit. The Centre offered a blend of teachings, workshops, counselling, meditations, prayer, liturgy and video presentations, all set in the comfortable, relaxed, peaceful atmosphere of an attractive former hotel in Porthmadog, North Wales.
With the support of the late Bishop of Wrexham, James Hannighan, R.I.P. the Centre opened its doors on the 16th August 1992. Over the thirteen years it was open, the Catholic Marriage Centre could look back in thanksgiving for the many hundreds of couples who had passed through its doors and received the Lord’s healing in their married relationship, some even going into ministry themselves.
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During the years it was open, the Centre had never been financially viable and it survived on the abundant generosity of those who are open to the Holy Spirit’s promptings to give financially in the name of the Lord. Living on God’s providence can be both exciting and frightening, but always rewarding.
We never received any financial help from the Church, or indeed from any official body or organisation. The Centre existed and relied on God’s providence.
Averaged over the last two years it was open, the total expenditure was approximately £26,560 per annum. The total income from the courses was £7,676 per annum, the remainder coming entirely from donations. This amounted to about 70% of our income! We were resolved not to be beholden to the banks, so we had no overdraft to help out.
On a personal note, both of us lived on our modest pensions that provided for our personal needs, and even enabled us to help the Centre from time to time; therefore, all donations went directly to supporting the ministry.
Our Vision from the outset had been “to have a Centre in every Diocese of the United Kingdom,” thus enabling married couples to be able to seek the benefits of this unique ministry relatively close to their homes.
Developments inevitably took place over the years, without detracting from the original vision. The buildings themselves were extended to include counselling rooms and a library, together with an oratory containing the Blessed Sacrament. Courses for marriage preparation were introduced, and the need for qualifications in pre- marital counselling recognised and met. The teachings needed ongoing revision, in both content and presentation, as experience dictated. The diversity and richness of Pope John Paul II’s teaching on marriage, love and sexuality presented a challenge to keep the teachings in line with the Church’s development of theology in these areas. Therefore, where appropriate, the teachings were amended to include the exciting and beautiful ‘theology of the body.’
Teaching and counselling was not always been restricted to the Centre itself, and outreach to other parts of the United Kingdom was engaged in almost from the start; and in particular, there was ongoing outreach to Scotland, and more intensively to Malta.
At the beginning of January 2003, in the light of the more varied and comprehensive nature of this ministry to marriage, we were drawn, after prayer and discernment, and the approval of the Bishop of Wrexham, to change the name to “Catholic Marriage Centre,” to reflect more accurately the current activities.
It was interesting and most encouraging to read in 2004, the conclusions of the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family, invited together by Cardinal Trujillo to look at the issue of married couples in difficulty. They suggested that the Church Community should make welcoming places available where couples could find people to talk to in difficult times. “In addition…for marriage counselling should provide their professional expertise and wisdom. They must also have a solid Christian training.” The Catholic Marriage Centre had always aimed to provide these needs, and our vision had been that these would be met in every diocese.
Sadly, it was found it was impossible to attract couples, with a heart for marriage, to help, sustain or support, physically, the work of the Centre which had become increasingly more difficult for us to continue. Therefore after much prayer and discernment we eventually had to make the decision to close and sell up. This discernment was confirmed, in that we were drawn to move to North Walsham in Norfolk to be able to help a close family member. We will still be carrying on a ministry to marriage by ’phone and through the internet, and to a limited extent personally.
Our original vision to have a residential Centre in each diocese remains…
We will not be able to implement it, but if there is someone out there with a great heart for marriage, how about it? Our story might catch your imagination … be open to the Spirit … see new avenues, fresh inspirations and exciting ideas … with Him all things are possible …