Details, from The Arlington Catholic Herald:
Even though data show that 38 percent of U.S. Catholics are Hispanic, ministers face a worrying trend: The vast majority of Hispanics are married by a justice of the peace or not married at all.
The reasons range from fear of compromising their legal status, to notions of “machismo” or feminism, to a lack of religious education. Though the number of unmarried Hispanic couples is most noticeable on the parish level, measuring this trend can be difficult because foreign-born Hispanics — like many other immigrants — are not used to registering with a parish.
In the Arlington Diocese — home to at least 220,000 individuals who identify themselves as Catholic and Latino — a team of lay couples has been leading a diocesan Hispanic validation program to prepare for the sacrament of marriage or have their marriage blessed.
Pablo and Isabel Rodríguez have been leading the diocesan validations council for Hispanics since 1992. They said that even when the validation and pre-Cana classes both incorporate the same teachings from the church’s catechism and the popes’ sermons about sexuality within a marriage, their approaches are different because the couples are at different stages of their lives.
“These couples have already lived through situations that might have left them wounded,” Pablo said. “Sometimes we think that an ecclesiastic marriage will cure everything that is wrong with the marriage. … The talks are structured so the couples can heal their relationships, so they can enter this new life with Christ in complete harmony.”
At first, Pablo and Isabel tried to mentor couples individually but then the high demand for the classes prompted them to start the mentoring teams. Now, about 120 couples sign up for the biannual program, but many are not able to finish. Members of the team include priests and deacons from up to 14 parishes and mentor couples who undergo intensive training in canon law, virtues, prayer and the catechism.
“The important thing is that the program is expanding,” Pablo said.