Building a faith and family culture in Tasmania

By Catherine Sheehan

More than ten married couples and around thirty kids gathered at St Virgil’s College in Hobart on Sunday 7 November for the Growing in Love Family Day, an initiative of the Hobart Archdiocese’s Life, Family and Marriage Office. The focus of the day was on building stronger marriages and upskilling parents to create healthy families that are growing in love and faith.

Keynote speakers for the day were Steve and Annie Lawrence who have been married for 30 years and have six children ranging in age from 14 to 27 years. Through speaking and mentoring, Steve and Annie have been ministering to married couples and families for more than 20 years in Catholic schools and parishes around Australia, and at national and international conferences.

“The aim of the weekend was to strengthen marriages, to help couples enter more deeply into the grace of the sacrament of marriage, and to help them focus on building faith and family culture in Tasmania, to give new hope for themselves and for their children,” Steve said.

Archbishop Julian speaks to married couples at the Growing in Love Family Day.

He and wife Annie shared with the other couples their “joys and struggles” from three decades of marriage, as well as offering encouragement through story-telling.

“We encouraged the couples to open themselves up more to God’s grace, to make a priority of their own time together, to focus on the positives in each other, and to embrace forgiveness as a way of freedom and unity,” Steve said.

“We also emphasised faith in the family in simple ways, recognising the uniqueness of each child, the importance of building family culture, and trusting God in the midst of our family.”

A children and teen’s program ran parallel to the talks for adults and Archbishop Julian fielded questions from the teenagers during an impromptu Q&A session.

Archbishop Julian said the day was an important initiative to assist married couples build strong and healthy families.

“It gave couples the opportunity to come together and focus more closely on their relationship and on ways of building a solid family life,” Archbishop Julian said.

Annie and Steve Lawrence have been mentoring married couples for 20 years

Adriana and Tom Rigoli who attended the day said Steve and Annie’s talks were insightful and practical.

“Overall we thought the talks were candid, helpful and inspirational, providing useful information and tips on improving the quality of family life and growing in love within the context of our faith,” Adriana said.

Oliver Giudici, who attended with wife Carly, said he appreciated Steve and Annie’s joyful and encouraging approach.

“Both Carly and I really enjoyed the talks by Steve and Annie. We loved their stories, humour, affection and respect for one another. I’ll be recommending going along to any future talks by Steve and Annie.”

Director of the Office of Life, Marriage and Family, Ben Smith, said the day had provided much “food for thought” on ways to strengthen marriage and improve approaches to parenting.

“The two excellent presentations that Steve and Annie provided during the Family Day were inspirational and profound but also very practical and were delivered with humour and authenticity,” he said.

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