National Family and Life Week is taking place from May 7-14 reflecting on the theme of “Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34). Below, Michelle Dabrowski, director of the Office for Family and Life at the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), discusses the importance of this week. Michelle and her husband live outside of Ottawa and delight in raising a three-year-old son with a little one on the way.
1. What is the mission of the Office for Family and Life at the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB)?
Our mission is to respond and revitalize the pastoral care of couples and families, including children, parents, grandparents and extended family. We also work on promoting human dignity at all stages of life, proclaiming the Christian teaching on marriage and responding to current ethical issues.
Some ways we achieve these goals are by curating and developing resources and collaborating with a network of partners. We support and work closely with a standing committee comprised of bishops and laypeople and coordinate nationwide with diocesan family and life representatives.
2. What is new about this year’s mandate for National Family and Life Week (NFLW)?
This is the first year the CCCB Standing Committee and Office for Family and Life are responsible for NFLW, so we have a fresh approach!
In designing the NFLW 2023 Pastoral Toolkit, we reached out to ministry specialists who are responding in an innovative way to diverse family and life situations – including the Archdiocese of Toronto. Together, we developed daily prayers and activities. While we couldn’t include every family scenario, we focused on single parents, mental wellness, marriage formation, persons with disabilities, palliative care and bereaved parents.
The Toolkit includes social media graphics, catechesis for families, a new logo, and more!
3. What outcomes are you hoping for through attention to these issues for families and in parish life?
We would love to see NFLW used as a springboard for year-long pastoral planning. We hope the Toolkit inspires parish communities to implement new, more long-term family and life pastoral initiatives.
We hope that by bringing attention to specific family scenarios, we will grow in our call to love one another, as Christ loves us, in concrete and specific ways. Simple actions of care and attention strengthen the Church, a family of families.
4. In addition to your role as national director, you are also a mother. What has surprised you most about the vocation of motherhood?
I love being a mom! It’s also the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Raising a family is as beautiful as it is tough. I’ve come to better understand how important it is to be uplifted and supported. Motherhood is “relational by design,” and oh! how we need the support and love of others to carry out this call.
5. How does the theme of National Family and Life Week encourage you in your own family life?
‘Love one another’ renews my daily responsibility to love, forgive, listen, be patient, offer tenderness, kindness and compassion within my own family. I dare say that living out this call is sometimes hardest with those closest to us. I am grateful to my family, who encourages me to be steadfast in faith, hope and love.
For more information, please visit https://bit.ly/NFLW2023.