Aba Shields and her team have put in to place a dynamic, multi-faceted initiative, providing much needed support to married couples and family life throughout the diocese. The team have been far and wide, inviting everyone from engaged couples, to seasoned married couples, couples trying for a child and even grandparents, to take part in the programme, which finds its roots firmly in the love of Christ.

A series of ministries have been established looking at all the different aspects of family life – all of which are critical to the Church. They start with a sacramental marriage preparation programme called Smart Loving aimed at those getting ready for a life together. 

In an age where one in two marriages end in divorce we bring people back to the start to the origins of love and marriage

explains Aba, the Marriage and Family Project Worker for the Diocese. “We look at it from the perspective of God’s ideas on the subject rather than man’s. “We look at Jesus on the cross and the intense love he demonstrated when he died for us. Married Christian love is based on Christ’s love for the Church and for us and that is what we convey.” The programme is delivered at regular sessions which take place at parishes around the diocese. As well as being able to attend face-to face people can also get involved online via webcam.

The programme is split into seven different sections which are mission to love, dialogue, knowing me-knowing you, building unity, sex as a sacred embrace, soulmates for life and natural fertility awareness and planning.


Aba said: “We use mentor couples to deliver the sessions – so they can draw from their own experiences to help other couples as they begin their journey. The wonderful thing is that those who deliver the course are strengthened too simply – by talking about the things which made their marriage strong in the first place.” 

In addition to Smart Loving, a marriage enrichment programme has been set up to help couples get the most out of life together. This includes enrichment days, retreats and support groups. Aba added: “This may help couples who are in difficulty, where there is a gridlock in communication or where one party feels there is a problem but the other doesn’t. We encourage self-examination and discussion of what brought the couple together in the first place and other ways of making the bond stronger.”


The wonderful thing

is that those who deliver the course are strengthened too – simply by talking about the things which made their marriage strong in the first place.

Other programmes include natural fertility awareness and planning, which helps couples understand further the physiology of their bodies and enjoy intimacy and sexual embrace in line with the scriptures. There is also the Catholic Grandparents Association, which aims to unite people by the same goal – doing the very best for their children and grandchildren. Aba added: “Grandparents’ vital contribution to the family, Church and society are as important now as they have ever been. “They have a huge role in their families in terms of praying, showing the way and passing on our faith.” 

Courses for all the different programmes are held regularly around the diocese. To find out more visit or email Aba at