Marriage & family are at the heart of everything


Marriage and family are at the heart of the Church. “The whole Bible can be summed up in five words: God wants to marry us,” according to a prominent Catholic theologian. Throughout the Bible, marriage is the most common image God uses to speak of his love for us from Genesis through the last book of the Bible, Revelation.

Marriage and family are also at the foundation of the Church’s primary mission of evangelization. Time and time again our popes, from Pope St. Paul VI to Pope Francis, remind us that families are at the core of evangelization.

How does that translate into the daily work of the Office of Marriage and Family Life at the Archdiocese of San Francisco?

I have had the privilege to lead this office since it was reinstated shortly after Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone was installed in 2012. Throughout the past 10 years I have had the great opportunity of promoting and supporting marriages and families, both with education on the Church’s teaching about marriage and family and through a myriad of programs for families and couples.

The year 2022 promises to be an exciting one with some significant new programs (see below and right).

The Office of Marriage and Family Life is a part of the larger Department of Pastoral Ministry, one of the many in the archdiocesan pastoral center at One Peter Yorke Way that provides direct services to our parishes.

The focus of our office is to help people get to heaven, by supporting couples and families at all stages of life. We oversee programs for engaged and married couples, families, couples with struggling marriages, girls and women, boys and men, divorced Catholics and adults with divorced parents. We partner with other offices and ministries, including those for Youth and Young Adults, Religious Education and Respect Life ministries. One recent example of collaboration was a series of presentations offered for parents, in English and Spanish, on the law enacted from legislation AB 329, its potentially harmful effects for our children and resources for a more humane and respectful understanding of human sexuality.

Along with the programs mentioned above, we have helped several parishes begin a mental health ministry to support those struggling with mental health issues and their caregivers, much as we support those struggling with physical health issues (see story page 8). We also oversee programs for grief ministry in the Archdiocese, through the tireless work of Mercy Sister Toni Lynn Gallagher. A specialized new ministry called Redbird, for parents who have lost a child at any stage of life (preborn to full adult), is slated to begin in 2022, to address that specific need for grief ministry.

We offered a Spanish-language Retrouvaille retreat in January, a special Catholic peer-led program for couples in highly distressed marriages.

In 2023 we hope to return to our annual wedding anniversary Mass (canceled in 2021 and in 2022 due to COVID-19) offered by Archbishop Cordileone. This popular event is for couples celebrating “five-year” anniversaries (5, 10, 15, etc.) or any couples married 40 years or more. In 2021 we honored 37 couples celebrating 50 years or more of marriage, with 11 couples celebrating 60 years or more (and two celebrating 70+ years!).

Pope St. John Paul II once said that “the ‘great mystery,’ which is the Church, …. does not exist apart from the ‘great mystery’ … (of) marriage and the family.” So, the ministry of this office is truly at the center of the work of the Church.

Please feel free to contact me with questions about events or ministries or to offer ideas. My email is [email protected] ■

It’s great to be a girl!

Mother-daughter events bring church teaching into focus

“I am so grateful that this program was being offered. … It was literally an answer to my prayer.” “The witness provided by the speaker was phenomenal.” “I enjoyed just being in a room full of women … and feel (more) empowered to deal with what Catholic women face in society.”

These were just a few of the comments from participants in the annual archdiocesan mother-daughter events, one of many ministries offered by the Office of Marriage and Family Life in the Archdiocese of San Francisco. These popular half-day programs are for mothers with daughters 10-16 years of age and focus on the beauty of God’s design of the female body and sexuality, with an emphasis on human fertility and responsible decision-making from a Catholic perspective.

More about the program can be found by emailing [email protected].

Upcoming events

There are new ministries planned for 2022, including the Redbird ministry. A formation program for married couples through the Houston-based St. John Paul II Foundation will be announced later this spring.

Life-Giving Wounds retreat, March 4-6: We are very excited to offer our first-ever retreat for adult children who have divorced or separated parents, through the Life-Giving Wounds ministry. Remembering that the resurrected Jesus still carries his own wounds in his glorified body; the ministry is named for the understanding that Jesus can take any of our wounds, even the wound of parental divorce, and transform them into something affirming and life-giving. The program was profiled in detail in the November Catholic San Francisco magazine.

Catholic Men’s conference, March 12 will feature Catholic author and speaker Ray Guarendi and local speakers Father Cameron Faller and the Rev. Walter Hoye. More information and registration are at

Other events currently scheduled include our annual day of retreat for couples (Oct. 22) and mother/daughter events (tentatively scheduled for early November). All of these events, as well as other services offered through the Archdiocese, can be found on the archdiocesan calendar at

Ed Hopfner is the director of the Office of Marriage and Family Life.