A Marriage that Strengthened a Family

Post Series: Couple Mentor Journey

The world today is a global village. The connectivity this provides has resulted in a rise in “mixed” marriages – both ecumenical marriages (a Catholic marrying a baptised non-Catholic) and interfaith marriages (a Catholic marrying a non-baptised non-Christian). As with all marriages, the Church supports ecumenical and interfaith couples and helps them prepare to meet the challenges they will face with a spirit of holiness. These marriages are holy covenants and must be kept as holy.

Marriage preparation and accompaniment is essential in helping to prepare and guide couples to work through the questions and challenges that will arise after they marry. These include how the couple will handle extended family, how they will foster a spirit of unity despite their religious backgrounds and into what faith the children will be raised. Because of these challenges, the Church requires the Catholic party to be faithful to their faith and to make a sincere promise to do all in their power to have their children baptised and raised in the Catholic faith. This provision of the 1983 Code of Canon Law is a change from the 1917 version, which required an absolute promise to have the children raised Catholic.

Let’s hear from a couple to understand their journey, the challenges they experienced along the way and how they have balanced their lives together in a happy, God-filled marriage.

Edith and Kong Hong married in 2009 in a civil ceremony. Kong Hong was not a Christian and Edith, although Catholic, had not attempted to have her previous short marriage annulled. She had stopped going to Church after the failure of her first marriage and the Catholic faith was not something that held importance in their lives at this point.

God had other plans

The couple began a happy but secular marriage together. It wasn’t until their children became introduced to Catholicism that they started to be drawn to the Church.

“There were many Catholics in the kindergarten. One of the mothers, Anita, encouraged us to bring our kids to Church, and that’s when it all began,” Edith recalls. “She is now their Godmother.”

The couple began to attend mass weekly with their children and soon had them baptised. Although it was completely new to Kong Hong, who had been brought up in the Buddhist faith, he found immense comfort in the Church.

Filling in the gaps

“At first, I didn’t know anything. I was learning as I was going along but there were many gaps in my knowledge,” Kong Hong explains. “For example, I used to see the congregation lining up for communion and had no idea why and why I couldn’t partake. I just knew that I enjoyed the experience of being there weekly. It comforted me.”

When the couple heard about RCIA, they thought it would be good for Kong Hong to attend with Edith as his sponsor. The classes really resonated with him. He liked the priest’s style. The messages were compelling and easy to remember, and the priest also encouraged self-reflection, which Kong Hong was familiar with from his Buddhist teachings.

“I grew up as a Buddhist and my family went to the temple. For me, it wasn’t a religion but more a philosophy,” Kong Hong explains. “I had been approached over the years by other Christian groups, but I couldn’t relate to the way they were teaching. The priest’s more maverick approach was right up my alley as it was more philosophical, and I could relate to that.”

A family affair

Through RCIA, Kong Hong started to build a relationship with God, aided by the priest’s teaching providing the clarity he needed.  A few weeks into the course, Edith suggested that they invite Kong Hong’s sister to attend.

To their surprise, she was immediately drawn: “My sister is stubborn so she must have experienced something to accept the Catholic religion so quickly,” Kong Hong explains.

“Basically, she asked for two separate signs and received them, so she was completely convinced. It was her that then brought my parents into the faith.”

A full return to God

As Kong Hong was going through his spiritual journey, so was Edith. As they were exploring the possibility of Kong Hong being baptised, Edith told the story of her first marriage to the facilitator at RCIA. She learnt that her assumption that an annulment was impossible or would take a long time was incorrect. Excited by the news that Kong Hong could get baptised if her first marriage was annulled, Edith went ahead with the application. Within a few months, she got the annulment, but received the news too late for Kong Hong to be baptised that year. In fact, his sister and parents were baptised before him!

The couple also enrolled in Couple Mentor Journey (CMJ) so that Kong Hong could be baptised as Anthony the following year, and this experience helped to strengthen their marriage as both were developing a deeper understanding and a deeper faith. They were also blessed with good role models to emulate.

“This was all God’s way to tell me to come back,” says Edith. “I am so grateful as it helps me parent our daughter, who has special needs. I realised that I also needed God’s help. I came to understand that having prayers not answered doesn’t mean that God isn’t listening. It just means He has other, better plans in store. So, this whole journey of Kong Hong becoming baptised has served to strengthen my own faith as well as our marriage and family.”

Couple Mentor Journey

Our response to our Holy Father’s call: “In the area of marriage preparation, pastoral accompaniment needs to go beyond the actual celebration of the sacrament. In this regard, experienced couples have an important role to play” (Amoris Laetitia, 223)

Archdiocesan Commission for the Family

Archdiocesan Commission for the Family