The Heart of the Matter

Healthy Marriages, Healthy Families in the Diocese of Fajardo-Humacao, Puerto Rico

With the divorce rate on the island of Puerto Rico hovering near 60 percent and more and more young people rushing in and out of relationships, Carlos Torrado knew something had to be done. The father of six looked around him and identified the problem. Countercultural trends coupled with great economic and moral adversities were straining and pulling family members apart.

Young people may be better educated today, Torrado noted, but they are lacking in values. “They need the knowledge to grow as human beings and to love,” he said. Torrado instinctively knew the church had to be at the center of the solution. So in 2009, with the help of Catholic Extension donors, “Healthy Marriages, Healthy Families” was born in the Diocese of Fajardo-Humacao.

The marriage and family ministry program combines faith, spirituality and psychology. Torrado invites local Catholic marriage and family counselors, priests and lay ecclesial leaders to speak. The first 14 couples who went through the program believed so strongly in its message that they pushed to form a second program, Encuentras Familias, which translates to Family Encounters, for the whole family.

This spring, 22 families will celebrate completion of that program, which also is funded by Catholic Extension donors, with a special commemorative Mass and closing ceremony.

One woman, Yoselin, credits these programs with saving her marriage and changing the dynamics of her family. “When this Healthy Marriages program came about, I doubted at first that it would work,” she said. “The first time we attended, my husband and I fell in love with the workshops, and we saw the changes in our marriage little by little.  And now we are in the Family Encounters program…[it] teaches us the basics of our Catholic faith and allows us to continue on the path of our Lord, through which we can transform our family.”

Too many people didn’t feel love in their upbringing, Torrado explains, and these programs are helping people identify and change these patterns.

“At the root of it all,” adds Yoselin, “there is a basis to these programs and it is our Creator. I believe that it is Jesus who changes hearts.”

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