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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Diocese Establishes New Marriage and Family Life Office

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Suzanne Hammons
Suzanne Hammonshttp://dioceseofgallup.org
Suzanne Hammons is the editor of the Voice of the Southwest and the media coordinator for the Diocese of Gallup. A graduate of Benedictine College in Kansas, she joined the Diocesan staff in 2012.

Marriage, family, and pro-life topics have become hot-button issues for Americans, especially in the last several election cycles. For the Catholic Church, these are important matters with deep moral and social implications, not simply political touchpoints.

Until recently, the Diocese of Gallup had not had a person or office dedicated specifically to developing and supporting marriage and pro-life activities. But in the last few months, Anne Farrell has been brought on board to the chancery staff part-time to establish a new Marriage and Family Life Ministry.

Farrell, a retired teacher of several decades and mother of five children, spoke with The Voice of the Southwest about her background and goals for her new role.

How did it come about, you taking on this role?

I was approached after Mass [at the Cathedral] by [Chancellor] Deacon Randy Copeland and he said, would you come work for us? Because they all know I just recently retired from teaching.

Initially, the job was described as just kind of a liaison contact person. I didn’t know anything about it until Deacon Copeland had me come here gave me a bit of a job description that says “Family Life” on it. And then kind of threw in “pro-life” with it under the umbrella.

Mrs. Anne Farrell

Why did you decide to accept it?

You can’t say no to the Church. (laughs) I liked being retired and I liked being at home, but I am naturally inclined to be incredibly lazy. I needed to do something beyond just, you know, staying at home.

What are some of your goals for the office?

I hope that people in the parishes and priests and, you know, anyone involved in the church feels comfortable to contact me and say, hey, I need help with this or I’m looking for resources for that. I have a lot of things, especially online, that cover a wide variety of family life.

A lot of people can’t come to Gallup to do marriage [prep]. There are resources for that, or for Natural Family Planning. I also have Catholic psychologists – lists of them and – online help for abused families or divorced families or families touched by addiction.

Any kind of family resources or pro-life resources, family life resources, pro-life resources. I have a section for singles because that’s part of the family in a lot of ways, you know, or divorced or widowed or elderly. Unfortunately, we have so much less in-person activities and volunteers in the church. I can’t say, “okay, go to Cathedral and join this widows group.” My mom, when she was a widow, had so many groups, which really was wonderful.

At least this way you can get resources online and they may connect you with a monthly online meeting. And our diocese is doubly difficult for that because of our distance and the smallness of each community.

Can you tell us about yourself? What brought you to Gallup?

My first class I ever taught was in 1981. I have kids that still – they’re almost 50 now. They’re connecting with me online and talking and back and forth and it’s really wonderful. I have taught Catholic school in three different dioceses and then ended my teaching career in the public schools here. I didn’t teach solidly from 1981 until 2023 because I did homeschooling for six years.

We got out here because [my husband] had friends, from Kansas. And I told him, I don’t want to live there more than five years. 34 years later, you know, as they say, “man plans and God laughs”. I think that’s been the story of my life a lot.

So you obviously like the Diocese of Gallup. What kept you here? What’s special about it to you?

Well, I love the people. We have wonderful friends here. We have a great community for our children, especially. Our kids still have the same friends. They’re adults now. You can’t replace that in a child’s life. You can show them and demonstrate your faith and live your faith. But unless they have that extended faith community, it’s a little harder for them. And I think that’s been real key. And you know, because it’s a smaller community, you can develop relationships with the clergy. We knew the priests in each of our parishes and not to mention the Mass here at the Cathedral. It’s just so beautiful.

You’ve been in the school system, so you’ve probably seen it with young people. What are some of the challenges that you think we face, in the Diocese?

In my job, I have contacted and talked with other family life ministers. The USCCB (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops) has a monthly family life ministry online group that I participate in. We talk about commonalities across the board, and not only within the Church, but just within society in general.

It’s a breakdown of the family. As a teacher – not just from public school, from even Catholic school – the percentage of children who come from two parent homes where both parents are their biological parents has dropped to like less than 10%, I would say.

Wow, that’s pretty stark.

It is stark. And it creates a lot of hurt people because children don’t understand, you know, and they love both parents. It’s difficult. And it just perpetuates.

I blame my generation. We started the the “summer of free love” and all this business where everything was about us, even into parenthood. And it shouldn’t be about us as individuals. It should be us as a family. It needs to be the collective “us”, not the “me”.

What else would you like people to know about you, especially those working at parishes?

I want them to know I’m approachable. I’d be happy to listen. We want to be charitable. We don’t want to be so non-judgmental that everything’s okay. But we want to be charitable. My job isn’t to judge anybody, you know, as a family life director. If they need something, I’m there. I can even be there to listen.

Anything else you want to add?

I love working here. I really do. I’ve always felt very connected with the Catholic community.

I’m a parent and I have my own family, and I’ve worked with so many families all over. My first job, teaching and working with families was over 40 years ago. So I’ve learned a lot over all that time.

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