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Chapter 2a A Sample Program of Preparation

Provided by Dignity/Washington

1. Due to the need for confidentiality and consistency in the pastoral ministry provided by Dignity/Washington with respect to Holy Unions, responsibility for implementation of that ministry will be entrusted to a Pastoral Team for Holy Unions that will be appointed by the Board of Dignity/Washington annually. The team will consist of six to eighteen persons who will perform the following functions:

Pastoral Leaders: two to four persons (including at least one priest and, if possible, one or more lay persons with theological and/or pastoral ministry training who are called to this ministry). Each couple seeking to celebrate a Rite of Holy Union under the auspices of Dignity/Washington will meet with a Pastoral Leader to explore their objectives. The Pastoral Leader will explain to the couple the preparatory options that the community makes available to them.

These options include, but are not limited to:

  • Meeting with one or more couples in committed relationships to identify and explore issues pertaining to the celebration and commitment they now seek to undertake; 
  • Meeting with a liturgical guide who will present the particulars and options for celebrating a Rite of Holy Union; 
  • Participation in a couple's retreat; 
  • Meeting with a legal advisor to discuss matters that they may wish to take up with an attorney of their own choosing.
  • The Pastoral Leader will meet with the couple periodically to discuss their use and experience of these options and to assist in their personal and spiritual reflections in connection with their preparations for the state of Holy Union. The officiant at the Holy Union ceremony will normally be the Pastoral Leader who has overseen the couple's preparation; however, another individual, chosen by the couple, may be designated.

Partners in Commitment: at least two couples (four persons) in long-standing, committed relationships to share experiences and ideas with couples preparing to celebrate the Rite of Holy Union. Ideally, these should include at least one female and one male couple. These couples will also undertake the coordination of at least two Couple's Retreats for Dignity/Washington each year (see item 2).

Liturgical Guide: one to three persons who will be available to:

Meet with couples preparing for the celebration of a Rite of Holy Union;

Present options with respect to ceremony formats and liturgical readings, ideas concerning ceremony particulars (seating arrangements, procession to the altar, etc.), music options, and potential sites for the celebration.

Legal Advisor: one or two persons who will be available to meet with the couple to present Legal considerations that they may wish to explore with their own attorney (wills, power of attorney, registration as domestic partner's, if applicable, etc.). The legal advisor may also offer the names of attorneys who are known to be experienced in assisting gay and lesbian couples with their legal needs.

2. A Couples Retreat should be organized twice a year, at six month intervals, if possible, under the direction of the Pastoral Team for Holy Unions, to assist couples preparing: to enter the state of Holy Union and to provide an opportunity for all couples within the community of Dignity/Washington to explore and deepen their relationship. This retreat is envisioned above all as a time for dialogue between partners about their relationship and for sharing by couples in committed relationships with couples considering the celebration of a Rite of Holy Union.

3. The Pastoral Team will undertake to prepare and to make available two publications:

  • A flyer for distribution at Dignity/Washington's Sunday Mass and, as appropriate, through other chapter activities, that invites all interested couples who are considering the celebration of a Rite of Holy Union to contact a Pastoral Leader and provides a brief description of some of the steps and options that are entailed in undertaking the celebration of a Rite of Holy Union and, 
  • A comprehensive list of pastoral resources and options to guide couples actually undertaking preparations for the celebration of a Rite of Holy Union.

4. The Pastoral Team will have responsibility of maintaining a single, permanent register of all Holy Union ceremonies performed under the auspices of Dignity/Washington. Each entry will include the names, address and religious affiliations of both partners, names of two designated witnesses and of the officiant for the Holy Union ceremony performed. A certificate testifying to the event will be provided to each couple.

5. The Holy Union Task Force, emphasizing individual self-discernment or a special calling, will facilitate determining who will serve on the first Pastoral Team for Holy Unions. The Task Force will submit the names of these individuals to the Board of Directors for appointment to the Pastoral Team. Thereafter, it will be the responsibility of the Pastoral Team to at least make annually consensus recommendations to the Board concerning the Team's composition. These subsequent names of persons who are called to this ministry will be submitted as needed for appointment by the Board. Individuals are discouraged from serving for more than two years on the Pastoral Team.

6. As soon as possible following appointment by the Board, each Pastoral Team will seek to take a retreat together, a weekend, if possible or a full day, at a minimum, to solidify its existence as a team and to seek the strength and guidance of the Holy Spirit for its undertaking, mindful that it will be representing Dignity/Washington in this crucial aspect of its ministry.

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