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Family Life

The Family Life Office exists to help families through the different stages and trials of life, to equip them to hand on the faith, and to support them when life becomes difficult.

The office oversees various marriage preparation programs that occur throughout the Diocese, as well as encouraging marriage enrichment opportunities. The office produces resources for new parents, as well as for families celebrating the holidays.

The office also promotes pro-life causes in the Diocese, including Respect Life Sunday in October, and the Walking With Moms In Need Initiative.

Family Life sponsors Anniversary Masses in Altoona and Johnstown to recognize couples celebrating milestone marriages. The Office also works with Family Ministries already in place in parishes to help train Family Life Ministry Coordinators.

For all those mourning the loss of their spouse, the office sponsors Masses for Widows and Widowers, and can send a “Heaven’s Treasure Box” to anyone who has lost a child through miscarriage. There are also videos for grieving during the holidays, and for what to say to a person who has lost a loved one. 

Family Life Office

Andre McCarville

Maureen Roberts

Administrator
mroberts@dioceseaj.org

Marriage Preparation

Natural Family Planning

Marriage

Parenting Resources

Expectant Moms In Need Resources

Pro-Life Ministry

Divorced and Separated Ministry

Single Parents

Grief and Consolation Ministry

Mental Illness/ Addiction Assistance

Pornography Addiction

Resources/Ministry for Persons With Disabilities

Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Trafficking

Children of Divorce

End of Life Ministry

Same-Sex Attraction Ministry

Publications for Purchase

Marriage Preparation

Welcome to the Marriage Preparation process for the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown!

This sacramental preparation is an invitation to continue your faith journey, and to grow in a relationship with God and each other.

Step 1: Meet With a Priest or Deacon

Contact the priest or deacon who will witness your marriage as soon as you become engaged, or at least nine months before your proposed wedding date. You will be meeting with your priest/deacon several times.

The diocesan marriage directives require a premarital inventory of all couples before marriage. FOCCUS is one particular inventory that is used the most in our diocese, and across the country. This inventory is not a test – it is a discussion tool to help you communicate about the areas of your relationship that are strong and those that need work. A priest, deacon, or someone assigned by either gives instruction on taking this inventory online and schedules a follow-up session.

It is recommended that the FOCCUS inventory and follow-up session be done before you attend a Marriage Preparation Series.

Step 2: Attend Marriage Preparation Programs

Attendance at Marriage Preparation programs in the Diocese can be done 8 to 12 months before your wedding. You will learn about communication skills, finances, sexuality, Natural Family Planning, spirituality, becoming a “domestic church”, and many other helpful and important topics. You will also receive information on planning the wedding ceremony.

All of the following options fulfill the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown requirements. You only need to attend one option that suits your schedule.

Marriage Preparation Course

The Marriage Preparation Course is an invaluable series of two or three sessions designed to help engaged couples develop a better understanding of the sacrament; to evaluate and deepen their readiness to live married life; and to gain insights into themselves as individuals and as a couple.

Sessions are led by married couples, as well as a priest/deacon, and are held in various locations and dates throughout the diocese.

Engaged Couples Weekend

A weekend away with plenty of time together to develop a better understanding of the sacrament, to evaluate and deepen your readiness to live married life, and to gain insights into yourselves as both individuals and as a couple. The weekend gives you an opportunity to look at your commitment to each other in a deeper way as you prepare for a holy and lasting marriage. Includes informal presentations by a team which includes married couples, and acts as a great wedding gift from parents or friends.

No weekends are available in our diocese at this time. Weekends offered through Catholic Engaged Encounter are acceptable marriage preparation for our diocese. Dates and locations can be viewed here.

Sponsor Couple

A parish-based program in which an engaged couple meets with a married couple from the parish for a series of meetings. The Sponsor Couple shares their personal experience of marriage with the engaged couple through a couple-to-couple approach.

Arrange this meeting through your parish, if it is offered there.

For Those Separated By Distance

These options are accepted by the diocese if you are unable to attend any of the above programs:

  • Sponsor Couple
  • Marriage Preparation in your fiancé’s diocese
  • Engaged Encounter elsewhere
  • Online Marriage Preparation – contact the Family Life Office for more information

Remarriage Sponsor Couple

The issues facing couples entering a second marriage when one or both have been married before are more complex than first marriages. Preparation should be more comprehensive. Therefore, we offer a Remarriage Sponsor Couple program.

To register, email the Family Life office

Natural Family Planning

Natural Family Planning (NFP) is the general title for the scientific, natural, and moral methods of family planning that can help married couples either achieve or postpone pregnancy.

NFP methods are based on the observation of the naturally-occurring signs and symptoms of the fertile and infertile phases of a woman’s menstrual cycle. No drugs, devices, or surgical procedures are used to avoid pregnancy.

Since the methods of NFP respect the love-giving (unitive) and life-giving (procreative) nature of the conjugal act, they support God’s design for married love!

Creighton NFP Model

Caroline Gindhart, MSN, NP-C

Altoona/State College Areas
cgindhart23@gmail.com

Kara Lechene, PA-C

Northern Cambria Area
karalechene@gmail.com

Billings Ovulation NFP Model

Amy Kanich, RN

Southern Cambria Area
akanich@mtaloy.edu

Elizabeth Mason, LSW

State College Area
elizabethmason318@gmail.com

Marriage

Worldwide Marriage Encounter

WWME is the largest faith-based marriage enrichment organization in the world. They offer a peer-to-peer experience, typically over a weekend, though there are other options available, where married couples and priests can pause and reflect privately on the meaning of their vocations and are given the tools for nurturing their love.

Retrouvaille

(n.) the happiness of meeting or finding someone again after a long separation

Retrouvaille is a program solely dedicated to providing the necessary support to help save marriages, primarily through the Retrouvaille Retreat weekend and its follow-up support. Many struggling couples can be helped by learning the effective tools of communication offered in the Retrouvaille program.

Marriage Moments

Get weekly ideas on how to enhance your marriage delivered to your email! Contact familylife@dioceseaj.org to sign up!

Sister Servants of the Sacred Heart Retreats

Retreats for married couples in Cresson

Marital Counseling

Catholic Charities

Catholic Charities provides a caring, professional response to individuals who find themselves experiencing emotional and spiritual life situations, such as depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, bereavement, marital and family conflicts, abuse or neglect, and more.

Telecounseling

Based out of western Pennsylvania, the Catholic Counselors offer telecounseling services to families in need of help for marital struggles, parenting issues, addiction, depression, spiritual crises, and more.

Parenting Resources

Pexels Flora Westbrook 2547991

Parenting Pointers

Get diocesan parenting tip emails sent right to your email every week, for anything from ideas for strengthening your family to fun craft ideas!

Contact familylife@dioceseaj.org to sign up.

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Springs in the Desert

A website for those couples dealing with the challenge and grief of infertility

Accepting The Gift

Accepting The Gift

For children with special needs

Navigating the Internet and Media

Childhood 2.0

A secular movie about the difficulties and challenges children and parents face in the digital age.

Warning: Suggested for parents/teachers to preview this movie before sharing. Some material may not be appropriate for children.

Tech Talk (via CatholicMom)

Sharenting, Online Safety, and Your Children – Are you sharing too much about your children online?

CleanBrowsing

A DNS-based content filtering service that offers a safe way to browse the web without surprises. It intercepts domain requests and filters sites that should be blocked, based on your filtering needs.

Blocks pornography and obscene/adult content, while still allowing Google, YouTube, Bing, DuckDuckGo, and the rest of the web to load safely.

Catholic News Service Movie Reviews

Common Sense Media

A secular guide to age-appropriateness in movies and books for children.

Book Suggestions

Parenting With Grace: The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising (Almost) Perfect Kids

If I Have To Tell You One More Time Cover

If I Have To Tell You One More Time: The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding, or Yelling

Family Life Publications

Publications for Purchase from the Family Life Office

Strengthening Your Domestic Church (Family)

More2Life Podcast

A podcast on marriage and parenting from Catholic counselor Dr. Greg Popcak and his wife, Lisa.

Formed.org

An on-demand Catholic streaming service

CatholicHOM on Facebook

A Facebook page dedicated to helping Catholic parents in building and strengthening their domestic Church

Advice on Taking Young Children to Mass

Help For Blended Families

Family Spirituality

The Peyton Family Institute has a number of ideas, videos, and resources to foster Family Spirituality in the home.

Families and The Gospel ~ Reflections on Sunday Readings

“In a family, children are taught to be respectful if they want to be respected, to share if they want their fair share, and to listen if they want to be heard. Family life rescues us from arrogance by teaching us to love as we love ourselves.”

“When Jesus asked the blind man, ‘What do you want from me?’ he asked for sight. If Jesus asked you the same question, what would you say? Okay, that is your prayer.”

“‘Advice’ books abound on marriage and parenting. Jesus tells us in today’s gospel the real secret: satisfying relationships depend on how well we sacrifice our needs to serve others. It is not about ‘getting,’ it is about ‘giving’ ourselves. If you feel like you are a servant to your children and spouse, then you are doing it right.”

“Having possessions is an illusion. In today’s gospel, Jesus told the young man to give up his need to control and put his trust in God. He could not let go! In families, our need to control destroys relationships. We can lead, teach and
encourage, but we cannot control anyone but ourselves.”

“In today’s Gospel, Jesus encourages married couples to throw away the marriage rulebook. Rules are for those with ‘hardened hearts.’ Married couples are called to be a sacramental reflection of God’s faithful and selfless love … a place where people live and love beyond rules and formulas.”

Expectant Moms In Need Resources

Precious Life

Precious Life

A faith-based, non-profit organization which offers practical help to those impacted by unplanned pregnancies through their pregnancy care centers. They try to meet the emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of women and their families, empowering them to make positive, life-affirming choices. Precious Life can provide resources to women in need, help them to choose life for their children, and to walk alongside each woman as she parents her child.

Altoona: (814) 944-2669
Bedford: (814) 494-0069
Johnstown: (814) 269-4391

The Gabriel Project

A confidential and compassionate outreach to women who are distressed over an unplanned pregnancy. In addition to providing emotional and spiritual support, the “Gabriel Angel” helps the expectant mom with various practical needs, including finding assistance with pre-natal care, maternity and baby clothes, cribs, strollers, and various baby items, referrals for housing, medical care and counseling, and parenting support or adoption information.

State College/Ebensburg: (814) 867-5511
Johnstown: (814) 539-0155
Fulton County Catholic Mission: (717) 485-5917

Catholic Charities

Catholic Charities’ goals are to promote a woman’s physical and mental well-being during her pregnancy and postnatal period, to improve the physical well-being of the unborn child and newborn, and to encourage adoption as an option for women who choose not to parent their newborn child.

Moms House Logo

Mom's House of Johnstown

Mom’s House provides high quality child care to single parents, often at no cost but to volunteer at the center. This enables the parents to get an education or further their career so as to care for their children. There is also counseling, tutoring, and advocacy support offered by the program.

Birthright

A non-profit charitable organization that has been providing love and support for over 50 years to women facing unplanned pregnancies. They offer information on pregnancy, childbirth, adoption, prenatal care, community programs, parenting skills, and child care. They can refer for medical support, financial resources, housing, legal and social assistance, and professional counseling. They can also offer on-hand pregnancy tests, as well as maternity and baby items. All services are free, non-judgmental, and confidential.

Healing From an Abortion: Project Rachel

Respect Life

When a Friend is Considering Abortion (via RespectLife.org)

Every Life Matters Pregnancy Support Services

Provides free and confidential pregnancy confirmation, ultrasounds, and support services to individuals facing unplanned pregnancies. All services are free and confidential.

Tyrone: (814) 650-7899

Pro-Life Ministry

Baby Adult Hand Holding

RespectLife.org

A comprehensive collection of resources for many different pro-life issues.

On the Care of the Critically and Terminally Ill

The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith released a letter entitled Samaritanus bonus: On the Care of Persons in the Critical and Terminal Phases of Life, which beautifully addresses several important topics related to wholistic, Christ-centered care of those who are sick and dying

Catholic Social Teaching

Themes of Catholic Social Teaching

The Church’s overall vision for building a just society

Catholics and Voting

Forming consciences for Faithful Citizenship

Walking With Moms In Need

A pastoral plan to help moms who find themselves in unexpected or crisis pregnancy situations

How Americans Understand Abortion

Ave Maria Press Podcast

How Americans Understand Abortion and What It Means for the Church

When a Friend is Considering Abortion (via RespectLife.org)

How To Talk to a Friend Who Has Had an Abortion

National Catholic Bioethics Center

The Dangers of Physician-Assisted Suicide

US Bishops Statement on Physician-Assisted Suicide

Project Rachel - Healing From An Abortion

Heartbeat International

Divorced and Separated Ministry

Divorce Questions

Questions and Answers About Divorce in the Catholic Church

Questions and Answers About Annulments in the Church

Programs, Books, Workshops, and Inspirations for Those Who Have Been Divorced

Faith Journeys

Faith Journeys

How to start a ministry for children of divorce

Adult Children

Retreats for adults who are dealing with the pain of their parents’ divorce

Beginning a Ministry to Those Who Have Been Divorced

Single Parents

Single Parent Ministry

Ideas for Ministry to Single Parents

Book Study and Ministry Ideas

How to Glorify God as a Catholic Single Parent

Grief and Consolation Ministry

Blair County

Saint Michael the Archangel Parish, Hollidaysburg
Mary Jo Lanzel
(814) 934-6793
mjlanzel9@gmail.com

Centre County

Saint John the Evangelist Parish, Bellefonte
Barbara Materna, Bereavement Support
(814) 359-0354
minnscpo@verizon.net

Cambria County

Holy Name Parish, Ebensburg
Sister Margie McGuire, CCW
(814) 472-8315

Our Mother of Sorrows Grief Ministry, Johnstown
Diana Tyger
(814) 535-7646
ddtyger@atlanticbb.net

Free Bereavement Counseling in the Area

Grane Hospice Care

Grane Hospice Care

Offers counseling to anyone in the community, regardless of whether they have used their hospice services. Contact Head of Counseling, Mike Larrimore:
mlarrimore@granehospice.com / 1-800-379-0129

Interim Hospice Care

Offers counseling to anyone in the community, regardless of whether they have used their hospice services. Contact Chaplain Services, Stephanie Betsa:
sbetsa@interim-health.com / (814) 262-8305

The Healing Patch

A peer support program based in Altoona and Ebensburg, designed specifically for children and their families who have suffered the death of a loved one, such as a parent, sibling, grandparent, or close family member.

Professional Counseling Services

Catholic Charities

Catholic Charities provides a caring, professional response to individuals who find themselves experiencing emotional and spiritual life situations, such as depression, anxiety, other mental health issues, bereavement, marital and family conflicts, abuse or neglect, and more.

Catholic Counselors of America

Rose Trexler, a compassionate counselor in Cambria County, offers counseling services in the areas of depression, anxiety, and anger issues: (814) 505-7178

Telecounseling

Based out of western Pennsylvania, the Catholic Counselors offer telecounseling services to families in need of help. They can offer help for marital struggles, parenting issues, addiction, depression, spiritual crises, and more.

Miscarriage/Infertility

Project Rachel Healing

Catholic Miscarriage Support

Offers practical and spiritual support for Catholics who have lost a child to miscarriage.

Heaven's Treasure Box

Red Bird Ministries

Red Bird was founded on helping parents address the profound healing that needs to happen while also honoring the memory of the child. Attention is given to protect the individual, the marriage, and other relationships from a spectrum of issues that can compound and lead to dysfunction.

Springs In The Desert Cropped

Springs In The Desert

A website for those couples dealing with the challenge and grief of infertility.

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