Cardinal Wuerl Releases Amoris Laetitia Implementation Plan

Cardinal Wuerl Releases First Detailed Pastoral Amoris Laetitia Implementation Plan for Parishes 
“Sharing in the Joy of Love in Marriage and Family” released this weekend in all parishes of the Archdiocese of Washington

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, today celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, where he released,Sharing in the Joy of Love in Marriage and Family.” This broad and detailed pastoral plan is the first of its kind in implementing Pope Francis’s 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia at the parish level. The pastoral plan considers the challenges that individuals, couples and families encounter today in a highly secularized culture, and encourages parishes to serve as welcoming places for all, particularly those who might be disillusioned or disaffected by contemporary society. In releasing this document, Cardinal Wuerl is encouraging all individuals, couples and families to participate in the life of the Church in the Archdiocese of Washington.

At St. Matthew’s, Cardinal Wuerl began his homily referencing the Gospel reading for the day: “The long and beautiful recounting of that meeting of Jesus and the Samaritan woman shows how Jesus not only draws out of her the realization of her own sad condition, but also what the gentle and consistent accompaniment helps her to come to understand.” He continued, “Pope Francis uses the story of the woman at the well to remind all of us that the journey from detachment and distance from God to a rich embrace of God’s love is one that requires patience, engagement and what now has become a common place word: accompaniment.”  

Accompaniment, Cardinal Wuerl noted, is a word that Pope Francis uses today to remind us of the fullness of pastoral ministry that helps move us beyond just hearing the Word, and to understand appreciate, appropriate and live it. “I have chosen today, and this Gospel, as a time to announce our own effort at accompaniment,” Cardinal Wuerl said.

Giving the example of the archdiocese’s annual Mass for couples celebrating jubilee anniversaries, the cardinal spoke of one family at the Mass with three generations celebrating their 74th, 50th, and 25th wedding anniversaries. “The tableau is a visible proclamation of what Pope Francis announces at the very beginning of Amoris Laetitia: ‘The joy of love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church,’” he said.

But for many today, he continued, there is little understanding of the true nature of love, marriage, commitment, and self-giving, which are all part of the Catholic vision of love. “Yet, while their lives and experiences may have drawn many far away from the Church’s message, we are all the more called to reach out to them, to invite and accompany them on the journey that should help bring them to the joy of love that is also the joy of the Church.”

“It is in the light of both the effort to experience the joy of love in marriage, and the challenge to address its brokenness when that happens that we, in consultation with this whole archdiocesan Church, including laity, religious and clergy, offer the Pastoral Plan as our effort: to share in the joy of love in marriage and family, and to be with others in their life’s journey whatever the conditions that are a part of this moment in the journey,” said Cardinal Wuerl. 

Neither the Holy Father’s 2016 exhortation, nor this pastoral plan presents a list of answers, the cardinal reminded the faithful as he concluded his homily. But both documents call for a pastoral approach for people – married, single, and divorced – who are struggling to face issues in life, the teaching of the Church, and their own desire to reconcile it all, and he called on the faithful to carry out the call to share the joy of love in marriage and family life. After the Mass, the cardinal greeted the families and gave them copies of the pastoral plan. Children in attendance also received special rosaries from Cardinal Wuerl that had been blessed by Pope Francis

“Sharing in the Joy of Love in Marriage and Family” is available on the archdiocese’s website at: Printed copies of the plan in both English and Spanish were sent to all 139 parishes in preparation for this weekend’s official release of the document, and Cardinal Wuerl encouraged priests of the archdiocese to read the plan and preach about it at all parish Masses this weekend. 


The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 655,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 93 Catholic schools, located in Washington, D.C., and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.

Belonging Starts Here

Every Person Has Unique Gifts and Belongs as a Full and Equal Participant in the Community
by Mary O’Meara

As a society, there is a renewed awareness of the need to acknowledge the value of the diversity of our human family. It is encouraging to see more and more people calling for our culture to embrace all people, to draw them into the fabric of social life, and treat them as equal, full and active participants in the community. Yet, perhaps the most marginalized segment of society has been largely left out of the discussion.

Historically, persons with disabilities have found themselves if not excluded, then limited from society – on the outside looking in and seen as “other,” rather than as members of the community. Too often are they made to feel unwelcome in places and activities that are routine parts of everyday life for their “typical” neighbors. Too often do they face in society attitudes that disregard their human dignity and the positive contributions they have to offer.

While some progress has been made, much more needs to be done. For a long time we talked about persons with disabilities in terms of access, such as providing sign interpreters or ramps under the Americans With Disabilities Act, but what we need to see now is a culture of belonging and full inclusion. Our neighborhoods, schools, government agencies and our entire community should be places where everyone in their diversity – including physical, intellectual, cognitive and mental diversity – feels welcomed as contributing members without limiting or patronizing them.

One step in that process is the annual White Mass hosted by the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, which will be held at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, October 22, at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle.

Named for the white garment worn at baptism, this liturgy celebrates the gifts and giftedness of all persons in their physical, intellectual or developmental uniqueness as integral members of the community. It is a beautiful expression of a welcoming culture where no one is an afterthought and everyone participates in the life of the community: People who are Deaf or have a disability serve as lectors, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, gift bearers and they lead prayers.

Beyond being a celebration of the harmony of God’s family, the White Mass is also a summons to dialogue and action to promote human dignity and inclusivity in the greater community. Human life is like a great orchestra, marked by variety and also marked by limitations. We are all different in the way we look or sound. We each have things we can do and things we cannot do. Each of us has our own qualities. And in this is beauty which benefits us all.

This difference is precious, Pope Francis reminds us. “Everyone brings his or her own, what God gave them, to enrich others.” As public awareness is raised to the need to overcome prejudice and exclusion in society, it is crucial that we treasure too as full and equal participants those who might differ in certain ways physically or cognitively.

Belonging starts here. We are all equal in dignity and we all have gifts to offer, even if some of us need support to participate more fully. We want all persons to belong. We need all persons to belong. Persons with disabilities are a positive presence in society. Ensuring that everyone with their uniqueness truly belongs starts with each one of us.

Mary O’Meara is the Executive Director of the Department of Special Needs Ministries for the Archdiocese of Washington.