The people of Evansville, Indiana have a fresh reason to thank you and Marriage
Savers for helping us create a Community Marriage Policy which we call Community
There was an average of 1,593 divorce filings from 1994-1997 before the Diocese
of Evansville (with 72 churches) joined 27 Protestant churches to sign our
interfaith covenant in 1998. I am pleased to report that in 2003-2005, we
averaged 1,293 divorce filings, which is a significant 20% drop in the divorce
rate. Hundreds of families have preserved marriages that would have probably
ended in divorce, with untold trauma to many, particularly their children.
In addition, we are particularly proud to report that the number of marriages
has risen. From 1997-2003, there were an average of only 1,143 marriages per
year. But there were an average of 1,324 marriages in 2004-2005. That is a 16%
increase in the marriage rate. What makes this especially important is that in
the same time, the U.S. marriage rate fell by 9%.
Marriage Savers gave us the vision and the initial training of clergy and mentor
to launch marriage-saving strategies at every stage of marriage:
- To assist couples to prepare for a lifelong marriage,
- To enrich thousands of existing marriages,
- To save many of the troubled ones,
- To help stepparents be successful parents and partners.
In the past, Catholics and Protestant churches competed with one another.
Historically the Catholic Diocese has required six months of marriage
preparation while most Protestant churches had no time requirement. The result
was that when a Catholic married a Protestant, many would marry in the
Protestant church which was less demanding. That was neither in the interest of
the couple nor of either Christian church. However, in the Community Marriage
Policy, Protestant clergy agreed to a four-six month minimum time of marriage
preparation. This higher standard has clearly paid dividends for all of
We are particularly grateful for the leadership that Dr. Ann Gries has given
Community Marriage Builders with the financial support of Catholic Charities,
the United Way and dozens of participating churches. Thanks to her leadership,
there are now 175 churches cooperating in this ministry, 103 Protestant and all
70 Catholic congregations including those in eleven counties beyond Vanderburgh
County. And she has helped two more nearby counties create Community Marriage
Policies which will be signed in July.
Sadly, we still have more divorce filings (1,290 in 2005) than marriages (1,230
in 2005). Of course, many who file for divorce do not go through with it.
Unfortunately, the county does not gather data on the number of finalized
divorces, but that figure is probably one-third lower than these numbers of
divorce filings. Even so, it appears that our divorce rate is higher than the
nation as a whole which has one divorce for every two marriages. Thus, a large
task remains before us.
Nonetheless, Marriage Savers helped Evansville launch a series of initiatives
that are both preserving hundreds of marriages that would have ended in divorce
and encouraging hundreds of additional couples to marry. You predicted on the
day Evansville clergy signed our Community Marriage Policy that "This is a new
day for marriage in Evansville, and an old one for divorce." We are pleased to
report that the data backs up your prediction!
May the Lord continue to bless you and your work!
Gratefully yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Gerald A. Gettelfinger
Bishop of Evansville