While "a few problems" are grabbing media headlines, members of the Synod of Bishops on the family are highlighting the good things happening in the Catholic Church and identifying programs they think should be done better, said Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles.
"For me, it's a little bit frustrating to talk about just a few problems when we have so many things out there we need to address in the future," the archbishop told Catholic News Service Oct. 16. "I think the important thing is that the synod must provide the Holy Father with advice on what to do in those specific things."
One of the often discussed issues at the synod is marriage preparation. In the synod's first week, many calls were made for a more extended program of preparation for marriage. Archbishop Gomez echoed the sentiments of several synod fathers, saying that it is an essential part of the church's response to challenges facing marriages and the family in today's society.
Pope Francis noted how long seminarians prepare for the sacrament of ordination and how, in some places, preparation for the sacrament of marriage is just one weekend. Archbishop Gomez said marriage preparation should not last as long as seminary training, but he stressed the importance of improving the "good, solid programs of formation" that currently exist.
He said in his synod presentation, he emphasized "how important it is for young people to understand that God has a plan for the human person and for marriage. Marriage is a vocation: a call from God to grow humanly, supernaturally and to make an influence in society."
The archbishop said he is "a little anxious" about the synod and media coverage of it because ministry to the divorced and remarried is not the only issue synod participants are considering. "There are so many good things that we are doing and so many good things we can do: preparation for marriage, support those who are newly married, support for the families in providing good education to their children," he said.
An issue close to the archbishop's heart is immigration reform, one that is affecting families around the world because of poverty and war. Archbishop Gomez believes that Catholics should take immigration reform seriously.
"Catholics need to understand that the immigration issue is a serious matter," he said. "We live in a global society, people are moving. We see the crisis in the Middle East and how people are moving from the Middle East to Europe. We have the reality of people moving from all over the world to the United States."
It is up to elected officials and the people of the United States to lead the world in having "an immigration system where people can move and have the rights and obligations of any member of society in the United States and actively participate in the life of the church," he said.
With more than 2 million people deported from the United States in the past six years -- one in four are separated from their families -- Archbishop Gomez said the church must help in advocating for legislation for a solid immigration system in the United States.