Note: The following text is intended to give a basic overview of the convalidation process. Because every couple’s situation is unique and because practices related to the implementation of the process may vary from diocese to diocese, persons interested in pursuing a convalidation and/or a declaration of nullity should speak with their parish priest or a professional at the local Tribunal.
“It is the presence of the Lord, who reveals Himself and the gift of His grace, that will render your marriage full and profoundly true.” – Pope Francis
Is my Marriage Recognized by the Church?
Like other couples in your parish or family, you may be wondering if your marriage is fully recognized by the Catholic Church. Catholic Church law ordinarily requires baptized Roman Catholics to marry before a priest or deacon. Unless they received a “dispensation from canonical form,” Catholics who exchange vows in the presence of ministers from other religious traditions or civil officials are not considered validly married in the eyes of the Catholic Church.
Regardless of what happened in the past, the Catholic Church invites you to bring new meaning to your lives by embracing the vocation of marriage and dedicating your family’s mission to sharing God’s love.
Why Marry Catholic?
Catholic Marriage is unique among other marital relationships because it is a sacrament that makes Christ present in our world. The relationship between husband and wife mirrors the relationship of Jesus Christ for his people. In the Catholic tradition, husband and wife accept a role in God’s plan for humanity. They are ambassadors of God’s love, and they collaborate with God to keep humanity alive.
The vows exchanged by the couple are a sacred pact through which the spouses embrace each other, and, together, embrace Jesus as their partner. Through their union with Christ they participate in the unbreakable pact between God and humanity: the covenant that was sealed in the death and resurrection of Christ.
Benefits of Catholic Marriage
One of the many benefits of a sacramental marriage is the power of God’s grace, which helps couples keep their commitment and find happiness together. Social scientists are finding that couples who recognize God’s presence in their relationship experience more satisfaction and are more likely to achieve lifelong marriage.
All in all, couples who choose to bring their marriage into the Church receive many gifts – peace of heart, oneness with the Church, the fullness of the sacraments, and God’s special blessing upon their marriage.
What if there is a Prior Marriage?
In the simplest terms, if a Catholic wishes to marry in the Church when there has been a previous marriage for either party, the partner in the earlier union must have died or the Church must have issued a declaration of nullity (frequently called an annulment) of the previous marriage.
The Catholic Church views all true marriages with respect. It presumes that they are valid. Thus, it considers the marriage of two Protestant, Jewish or even non-believing persons, any of whom marry according to their own tradition, to be binding in the eyes of God. Consequently, a tribunal process is required to establish that an essential ingredient in the relationship was missing from the start of the previous marriage. If this is you, please call Cecilia Jones, the Coordinator of Family Life here at SEAS and she will visit with you about your specific situation and how best to move forward. You can reach her at 972-596-5505 ext. 4222.
For Catholics with a prior marriage outside the Church, the declaration of nullity is based on what is called a “lack of canonical form.” For Catholics with a prior “valid” marriage, the tribunal process is termed a “formal case.” Catholics should consult with their pastor if a declaration of nullity is needed.
If either of you have been married before we need to talk about annulments; there are many different types of annulments. Please call Cecilia Jones the Coordinator of Family Life at 972-596-5505 ext. 4222 to talk about your specific situation.Steps toward Convalidation:
- Contact Sonia Moran in the Parish Office at 972-596-5505 ext. 4221. She is the assistant to the Priests here at SEAS She will obtain contact information from you and speak with you about the documentation we will need and set an appointment for you to meet with the priest that you would like to serve as your celebrant. Once you've met with Father you can place a date on the Church's calendar.
- Obtain a new copy of the baptismal certificate for the Catholic party (or parties). The original will not work. We need a current certificate dated within 6 months will all notations listed. Notations are all sacraments you've received in the Church. In the Catholic Church your Churcy of Baptism becomes your Church of Record and where all your sacramental records are kept. You simply call the Church where you were baptized, tell them your getting married an need a current certificate WITH NOTATIONS. If the parish no longer exists or baptismal records are unavailable, contact the Chancery office of that Catholic diocese for assistance.
- Begin collecting the necessary paperwork for the Pre-Nuptial Investigation. You will also complete a prenuptial questionnaire with Father.
- The Catholic parties current baptismal certificate with notations
- a copy of the non-Catholic Baptismal certificate. It does NOT have to be updated. If you no longer have that certificate and the Church doesn't exist we can use an Affidavit of Baptism for you. Please speak with Sonia or Cecilia Jones about this.
- An Affidavit of Free Status for each of you, Sonia will give this to you. It is an Affidavit that a parent, older sibling or someone who has known you since you were 16 years old completes for you.
- We will need a copy of your civil marriage license.
- if either of you ahve been married before and completed the annulment process we will need a copy of the final decree. If your prior spouse is deceased we will need a copy of that death certificate.
- A copy of the Certificate of Completion for the preparation class. (Living Your Marriage as a Sacrament).
- Participate in formational session of the Diocese called Living Your Marriage as a Sacrament, a one day session. You will be given a certificate of completion and we'll need a copy of that.
- If there is a prior marriage for either party, contact Cecilia Jones, the Coordinator of Family Life at 972-596-5505 ext. 4222 and she will visit with you about your specific situation.
- Determine the date and most suitable type of ceremony. For two Catholics, a nuptial Mass is suggested so that the first meal shared by the couple is the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith. Plan a joyful get-together that will follow the liturgical service to celebrate the Church’s recognition of your marriage.
- Celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation and become actively involved together in your parish community.