SOME relationships just seem to tread in shallow waters. But the Church is offering these couples and partners a wellspring of support systems, without watering down the need to tie the knot in a sacramental union.

Jacob’s Well, a Couple’s for Christ (CFC) ministry for couples in “irregular unions,” seek to guide live-in partners, and those in civil unions or legal separation, to a fully committed marital relationship and to active Church involvement.

Studies say non-marital unions by their unstable nature are more prone to break-ups; they are high-maintenance relationships. But the CFC knows too well some such unions are honest and sincere and may lead to deeper companionship.

“In Jacob’s Well, couples seek to regularize their relationship by pro-actively searching for a solution to their present situation,” said Dr. Jose Yamamoto, a member of the CFC International Council and a UST Hospital surgeon.

The ministry takes as its spirit Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman in the well at Sychar, Samaria, the same well named after the owner, the prophet Jacob. In John 4:7-26, Jesus asks the Samaritan woman about her husband. The woman replies she has none. Jesus tells her the answer was right, since she has had many men but no husband.

Like the Samaritan woman, couples in non-marital and extramarital affairs are given opportunities to experience Jesus’ concern and mercy through CFC programs.

Alarmed with the increasing number of couples in irregular unions worldwide, CFC founded Jacob’s Well in 1998 to help couples toward a more permanent and durable marital covenant. Since then, the ministry has attracted 300 members internationally, 20 of whom are overseas Filipino workers.

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According to CFC pastoral director Roquel Ponte, CFC had sought the advice of the late Jaime Cardinal Sin and several other bishops about Jacob’s Well. But the proposal did not meet Sin’s approval as this might give the impression that the Church was allowing non-marital unions.

But since Jacob’s Well is a ministry of the favored CFC, a number of bishops encouraged the group to go on and give couples the pastoral care they need as Catholics and lovers.

“Leaving these couples with a condemning air might make them turn away from their faith. We cannot turn our backs from them as much as Christ faced up with loving concern the Samaritan woman in the well,” Ponte said.

Testing the waters

Just like the other CFC ministries, the Jacob’s Well groups gather and hear Mass together.

“Basically, Jacob’s Well members go through the same formation programs CFC members undertake. The only exception is that they cannot become leaders of CFC,” Ponte told the Varsitarian.

Members go through a three-day marriage enrichment retreat where couples discuss, among others, Christian marriage, the role of husbands and wives, and the importance of communication in the success of marriage.

Jacob’s Well couples also hold weekly household meetings. Usually lasting for about two hours, the support system, developed by CFC, aims to strengthen the relationship of couples through group discussion, prayers, worship, and fellowship.

Since CFC believes in the sanctity and the insolubility of marriage, Jacob’s Well members are encouraged to finally marry in the Church and become full members of CFC.

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Although the Jacob’s Well ministry does not fall far from CFC, there are important distinctions between the two.

“We offer Jacob’s Well members non-sacramental means of experiencing God’s graces, since as Catholics, they are prevented from participating in living sacraments like Holy Communion,” Ponte explained.

Despite differences from CFC, Jacob’s Well promotes similar advocacy with its mother council. Aside from guiding couples through the Catholic way of family life and responsible parenthood, both ministries aim to protect and promote the sanctity of marriage.

For couples living in irregular unions, no drop of water can ever quench the thirst for acceptance. But with the Catholic Church reaching out to them, it could be a matter of all’s well that ends well. Camille G. Fallorina

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