At the start of a voter survey being conducted on same-sex marriage in Australia, the country’s bishops have called for a month of prayer and fasting for the strengthening of marriage and the family.

In a video message for the Catholic Marriage and Family Council, Bishop Michael Kennedy of the Diocese of Armidale said that he invited the whole country to pray and fast for families and marriage during the month of October. “We pray and fast in a special way for our nation’s leaders, we pray that they will uphold God’s plan for marriage in our nation,” Bishop Kennedy said.

This week, the Australian government sent out a ballot survey by mail to voters, on whether they would want the country to redefine marriage to recognize gay unions. Voters are encouraged to return their ballots by Oct. 27, and the final deadline for ballots is Nov. 7.

In his message, Bishop Kennedy noted the great power of prayer and fasting, and invited people of all faiths to join in. “Our Scriptures and our Church’s history are full of so many examples of the miraculous results that can be achieved when a community pray and fast together,” he said.

The website for the Catholic Marriage and Family Council includes downloadable resources for parishes and families, including posters and prayers that can be said during the month. Each Sunday of October, a specific intention will be announced that the faithful will pray and fast for that week. The four intentions for the month include: “the flourishing of marriages and families in Australia, the strengthening of marriages and families in distress, the well-being of those experiencing same-sex attraction or gender uncertainty, and for our nation’s understanding of the importance of marriage: that we will act to protect God’s plan for marriage and family life.”

In August, Archbishop Tim Costelloe of Perth also issued a pastoral letter, reiterating the Church’s teaching on marriage. “I wish to state quite clearly that the Catholic Church, through its official teaching, cannot support proposals for the changing of the legal definition of marriage to include same-sex couples,” he wrote.

He wrote that this position is based on the Catholic belief that marriage is a beautiful union of a man and a woman for life, and the best way to raise children. These convictions rest on the belief that God’s “creative design is written into the nature of creation itself and especially into the nature of humanity,” he said.

Several bishops have joined him in defending the Church’s teaching in the media, while some other Catholic leaders at prestigious Australian boarding schools have weighed in with statements that appear to challenge the bishops and Catholic teaching. While not legally binding, if the survey shows a majority favor same-sex marriage, a bill legalizing same-sex marriages would be introduced in parliament, where members of parliament would not be bound to vote with the public.