More About Families Living Faith at St. Jude, New Lenox

Last week, I told you about the innovative faith formation program, Families Living Faith, at St. Jude Parish in New Lenox, IL. Today, I’d like to provide a few more details, background, and observations about this unique approach that takes seriously the role of parents as their child’s first catechist.

  • “Getting there” was not easy and required a great deal of planning. listening, and trial and error over a number of years.
  • The parish first attempted to move from a traditional weekly religious education program to a blended program involving weekly RE sessions for kids as well as monthly intergenerational gatherings. This was found to be incredibly taxing on all involved.
  • The parish then took several years to research and listen before launching the Families Living Faith program. This required educating parents, families, and the parish about this new approach and, even so, a not-insignificant number of families chose to leave the program.
  • Fr Don LewandowskiThe pastor, Fr. Don Lewandowski, is totally committed to the program/approach and was willing to take the risk of some people being unhappy/leaving.
  • The entire staff recognizes that the success of this approach requires a huge “letting go” in order to trust that parents are indeed working with their kids at home on their lessons. They feel, however, that the present traditional structure of RE also has huge risks involved—namely, trusting that what we teach kids will “stick” with little or no parental involvement.
  • The approach takes seriously the concept of the “parish as the curriculum,” which is described in the Church document, Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us. (118) To that end, in addition to the monthly gatherings and the at-home lessons, families are required to participate in the Explore Four component of the program to form families through participation in the life of the parish. Families are expected to explore four (or more) life of the parish events that support faith formation in the areas of the four pillars of our Catholic faith: Creed, Sacraments, Moral Life, and Prayer. Participation in these events is recorded with the Explore Four Reflection Form developed by the faith formation team. Likewise, parents are also encouraged to turn in a Monthly Mass Reflection in order to help families connect Mass and daily living.
  • Obviously, there is significant record-keeping and administrative work involved in this approach. These are ably handled by the program assistant, Berni Kacor.
  • The staff is not sure if the Families Living Faith format has had an impact on overall Sunday Mass attendance for families involved in the program. Anecdotally, they would like to be able to say that it has, but they have not done any formal assessment in this area to back that up.

In my own opinion, this approach warrants a great deal of attention and study. Yes, there are risks involved (losing families to parishes with traditional programs; trusting that parents are working with their kids on lessons at home, etc.) however, the traditional structure/format in place for RE has significant flaws, the greatest of which is the lack of parental involvement. If we are to take seriously the following principles:

  • Parents are their child’s primary catechist.
  • The parish is the curriculum.
  • Adult faith formation is the primary form of catechesis.

…then approaches such as St. Jude’s Families Living Faith program are to be applauded and watched closely.

How Are Your Lessons Calling People to Repent?

A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer by Jim Manney book cover

This Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 1:14–20) invites us to hear the first words out of Jesus’ mouth as he begins his public ministry: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” One of the reasons that we find this passage difficult to take to heart is […]

Continue reading...

Promoting Catholic Identity, Part 4: A Reverence for Scripture and Tradition

This is the fourth article in a series on the five characteristics of Catholic identity and how we can nurture those in our children. An important part in developing our Catholic identity is fostering a deep appreciation for the source of the knowledge of our faith. The Catholic Church recognizes that God’s Revelation comes to […]

Continue reading...

Reaching Parents on the Margins of Parish Life

family illustration

A catechist friend of mine recently commented that there was a general attitude among parents. She called it the “drag-drive-drop” mentality: parents dragged their children into the car, drove them to the faith formation center, and dropped them off at class! While not true in every parish, the question of how we reach parents who […]

Continue reading...

Evangelization and Joy-Filled Witness

joyful children

One of the pastoral recommendations provided during the 2012–2013 Year of Faith jumped off the page for me: The Year of Faith is intended to contribute to a renewed conversion to the Lord Jesus and to the rediscovery of faith, so that the members of the Church will be credible and joy-filled witnesses to the […]

Continue reading...

Parents Come First at St. Jude in New Lenox, IL

ST. Jude New Lenox

I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with the faith formation staff at St. Jude Parish in New Lenox, IL, to get some insights into their Families Living Faith program: an approach to faith formation that takes seriously the Church’s call to make adult catechesis primary. The St. Jude faith formation program has […]

Continue reading...

Adaptive Finding God Is Here

Finding God Adaptive Program

Parents of children with special needs desire with all their hearts to help their children enter fully into the faith experience, prepare for the sacraments, and live their lives as participating members of the Catholic Church. Loyola Press is proud to help make this a reality by providing the Adaptive Finding God Program! Adaptive Finding […]

Continue reading...

The Spiritual Life of Catechists, Part 7: Devotion to Mary and the Eucharist

Mary and Baby Jesus

This is the seventh and final article in a series about the spiritual life of catechists, inspired by the list of characteristics in the National Directory for Catechesis. Did you know that the Virgin Mary is known as “mother and model of catechists?” Catechists are called to a special devotion to her because “[t]hrough her […]

Continue reading...

Themes for the Classroom

Classroom theme displayed: Third Graders for Others

With each new class of students I teach, I always have the same classroom theme. Having a theme has been a worthwhile and unifying activity. I have adapted this theme from a speech given by Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, in 1973. Fr. Arrupe’s speech was called Men for Others. Our theme is Third Graders for Others. My […]

Continue reading...

What Can We Do? Action Steps for Moments of Return


Moments of return for Catholic young adults are moments that hold the potential for evangelization and outreach. Below are practical strategies for strengthening important moments in young adults’ lives. Welcome and Celebrate Young Adults From the minute a young adult stands in front of us at our parishes we should be celebrating the fact that […]

Continue reading...