I have a confession to make. I am a soccer mom. This week we will have soccer matches every night for four nights in a row. I am also a DRE and a Ministry Consultant, treasurer for the soccer organization and Saturday concession coordinator, and mother and general problem-solver for five children ranging from middle school to post-college struggling adult. I wear many hats, often simultaneously. I find life out of balance on many occasions and struggle to maintain my commitments. I notice the same is true for many of my colleagues in catechetical ministry, and it seems implausible to me that there are people in ministry who are not busy people. And yet we often find ourselves commiserating about the “problem” of busy families who don’t make it to parent meetings, or religious education classes, or even Sunday Mass. After all, we complain, where are their priorities?
Families come to us in all shapes and sizes, with varying levels of Catholic experience. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, both parents have been raised in devout practicing Catholic homes, attended Catholic schools and are conscientiously working to pass on the faith to their children. In my experience, these families are rare. Sometimes only one parent is Catholic. Sometimes parents aren’t quite sure what being Catholic means. Many parents need help figuring out how to be “Catholic parents.” They may not be familiar with many of the Catholic customs and traditions. There might not be a crucifix in every room in their home or a rosary in every car. They might not think they know how to pray.
Parents who don’t have a solid understanding of the faith can feel intimidated or embarrassed by their lack of formation.
Some parents may be struggling to understand a Church they haven’t attended in many years. What is our responsibility to the parents who come to us? It has long been a passion of mine to journey with these parents, easing their discomfort, guiding them to relearn and appreciate the Catholic heritage that has been handed down to us, by providing tools and resources that are manageable and doable within the context of a busy family life. Helping parents recognize the sacredness of a busy family life can lead to a desire to grow and know more. As ministers of the Church, we must let them know that it is O.K. to need help. That’s why we’re here.
Do we recognize our need to minister to and with parents where they are, not where we think they should be? How can we come up with new and creative ways to engage parents and help them grow in their faith?
This article is by Kathy Olenik Henry and was originally written in 2011. Now an Educational Consultant at Loyola Press, Kathy has been involved in the faith formation of children and adults for 20 years. She holds a Masters in Religious Education from Loyola University, New Orleans, and has served as a catechist, DRE, youth minister, and retreat director. She lives in Ohio with her husband and five sons.