The Parent Panel for Parent Meetings

child with parents on First Eucharist Day

A few years ago, I posted about an approach I’ve been taking for parent sacramental prep meetings, particularly First Eucharist. Basically, I’ve been asking the catechetical leader to recruit four or five parents from the previous year’s First Eucharist class to form a panel that I can interview about their experience of bringing their children to the sacraments. I have had nothing but great success with this format as these parents eagerly give witness to their own faith and the noble task of forming their children in the Catholic faith.

Recently, I facilitated this format once again, at St. Cajetan Parish on the Southside of Chicago, and two things occurred that are worth reporting.

  1. After I spoke to the parents about a variety of ways they can support their children in embracing their faith, and after they listened to the panel, a handful of parents came up front to chat with me and to peruse my books, which I encouraged them to read to nurture their own faith. A young couple greeted me and the dad said, “We’re those parents who show up on Christmas and Easter, but that’s gotta change. We heard a lot tonight about what parents need to do to help their kids grow in faith, and we’re going to take more responsibility. We’re spending all this money on tuition and not doing our part as parents to teach our kids about the Catholic faith. Thanks for all your help!”
  2. The next day, the catechetical leader, Deb Breakey, sent me the following e-mail, which one of the parents on the panel had received and shared: “Thanks for speaking tonight. A lot of what you said resonated with me. You are a great person. You might not realize it, but you make me want to be a better person. Thank you for coming tonight. You brought a tear to my eye.” Deb added that the parent on the panel who received this affirming e-mail confessed that she herself felt she had been “a little off-track” recently with her own parenting. She realized that, “Being on this panel was put on my plate for more than one reason, and I need to refocus on the virtues.”

So, not only do the parents in the “audience” receive the inspiration that they need to bring their children to First Eucharist, but the people invited to share on the parent panel are challenged themselves to focus on their ongoing responsibilities as parents forming their children in faith. This is just another reminder that children’s faith formation is not only about the children but is, in reality, about the adults who are bringing them to this moment.

About Joe Paprocki 2155 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.

2 Comments on The Parent Panel for Parent Meetings

  1. Hi Joe! I would love to try this parent panel, but the parents that I thought would be perfect for the panel turned me down. They said they weren’t comfortable sharing their faith in that manner. Not sure if peer pressure is really tough in our area, but, (I know this sounds obvious)do you have any tips of what to look for in people to be witnesses?

    • Hi Judy, it’s frustrating when people turn us down and yet, it is understandable since many Catholics are not accustomed to sharing their faith with others. Did you show them the questions as part of your invitation? The questions really just ask them to share their experience and tell their story. It might help to share the questions and invite them to think about the invitation instead of looking for a response on the spot. If you already followed these steps, perhaps you can frame it in such a way as to describe it as a discussion panel where parents will share their experiences of going through their child’s First Communion…maybe that would be less intimidating than calling it a faith panel. Keep trying…if you can lock in ONE parent, then you can tell others that “so-and-so is doing it!” Perhaps the pastor can help with the invitations/recruitment of panel members?

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