This is a true scenario about people I know personally.
Child A: Her parents were not practicing Catholics (both were baptized Catholic but did not attend Church). Her father was an alcoholic and was abusive toward her mother. She attended public school (both grammar school and high school) and was not enrolled in any form of religious education throughout her childhood. There was no prayer at home and no effort to teach any form of faith. She received no sacraments until the age of 12.
Child B: His parents were both practicing Catholics and they faithfully attended Sunday Mass as a family. He went to Catholic grade school for 4 years and then public school and religious education classes until 8th grade, followed by Catholic high school. The family ate meals together and prayed together daily. They participated in service projects as a family on occasion. He was baptized as an infant, received Penance and Eucharist in 2nd grade, and Confirmation in 8th grade. The family relationship remains healthy and loving to this day.
Take one guess as to which child, now an adult, is practicing the Catholic faith (attends Mass regularly, prays daily, is involved in service to others in and through the parish community). If you guessed Child A, you are right! How did this happen? God alone knows. Does it prove anything? No more than the smoker who lives until the age of 95 proves that there’s nothing wrong with smoking! However, it does prove that the power of the Holy Spirit is beyond our understanding and WAY beyond our control!
I share this scenario with catechists who grow frustrated at the lack of parental involvement in religious education and feel that their own efforts as catechists are futile when nothing is being reinforced in the home. Of course we need to explore more effective models of faith formation that call parents to their rightful role and responsibility as the primary catechists of their children. At the same time, however, we catechists must never doubt the impact that our presence has and can have on the lives of those we teach as long as we are authentic and faithful models of discipleship. We may very well be the only authentic Christian model for a “Child A” in our class!