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

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.

St. Jude New Lenox staff
(left to right) Denise Utter (Director of Faith Formation), Joe P., Papa Francesco, Katie Neu (Coordinator of Family Faith Formation), Robbie Anderson (Director of Family Faith Formation), and Berni Kacor (Office Assistant)

The St. Jude faith formation program has about 1200 children. In their Families Living Faith program, children in grades 1–6 and their families come together for an hour and a half session, once per month. In these sessions students are introduced to a unit of study by catechists in age-appropriate classrooms. At the same time, parents participate in exploring these same concepts through adult presentations and discussions. Parents then work on the unit theme with their children at home throughout the month.

Some months, parents are exposed to the latest research about kids at various ages and stages; other months parents are given ideas about how to unpack the lessons of the current unit using various resources, including media and technology. Every month, the theme and the methods may vary, but the friendships and the camaraderie continue to grow.

In addition to meeting once a month to explore the units of the faith formation curriculum, families are also expected to participate in the Explore Four program which involves the family in the life of the parish, with events that revolve around the four pillars of the Catechism (creed, sacraments, morality, prayer).

For the monthly Families Living Faith program, parents are expected to stay for each session and home lesson packets (which have the family name on the front page) are made available at each session. If for some reason a child or parent misses a session, parents are asked to attend another parent session during the same month in order to receive missed materials.

Here’s how the Families Living Faith program works.

  • Each month parents and children arrive at the St. Jude gym no earlier than 10 minutes prior to the beginning of their assigned session.
  • Once in the gym, parents sit at round tables, while children sit according to grade level on the bleachers.
  • Each session begins with an introduction and opening prayer in the gym, and then catechists lead students to their age-appropriate classrooms for grade-level instruction.
  • Adults remain in the gym for the adult session. At the end, parents are dismissed to the classrooms to pick up their children.

Families Living Faith is offered at the following times throughout the month. (Families sign up for a session time and attend that time throughout the year.)

Day/Session                              Time of Day

Sunday A                                   10:15–11:45 a.m.

Sunday B                                   10:15–11:45 a.m.

Tuesday A                                  5:30–7:00 p.m.

Tuesday B                                  6:00–7:30 p.m.

Wednesday A                            5:30–7:00 p.m.

Wednesday B                            6:00–7:30 p.m.

If you have any questions about this unique program, you can ask them below and I’ve invited the St. Jude faith formation staff to respond, or you can contact Katie Neu, the Coordinator of Family Faith Formation; Robbie Anderson, the Director of Family Faith Formation; or Denise Utter, Parish Director of Faith Formation.

Next week, I’ll follow up with even more details.

About Joe Paprocki 2737 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

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

  1. This looks wonderful! Please explain the ‘A’ and ‘B’ designations. Since the groups all require the gym and classrooms how do you have two sessions at the same (or overlapping) times? Are the Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday programs all the same content?

    • Joan, Sunday A and Sunday B are 2 different Sundays of the month. Yes, the programs have the same content which makes it possible for people who miss their regular session to come to another one as “make up.”

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