The following is excerpted from All God’s People: Effective Catechesis in a Diverse Church by Donna Toliver Grimes.
As a catechetical leader, you are called to form not just children but entire families. Moving forward, your task is to equip and empower families to once again embrace their role as the domestic church: a place where faith takes root and is nurtured. What approaches does the twenty-first-century catechetical leader need to take to make this a reality? [We previously looked at five strategies. Today let’s look at six more.]
Like my friend’s son, who had no religious symbols in his home, many of the parents and families you minister to have no understanding of Catholic domestic traditions, such as displaying a crucifix, a Bible, or an image of Jesus or Mary in the home. You will need to teach families about such traditions and provide them with information about where they can acquire religious symbols for their home. Likewise, equip families with practical suggestions for integrating faith into daily living. For example, in his book Raising Faith-Filled Kids, Tom McGrath offers forty ways to foster prayer in the home. Some of his suggestions include “Say an Our Father whenever you start a long car trip,” or “Keep a prayer jar for special prayer intentions or requests,” or “Find out when a family member’s important meeting or test is and remember to pray at that time,” just to name a few.
Parents today need assistance just learning the ins and outs of parenting. It is less common today for extended families to live together under one roof or in the same building, as a built-in support system for new parents. Many parents are completely on their own with little or no knowledge of how to go about the task of parenting. More and more catechetical leaders are coming to see themselves as “coaches” for parents—providing them with the help they need to flourish as parents who can raise their children in mind, body, and spirit.
A crucial part of faith formation is the sharing of one’s faith. It is especially critical that children hear their parents talk about their faith. In all of your catechetical programming, be sure to make it a priority to always invite parents and children to engage with one another in sharing their faith and praying together. By facilitating family faith conversations, you can help families to develop a “religiosity” that perhaps has been missing from their lives.
Today’s society is obsessed with empirical data, while our Catholic faith is an invitation to encounter mystery. That requires a different form of expression, namely, ritual. One of the most powerful ways that families can develop their own religiosity is to establish and practice family rituals, such as saying grace before meals, blessing children at bedtime and as they leave for school, reading the Bible, lighting an Advent wreath during Advent, and so on.
In his book A Church on the Move: 52 Ways to Get Mission and Mercy in Motion, Joe Paprocki emphasizes the need not only to indoctrinate but also to instigate when it comes to our faith. In other words, we need to mobilize people into “armies” whose task is to provide corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Families should be encouraged to participate together in mercy experiences (i.e., service opportunities) so that they come to see selfless love as the heart of discipleship.
Perhaps one of the most powerful things you can do as a catechetical leader is to celebrate the many ways that families are growing in faith together. Take every opportunity to highlight families in your newsletter, on your bulletin board, and on your website and social-media sites. Post pictures of families in action, and invite them to witness to their faith by providing a few sentences about how a particular experience helped them to grow in faith.
—Excerpted from All God’s People: Effective Catechesis in a Diverse Church by Donna Toliver Grimes