Our journey into Finding God Family Catechesis at St. Barnabas Parish took its next step on Sunday, October 1, as we welcomed families to the first unit of study in Finding God, which focuses on God’s invitation and our response. Here is a summary of how things went:
- Once again, I arrived at 7:15 a.m. to set up my stuff for the 8 a.m. start. Patrick, the catechetical leader, had already seen to the set up in the room: tables and chairs, prayer table, podium, microphone and PA system, LCD projector and screen, and, of course, donuts!
- Patrick had prepared folders for each family with printouts of the Finding God At-Home Guide for Unit One. While parents can access the At-Home Guides online, we thought it’d be convenient and effective to print them out and place them in parents’ hands in person. Folders that weren’t picked up provided Patrick with a quick glance of who was absent so that he can follow up with them.
- Families arrived with energy (especially the kids, who darted straight for the donuts!) around 8 a.m., with some stragglers arriving by 8:10 a.m. We struggled with the eternal dilemma of choosing between beginning on time even though not everyone was there or waiting until everyone had arrived and sending the message that we don’t start on time.
- After a welcome and introduction from Patrick, I led opening prayer, once again inviting children to bring forward sacred objects to place on the prayer table. This is quickly becoming a treasured ritual for these gatherings.
- I then invited children and parents to talk to each other about an invitation they once received that made them very happy. After two minutes or so of sharing, I explained that the theme of the first unit of Finding God is “God’s Invitation and Our Response.”
- At 8:30 a.m., Patrick called forth the catechists and children and led them to the school building for their first session together while the parents remained with Deacon Andy and me. Patrick led the children and catechists, with one of the children holding up a Book of the Gospels as they processed to the school building. Last year, when Loyola Press was moving our offices and finding new homes for a lot of stuff, I grabbed a Book of the Gospels, thinking that it might come in handy some day! I commented to Patrick, “Doesn’t every normal guy on the southside of Chicago have an extra Book of the Gospels lying around in his basement?”
- The focus of the parent session (8:40–9:40 a.m.) was on becoming more aware of—and helping our children become more aware of—the many ways that God is inviting us to draw closer to him, in good times and bad. The parents appeared to really enjoy the two opportunities for table discussion as they first shared about a time it felt like they were in “exile” and that God was far away and later about an experience that reminded them of God’s presence and invitation. Above is a picture of parents in discussion with one another. They seemed to have no trouble sharing with one another. Next time, Deacon Andy and I will quietly join some of the table discussions, but we didn’t want to intimidate anyone this early on with our presence at the table!
- We talked about how, as Catholics, we use sacramentals as reminders of God’s presence and invitation and shared ways to display, use, and integrate sacramentals, such as a Bible, bowl of holy water, or crucifix, in their homes to remind their children of God’s presence.
- After a closing prayer, I walked parents through their folders and pointed out the At-Home Guides and gave a few more suggestions and encouragement for the lessons they will be doing with their children at home until our next session on October 29.
- The kids came back at 9:40, grabbed the remaining donuts, and reunited with their parents before folks gradually left. (Many folks hung around to socialize.)
Overall, the session was very good, although we felt that there was an unusually large number of absent families. Patrick is committed to reaching out to folks to gently remind them of the importance of attending these sessions. I reminded him that such gentle reminders and encouragement are part of the parish’s evangelization efforts and that it boils down to telling people that they were missed.
The theme of our next session, on Unit 2 of Finding God, will be “To Whom Can I Turn? Jesus: Fully Human, Fully Divine.”
I look forward to talking to parents and inviting them to share with one another about how their home sessions are going. I plan to ask if any parents will be willing to be interviewed about the experience for posts on Catechist’s Journey and if any parents might invite me into their home to observe the experience firsthand.