Family Catechesis at St. Barnabas: Parents Talk About How Home Sessions Are Going

family catechesis pageant announcement being made
Here is a picture of the two ladies talking to the families about the Christmas pageant.

Yesterday marked the first time that we gathered for family catechesis after the parents have had a month to do faith formation sessions at home with their children. It was also the day that we introduced the Finding God unit on Jesus. Here is a summary of the proceedings.

  • Attendance was very good this month; we even picked up a few new families!
  • After our opening prayer ritual (setting up the prayer center with sacred objects), I introduced the day’s theme: Whom Can I Turn To? Jesus, Fully Human, Fully Divine. We played a round of “Name That Tune.” I played the theme song from the movie Ghostbusters, which the kids guessed about three seconds into the song! I emphasized the question, “Who you gonna call?” and talked about how we call on others to tackle problems that are beyond our own ability to repair. Families chatted briefly about recent experiences when they had to call a plumber, an electrician, an auto mechanic, or a dentist. We then talked about who we can turn to when we are broken and in need of repair, with the answer being, “Jesus!”
  • We then sent the children off with their catechists for their first lesson from the Jesus unit of Finding God.
  • Before jumping back into the Jesus topic, Deacon Andy and I asked the parents to talk at their tables about how things went this past month as they began doing sessions with their children. Overall, folks seem to be doing well, and they were, for the most part, just sharing observations. Here is some of what we heard:
    • Parents really want this experience to be special and not feel like homework or schoolwork, so they are making sure that things are “right” for their sessions. In other words, if it’s not the right time (parents and/or children are stressed or worn out), they don’t force it, but instead, wait for another day.
    • Kids are enjoying the review games, and parents especially like the fact that when they don’t know the answer, the game provides a hint for where they can look in the children’s book for the information. They like that the assessment experience is not about earning a score or a grade but about learning and reviewing what was learned.
    • Parents are still learning that they are to e-mail results of the chapter reviews to Patrick, the catechetical leader, not because he is keeping a grade book, but as a way of informing him that sessions are taking place and progress is being made.
    • One table of parents discussed how many of the concepts being taught, such as the Holy Spirit, are abstract and that the challenge they face is finding words to help the children understand. This provided us with the opportunity to talk about the essence of mystery and how, as Catholics, we use sacramentals (signs, symbols, and rituals) to make visible or more concrete that which is invisible or abstract.
    • One parent expressed thanks that the Finding God children’s book was written in a way that her child could understand, as opposed to the materials they used last year, which her child struggled with.
    • A number of parents were very interested in the art prints that are mentioned in the children’s book and At-Home Guides and how they like connecting sacred art with the topics. Since parents themselves do not have the art print easels, they appreciated the links provided in the book so they could locate the images online and invite their children to look at them and reflect.
    • A new family wanted to know if they had to go back and complete the chapters they missed on top of completing this month’s chapters. I told them not to feel pressure and to use their judgment; the last thing we would want is for the family to feel overwhelmed right off the bat as they begin their journey into family catechesis. I explained that it was most important to get into a regular pattern rather than trying to “cram.” They looked immensely relieved!
    • It was a joy to watch the parents eagerly talk to each other and to move to another table (without prompting!) if they were alone at a table after the kids left. They really enjoy talking to each other, which is a major component of the family catechesis program: building community.
  • After that robust conversation, we delved into our topic of Jesus with an emphasis on Jesus as fully human and fully divine.
  • We invited parents to talk about challenges that their children face and how it can help their children to know that Jesus is fully human and fully divine. As fully human, Jesus is approachable; as fully divine, Jesus can save us.
  • The children were brought back about 15 minutes early—which meant that we shortened our adult session by 15 minutes—so that Patrick could invite families to consider participating in a Christmas pageant. He arranged for two ladies from the parish to come in and talk to the families about the pageant, which is really more of a concert and sing-along (no costumes or nativity plays). These two ladies have experience in theater and music and immediately captured the imaginations of the children and their parents as they spontaneously broke into song as part of their overview! The parents and kids looked excited, and a long line formed to sign up for the event, which includes a couple of one-hour rehearsals. I’ve no doubt that the families felt special, because the parish was inviting them (families with children in public school) to participate in a special Christmas event designed just for them. As we know, families with children in public schools can sometimes feel left out of parish events that center solely on the parish school.
  • Our next session takes place on Sunday, December 3, with a focus on Advent and Christmas: Whom Can I Count On? God’s Promise: The Covenant.
About Joe Paprocki 2741 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.

4 Comments on Family Catechesis at St. Barnabas: Parents Talk About How Home Sessions Are Going

  1. Joe – I do not see the links for the Art Prints in our Finding God book for Grade 5. Can you tell me where they are located in the book?
    Thanks so much,
    Mary Kim McCormic

  2. I admire and pray for continued success for your efforts to engage parents in total family faith formation! It is quite a paradigm shift for our Church!

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