Family Catechesis at St. Barnabas: Introducing Advent and Christmas

Advent wreath

Recently, we held our monthly Finding God Family Catechesis gathering at St. Barnabas to introduce the seasons of Advent and Christmas. Here is a summary of how things went.

  • Attendance was good once again. It appears that families are getting into a groove as the year progresses.
  • The families, especially the children, arrive with good energy and enthusiasm, and the space where we gather is always prepared by Patrick, the catechetical leader, to be warm and welcoming with coffee, juice, donuts, and music playing courtesy of my playlist and Bluetooth speaker!
  • It was a very busy day at the parish, and so there was a lot of bumping into one another as parish volunteers and staff were politely jockeying for supplies, equipment, furniture, etc. We had to scramble to find a table for our prayer center since the one that we had been using turned out to be a stage platform for the school play, which is now done and packed away!
  • I was personally scrambling for a couple of reasons. First, my wife and I had an overnight with our four grandchildren (all under the age of five), which, while wonderful, was chaotic and exhausting! Second, my usual partner for these presentations, Deacon Andy, was unavailable since he was coordinating the kickoff of the parish’s next book club session. So, in essence, after the opening prayer, an icebreaker, and the exit of the children and their catechists for their lessons, I was flying solo with the parents. While it worked out fine, I missed the back-and-forth with Deacon Andy, especially the great stories he shares in his segments, as well as the chance to catch my breath every 10 minutes or so when he takes the mic!
  • Our opening prayer ritual of setting up the prayer center included an Advent wreath and a purple prayer cloth.
  • Our focus for the parent session was on introducing Advent and Christmas with an emphasis on how God kept his promise by sending us a savior. In essence, the session was an overview of the concept of covenant.
    • The icebreaker, before the children and catechists departed for their sessions, invited families to recall experiences of making promises and how, as imperfect human beings, we sometimes fail to keep our promises. God, however, has always remained faithful to his promise, and Christmas is the season during which we celebrate the fulfillment of that promise in the birth of Jesus.
    • With the parents, we briefly explored the meaning of the word covenant and traced the theme of covenant through the Old Testament.
    • From there, we shifted to focusing on Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promise and then to the seasons of Advent and Christmas, with the majority of our time spent on understanding the season of Advent.
    • In particular, we focused on the notion of the light (hope) dispelling the darkness (despair) and how we are called and sent to bring light and hope to others in despair.
    • We talked about how families can enter into Advent at home:
      • lighting an Advent wreath at meals (The parish was hosting an Advent wreath-making session later that morning!)
      • assembling a Jesse tree
      • Advent calendars (and, yes, we talked about the popularity of Advent calendars in the secular world including, according to one of the parents, a Barbie Advent calendar!)
      • family service experiences
      • watching/listening at Mass for the message of the prophets, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and other Advent songs, and the liturgical color of purple
  • The parents then engaged in delightful table conversations about a time when someone brought light into their lives at a time of darkness and/or how they brought light to someone else.
  • We concluded by praying the O Antiphons.
  • As we awaited the return of the children, I finally got a chance to share with the parents that I am blogging about our experience here on Catechist’s Journey, and I invited them to consider if a few of them might invite me into their homes to observe them in action as they do lessons at home with their children. I told them I’ll revisit the idea next month and will have a sign-up sheet. Fingers crossed!
  • After Mass, on my way out, the pastor, Fr. Jim Donovan (who was present for the first half-hour of the gathering), personally thanked me and told me that he thinks the parents are really feeling good about this experience, which meant a lot to me. At one of our upcoming monthly sessions, I’m going to design the schedule to have Fr. Jim deliver a segment. I know it will mean a lot to the parents to have their pastor personally spending time with them on this faith journey.

As always, click here for more information about Finding God Family Catechesis, or contact your Loyola Press Educational Consultant.

About Joe Paprocki 2742 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

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