Family Catechesis Catechists Teaching Once Per Month: What’s That Like?

reader feedback

In many family catechesis programs, such as the one I’m participating in at St. Barnabas Parish in Chicago, the parish catechists are limited to leading sessions with children once per month while parents complete the remaining sessions of a unit with their children at home. This, of course, is very different from the traditional practice of parish catechists leading sessions on a weekly basis. At the same time, it accomplishes what many catechists have been yearning for: greater involvement of parents in their children’s faith formation.

So what is it like leading sessions once per month? What are the pros and cons? What is your experience?

Please share your thoughts below in the “Leave a Reply” box. I look forward to hearing about your experiences!

About Joe Paprocki 2748 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.

20 Comments on Family Catechesis Catechists Teaching Once Per Month: What’s That Like?

  1. I’ve been a catechist in the monthly Family Faith sessions in both my home parish and the neighboring parishes as both started Family Faith programs. I also continue in both parishes as a catechist in ‘traditional’ weekly classes. In both parishes, parents have the option to choose the weekly catechist-led program or the family faith parent-led. My experience is that a high percentage of the families who choose the family faith option are the ones who are already conscientious in forming their children in the faith at home. Those children come to my Sunday session with more faith backgrounds. I’m primarily a 2nd-grade catechist preparing children for First Penance and First Holy Communion. As one indicator of previous faith formation, at least half of my students in a typical weekly class do not know Jesus is God, and can not pray a Sign of the Cross, no less any other basic prayer such as the Lord’s Prayer. Another plus to family faith is having children on Sunday vs after a long day of school. On the whole, I find the children in my Sunday family faith sessions much more happy to be there. The Sunday sessions (I just had one yesterday) have a different feeling. I don’t get children asking ‘when will we be done’. Also, in both parishes, our Sunday sessions are after Mass, so the children have already entered into prayer. I could go on and on. 🙂

  2. I love the concept of family catechesis, but I think the reality is a little bit of a mix bag of good and bad. I have seen it work at larger parishes in my diocese that could offer both traditional catechesis class or the family catechesis. However, I work at a smaller parish so we could only offer one or another. During Covid we did go to a family catechesis model using Family Faith, which started off great, the families were excited and loved the monthly sessions, but as the year went on participation became less and less. Now I do know Covid year was a factor, families were trying to balance a lot and this was just one more thing to juggle on their plate. I would definitely give it another chance, but it is a program that the families need to be invested in, otherwise we are going to have a lot of children slip through the cracks.

  3. Hi Joe,
    This is my third year as a catechist, all three in the Family Catechesis monthly program using the Loyola Press Finding God series. I’ve seen mixed results with this program. There are certainly families who take it more seriously and ensure the children are truly learning. There are other families, however, who I suspect have chosen this as the “easier” of the options. I’d like to think that there is more faith formation going on at home, but I’m not seeing it in terms of the what the children know and understand when they are with me. As a result, I’d love to add some options for enrichment sessions with the children maybe once per “semester”. It would be great to identify some topics that my fifth graders might find very interesting and have them come to the church hall for pizza and low-key catechesis (maybe something on the saints, rosary, learning to read the Bible, special session on the Mass – there’s so much you could do). I get very sad when I see how much they don’t know.

  4. I’ve done it both ways and I think there are some amazing ways to implement family style that I’ve seen in other parishes. One parish in our diocese has a “parish-wide” dinner where they had 700 people show for spaghetti before class. A great way to show kids you support them.
    In the two places I’ve been however, it hasn’t worked in a way I found effective. It was harder to connect with the kids when it was only once a month. Many parents “only” had to miss these three classes for a sport. In the end, we had a situation where folks were going to bring food but, with only three families attending consistently (out of 10), it was difficult even to plan that. We don’t have that option this year.

  5. Being the DRE is not the same as being the teacher. I do, however, know that the previous comments are all “correct”. There are pros and cons to both. The biggest con being that, in many cases, it does appear to be the “easy” option and nothing further happens once they leave. On the other hand, those attending weekly often do not open their book bags or books once they get in the car – the bag stays there all week.
    I believe parents have to be invested in both options or it is just a check box to receive the sacraments or to say they’ve been there.
    Fortunately, we offer both and have excellent participation in both. We are most grateful for our catechists in both areas and they bring the children along and care for them in whichever program they participate. The families, too, are grateful we meet their needs, whichever program they choose.
    One other point, we do discourage the Family Faith monthly in grades 1 and 2 due to sacrament preparation. It is offered, just discouraged.

  6. As the DRE for many years, I began the Family Catechesis option along with weekly and summer sessions. I taught the family session once a month for many years and continue to do so now that I am retired. I absolutely love the family sessions as I see so many parents learning right along with their children. It’s a great opportunity for families in the parish to get to know each other and that only helps to develop community. I try to incorporate a lot of the Liturgical year happenings as well as what the students read in their books. We also have the opportunity to do service work together, pray the Stations of the Cross together, have the older students help the younger ones. Attendance is really good and if a family can’t attend a session, I make sure to give them ideas from my lesson to do at home. For me, it’s a win, win option for growing the faith of these families.

  7. Plain and simple from my perspective as a former DRE and current 5th Grade Catechist for over 32 years. I’ve seen all kinds of programs come and go. But mostly the weekly program is the most successful.
    A monthly program is not going to work in our environment here in Alaska. Too many “temptations” “distractions” or excuses to skip a once a month session depending on the season of the year. Spring/Summer hunting, camping, fishing, sports. Fall/Winter sports, vacation travel, etc…
    The success of a weekly program exists because there is a very palpable rhythm for kids attending a weekly session. And the parents are “relieved” to have a trained person doing the teaching that they don’t feel equipped to do. It’s almost “expected” that our parish provide this service of education for the kids and service of respite for the parents.
    If there were training sessions for parents. If there was a curriculum akin to a home school curriculum to guide parents. It might fly for a little while. But our environment thwarts non-mandatory faith formations.
    It’s hard enough to get them here weekly. Monthly would be a slow death.
    And then the question of who will be going to keep track of the families to see if they are actually participating and accomplishing the monthly sessions?
    Will there be visitations to check progress? By whom? Monthly surveys/exams to test knowledge levels? Another set of nails in the coffin of a monthly program.
    And then when the student does attend the monthly session, I suspect there will be a grand amount of “catching up” because parents will not invest in at home instruction. They will just wait until the “Super Saturday” for their kids to catch up. So we Catechists will be doing four weeks worth of teaching in an hour, two hours, a day? Again, here the monthly program would die a slow death with much criticism along the way.
    Weekly programs work best here.
    Not saying that someday through the intercession of the Holy Spirit and saintly educators that it could work. But today, I’m super skeptical.
    God Bless.

  8. I am interested in starting a Family Catechesis option at our parish. Since we already use Finding God in our traditional classroom setting, this would be the natural curriculum for us to use. I am so glad it is an available option!
    I appreciate all the feed back given by those currently implementing a family model.
    Are the home materials split up by grade- meaning the parents are supposed to be working with each child individually? Or do the materials lend themselves to be able to work together as a family on the lesson?
    Thank you for all the guidance!

    • Hi Heidi and thanks for sharing about your plans to start family catechesis using Finding God. The materials (At-Home Guide) are by grade level and designed to be used with each child individually. HOWEVER, knowing that this can be very taxing on parents with multiple children, we devised a handout that enables parents to work together as a family on lessons. file:///C:/Users/paprocki/Downloads/FindingGod-FamilyCatechesisGuide.pdf. I hope this is helpful!

  9. I have been a Catechist since 1969 and have used most of the Text Books and the latest during the pandemic, the use of Pflaum via zoom.

    There is great value to children sharing the faith development at home….aren’t they doing this any way?

    There is also great value in sharing this learning experience with classmates and adults that share their faith.

    Faith is CAUGHT …not TAUGHT!

    If we depend on one monthly gathering (hopefully the child doesn’t get sick and will miss 8 weeks) and the parents covering four weeks of worksheets, with multiple children in the family of different age levels, and not cram it all in the night before the monthly meeting…….IT WOULD BE AMAZING! ☺️. 🙏🏻

    • Thanks for your comments Virginia. Indeed, amazing things can and will happen if we all work together to form children in faith!

  10. This is the first year our small town parish is offering the Family Catechesis for those opting for it. We have a very small number of students of 3 grade levels (6,7,8) that come together in one class. It works nicely but with the family gathering at the first part of the session & then taking the students into a separate session while our DRE has a parent session, we find there is not very much time to accomplish a lot. The two sessions only total an hour & 15 minutes, so, we typically only have about 45 minutes alone with the students. Also, we meet on a Sunday morning, a day on which most families are eager to be doing some activity other than faith formation. (I’d really prefer teaching a class every week.) But, this is just the first year. Maybe we will make some type of adjustments next year once we evaluate the program.

    • Thanks for sharing, Janice. It is imperative that we make adjustments along the way so as to best serve our families!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*