Family Catechesis: Reporting from Inside the Home

I was a “fly on the wall” observing a mom lead her son through a Finding God faith formation session at home.

Recently, I had the privilege and pleasure of being invited into the home of a family to observe a mom working with her third-grade son on a Finding God faith formation lesson! I’m excited to share my observations of this wonderful experience.

  • Mrs. K. is participating in the Finding God family catechesis program at St. Barnabas Parish. As regular readers know, I have been volunteering there this year to lead the monthly parent sessions. Mrs. K. graciously responded to my request to be invited into a family’s home to watch a home session in action.
  • I arrived at 6:30 p.m. and was greeted at the door by Mrs. K., who immediately introduced me to her very outgoing son, Joseph, a third-grader at the local public school. Joseph cordially welcomed me, and the three of us sat down at the dining room table that had been cleared off to make room for Joseph’s Finding God children’s book and Mrs. K.’s laptop, which she told me she gets ready for the online assessment and review game at the end of the session.
  • Mrs. K. explained to Joseph the reason that I was joining them, explaining that when he’s at school, he sometimes sees people like the principal attend a class to observe the teacher in action, and that’s what Mr. Paprocki was doing that evening. Joseph was very comfortable with this, and I told him to think of me as a “fly on the wall” and pay no attention to me.
  • Mrs. K. told Joseph that they were going to do the lesson on Easter, which was two weeks away at the time. She obviously had looked through the chapter ahead of time so that she could alert him to two key concepts to watch for: mercy and love of enemies.
  • The first thing Mrs. K. did was to scan the QR code on the first page of the chapter to listen to the Scripture reading of the Resurrection of Jesus. (Both mom and son said that the QR codes were their favorite thing!) Mrs. K. followed this by asking Joseph to recall the Resurrection story in his own words, which he did nicely.
  • Next, Mrs. K. invited Joseph to read aloud the first paragraph, and then she read the second paragraph. They took turns throughout, which I thought was nice, and she always asked, “Who should go first, you or me?” While reading his paragraph, Joseph was a bit stymied by the word, Alleluia, which mom helped him sound out several times so that he got it right. Good idea, since on Easter, he’d be hearing a lot of Alleluias!
  • Throughout the session, what I observed was a conversation taking place between a mom and her son, guided by the Finding God children’s book. It was absolutely lovely to watch as Mrs. K. and Joseph engaged in conversation about examples from his life at home and school and about family traditions surrounding Easter. Mrs. K. emphasized that when Jesus rose from the dead, he did not seek revenge but brought forgiveness. She said, “So, remember, when you asked me about karma?,” alluding to a previous conversation they must have had. “This is not karma. Jesus did not return to dish out punishment but to bring reconciliation.”
  • From there, mom and son engaged in a wonderful conversation about a couple of incidents that Joseph recalls as involving forgiveness—both involving conflicts with friends at school that were since resolved. Mrs. K. did a wonderful job of helping Joseph to recall real-life situations while inviting him to view those situations through the lens of what they had just read about mercy, forgiveness, and love of enemies. On the surface, it simply looked like a mom and son having a great conversation about his life and challenges he faces. On a deeper level, she was guiding him through an experience of theological reflection—my words, not hers—helping him reflect on his life experiences through the lens of the Gospel.
  • Joseph is very intelligent and very talkative, and some of their conversations went on for 10 minutes or so, which I thought was delightful. This happened several times (and Mrs. K. admitted that they can go off on tangents occasionally), but each time she brought it back to the lesson by saying, “So let’s go back to the point…” or, “So what does this mean to you?” or, “What’s the takeaway from this?”
  • One of Joseph’s conclusions was so beautifully typical of a boy his age: “It means that Jesus will be nice to us even if we’re a jerk to him.” Another observation of his was just as authentic: when mom asked him to recall receiving the Eucharist for the first time, Joseph’s first response was, “I remember thinking that it’s yummy!” I love it!
  • Along the way, Mrs. K. invited Joseph to recall the following: his experience of First Reconciliation, their family Easter traditions (His favorite is the Easter egg hunt.), what they decided to give up for Lent, how he participated in giving to others at school through various drives (food, toys, and clothing), and how, even though he has a hard time setting aside his favorite video games to go to Mass on Sunday, he always ends up thinking that it was “fun” and that it gave him time to “just think” and to know that “God is with me.” Amen, Joseph!
  • A highlight for me came when mom scanned another QR code from the Finding God children’s book, which led to them viewing a video of a woman talking about the Lamb of God. From my perch I could not see the screen as they viewed, but I recognized the voice of my dear friend, Julianne Stanz (hard to mistake that lovely Irish brogue!) as she explained the meaning of the Lamb of God and invited the viewers to recite the words that we say before Communion. It was an amazing moment for me, having written many of the scripts for these videos and being present in the studio as they were recorded, to now be sitting in the living room of a “stranger” and watching how this and other Loyola Press resources were helping a mom teach her son about Jesus!
Mrs. K. and Joseph view a video of Julianne Stanz on Mrs. K.’s phone via the QR code feature in the Finding God children’s book.
  • As they wrapped up what amounted to a 45-minute session (felt like 15!), Mrs. K. led Joseph through the review at the end of the chapter before he eagerly took command of the laptop to complete the online assessment and chapter review, which he enjoys, especially, he says, because, if he doesn’t know the answer, it provides a hint, which he follows quickly to go back into the book to find the correct answer. It’s not about passing or failing but about learning.
  • When they were done, I asked Joseph if this time with his mom learning about Jesus was different than other homework he does, and he responded, “This is more fun. It’s not like other homework. We talk about my feelings. It’s fun.”
  • Exactly one hour after arriving, I thanked Mrs. K. and Joseph, shook their hands, told Joseph he’s a very delightful and intelligent young man, and wished them a happy Easter. Thank you, Mrs. K. and Joseph, for allowing me into your home to watch family faith formation in action!

    Mrs. K. points out a key word to Joseph as he reads aloud from his Finding God children’s book.

My overriding observation is that Mrs. K. simply familiarized herself with the chapter as well as with the QR code feature and online assessment, identified a couple of key concepts and takeaways, and then thought of examples from Joseph’s life that could lead to meaningful conversations that will help him to think, speak, and act as a follower of Jesus. No advanced theological training was needed for mom to engage her son in an authentic experience of encountering Jesus in their home. Parents are eminently capable of doing this on a weekly basis. In cooperation with parish catechists, who partner with them to teach their children once a month, they form a powerful team that communicates to children that faith is a priority and Jesus is the center of their lives!

For more information about family catechesis with either the Finding God or Christ Our Life program, contact your Loyola Press Educational Consultant.

About Joe Paprocki 2739 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.

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