Pull up a chair in my domestic church and let's chat!

I have worn many labels (Not in any particular order): Catholic, Wife, Mom,Gramma, Doctor, Major, Soccer Mom, Military Wife, Professor, Fellow.

All of these filter my views of the world. I hope that like St. Monica, I can through prayer, words and example, lead my children and others to Faith.
"The important thing is that we do not let a single day go by in vain without putting it to good use for eternity"--Blessed Franz J├Ągerst├Ątter

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A Catechetical Challenge for 2008

Here is an interesting snippet of a Catholic World Report interview with Amy Welborn:

The problem is that when you look at Catholic history, the faith has never been passed on predominantly in classroom situations. The faith has been passed on in families and in parishes and in communities. You can have really nice catechetical materials in which you have kids learn about a saint each week and you introduce them to various devotions, but if all of that is absent from parish life, and if all of that is absent from the life of Catholics, which it is for the most part…It's something that any teacher of, particularly, the humanities can sympathize with. Think about the poor teacher trying to teach Shakespeare or Chaucer to kids who go home and are on the Internet for four hours and then are playing video games and doing all kinds of other things. It's not just a religious ed problem; it's a cultural problem. What we are trying to transmit in a classroom setting isn't reinforced culturally.

In the Catholic setting, that means it's not reinforced in most parishes. There's no Catholic life that continually reinforces the Catholic faith. Our churches are bare. Kids don't have the opportunity to study murals and pictures of stained glass and they get bored.

Catholic education is getting better in the classrooms but we haven't grappled with the bigger cultural issue of a community's responsibility to transmit the faith outside the classroom setting.

Getting back to adult ed for a minute, it's a real problem in the Catholic Church. I think it's a crucial problem that we have to deal with. In Protestant churches, there is a tradition of adult Sunday school. I have Protestant relatives who hardly ever went to church service but they always went to Sunday school. We don't have that tradition, we don't have that expectation. We associate religious education with schools. So once you get through eighth grade, or once you graduate from high school, or once you get confirmed, that's it. We don't communicate to people that they have a responsibility to continue to be formed in their faith. Talk to any religious ed person who works with kids. They will say, "We don't need the kids once a week for an hour; we need the parents once a week for an hour."

Do I hear an “Amen!” to that last sentence? I also want to loudly second the idea that the faith has never been passed on predominantly in classroom situations. The faith is passed on in the Domestic Church, the family. The parish and religious education programs support and supplement this process, but they don’t replace it. If you have been reading my blog for any length of time, you know this is a recurring theme of mine.

So how do we get religious education back in the homes where it belongs? It is going to take slow and steady progress. My hope is that by the time my children have children, family based catechesis will be the norm. That is the kind of timeline I am looking at.

Where do we start? I think the first thing to do is to put more emphasis on the liturgical calendar. I’ve been to parishes in Northern Virginia, Memphis, and Ft. Lauderdale during the last month. Every single one of them was giving out church calendars. As a parish community, we need to do more than just hand out the calendars. We need to support living the liturgical calendar. I invited the parents of my 7th grade CCD students to a class at the end of November and discussed this very topic. You can read a summary of my presentation here. My next group presentation will be at the end of January. I will talk to them about sacramentals. Just as statues, stained glass windows, and icons in our churches enrich our worship and strengthen our faith, sacramentals like statues, pictures, and devotional candles in our homes strengthen our family Catholic identity and faith. The timing of this presentation is not accidental. February 2nd is the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord, or Candlemas. This is traditionally the feast when the Church blesses the candles that will be used during the coming year and when families have their devotional candles blessed. This year Candlemas falls on a Saturday, so it is a perfect time to encourage families to attend Mass and bring their candles in for blessing. Talk to your priests now and see if your parish can publish a brief summary of this feast in the parish bulletin in January 27 and have a priest available to bless candles on February 2nd.

We also need to build a culture of adult education in our parishes. It can be very frustrating to try and establish this within a parish. The religious education office is usually overwhelmed trying to manage the sacramental preparation of school children as well as the usual CCD programs. It is tempting to just gather a group of like-minded adults and to proceed independently of the parish. However, by working through the parish structure, the catechetical efforts are more visible to the entire parish. The parish endorsement makes adult religious education seem normal. Adult religious education needs both your leadership and your support. In a previous blog post I polled readers about what factors seemed to make their parish adult religious education efforts successful. Three factors stood out:

1. Content filled program: People long for real knowledge. They are not looking for nebulous “What the Bible Means to Me” programs.

2. Child care: Many parents want the support of other adults as they learn about their faith but finding a baby sitter is too burdensome. Can you help organize high school students or others who could provide this service?

3. Food: Adults want content filled programs but they also want fellowship. Catechetics organized around a pot-luck dinner seem to be very popular.

So here is my New Year’s challenge to each of you:

Spearhead an adult education initiative in your parish.


Participate in an adult education initiative in your parish.


Support the adult education initiative in your parish by helping with food or babysitting.

Let me know how things work out!


deanna said...

I think it is great you have parents come to your 7th grade class. How do you get them to participate? We invite constantly, have child care for little ones, and get very little response.

Catholic Mom said...


I'm not sure what we've done to get such participation in the two parent/student sessions we've had so far. Here is my account of our first session. Perhaps the response has been pretty good because it is not an anonymous invitation from the religious education office to parents in general, but rather a personal invitation from their child's teacher to them specifically. Of course, I also have to give credit to the Holy Spirit.

Margaret Mary said...

I just found this post when googling "family based catechesis" and would like to suggest you check out a program written by members of our parish in Minnesota. There is a strong adult education component and 3 of the 4 monthly lessons are taught by parents in their homes. It's developed and been in use here for almost 20 years and the fruits are amazing! You should know that I'm not trying to sell it, I'm just a very satisfied parent whose children have grown into committed Catholics with a genuine love for Christ.