One of those nagging questions when it comes to children’s catechesis (or Religious Ed, Parish School of Religion, Faith Formation, or whatever you prefer to call it) is how can it work when the parents are neither evangelized nor catechized?
Now, obviously the Holy Spirit can work in any situation. And I’m not counting that out. However, there’s probably something wrong with making extraordinary intervention of the Holy Spirit our “plan” for how children who are evangelized and catechized in a parish program can bear life-long fruit when not supported and nurtured catechetically by those in the home.
I recently came across the faith formation webpage of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Ann Arbor, Michigan and was super excited to see that every option for children’s faith formation offered directly through the parish also included an equivalent (in time) parental component. [Note: the Catholic school option, outside of the parish itself, would be the only exception].
And what’s great, is that they make it seem so normal. That, of course, parents, grandparents, single adults, and the whole community would want to be a part of a 2x a month Sunday morning community formation option called “Domestic Church,” that also includes children. 🙂 And, when you think about it, why shouldn’t parishes require parents to also attend a weekly formation program at the same time as their children, i.e. the weekly “Family Catechism” option. It’s not about talking down to parents either. As the website points out, the parental option could be as simple as spending the time that their child is in grade-level catechesis with other parents, in front of the Blessed Sacrament praying. This is powerful and exciting stuff!
Many years ago I was a member of a parish that offered a traditional children’s formation (with no adult component) and also a family one (where parents were required to stay and participate in adult offerings). I was a catechist in the family one and loved the format. Our associate pastor also saw the value in the family/community format, and I asked him once, why we didn’t just make that the only option. He sighed and acknowledged that it would be a very unpopular shift.
Which makes me wonder–would anyone seriously argue that children’s catechesis with no concurrent adult option or requirement is better for evangelization and catechesis than family/community formats? Is the only reason we don’t see more family/community catechesis because it would be unpopular with some parents? Are we missing a key opportunity of the New Evangelization–to reach parents who while active enough to bring children to religious education, are not evangelized themselves? What kind of ministerial leadership does it take at a parish to make such a shift?