Auburn series provides forum for parents to discuss hot-button issues
Sex, dating and chastity. Pornography and Internet safety. Cell phone addiction.
These are just a few of the topics slated for discussion during the four-part Practical Parent Conversations series, which takes place at St. Joseph School in Auburn. The series is open to parents, grandparents and guardians of children of all ages and is sponsored by the Catholic parishes of St. Mary, Ss. Mary and Martha, St. Alphonsus and Sacred Heart, according to Carlo Stebbings, faith-formation director for those Auburn parishes.
The discussion series provides a way for the parishes to engage with parents and arm them with the knowledge they need to fulfill their roles as the primary educators of their children, he said.
“It really was born out of just reading the signs of the times, with what’s happening culturally, what’s happening in the church, and just through conversations with different people, with teachers and with parents,” Stebbings explained. “We just saw there’s a need to help parents and grandparents and guardians to navigate the craziness of these sensitive, hot-button issues that affect all of us.”
After talking with a number of parents, Stebbings said he was struck by how many directions they’re being pulled in on a daily basis. In many families both parents are working, and children often are involved in several different activities outside of school. Most parents are striving to raise their children in the faith despite all of these distractions, and the Church needs to reach out and help them do so, Stebbings said.
“They’re doing their best, but then we have to really present to them the Gospel message and call to holiness,” Stebbings said. “As (parents) form their kids, obviously they need to encourage them in their gifts and talents and the things that excite them, but to root all of that in faith, and that’s sometimes the hardest thing to do.”
After talking with a number of parents, grandparents and guardians, Stebbings and Father Justin Miller, parochial vicar at St. Mary and Ss. Mary and Martha parishes, settled on the topics for each session’s discussion. The first session, “Created Good Part 1,” focused on the church’s teachings on sex, dating and chastity and took place Feb. 7. The discussion topics for the remaining sessions are:
• March 14 — Pornography and Internet Safety.
• April 25 — Created Good Part 2. The discussion will focus on sexual identity and how to respond to questions about various types of sexual identities.
• May 16 — Real vs. Fake Relationships. The discussion will tackle the growing problem of cell phone addiction and related addictions.
Each session will begin at 7 p.m. at St. Joseph School, located at 89 E. Genesee St. in Auburn.
These topics were chosen because conversations with the adults as well as teens in local faith-formation programs and Catholic schools suggested that oftentimes children are exposed to these issues earlier than parents and teachers expect, Father Miller said.
“So often children are exposed to adult themes in media, in locker-room conversation or in other ways that the parents are not aware … or not prepared to articulate,” he said. “Many may be unclear why the Church teaches certain things, especially when some doctrines go against the grain of our current cultural standards or patterns. … By empowering parents, godparents and grandparents to charitably and clearly present the fullness of the church’s message, they can articulate the beauty of our faith to those they lovingly guide.”
Ann Fallon is one of the 10 parents or guardians who attended the Feb. 7 session on sex, dating and chastity.
“I loved it,” Fallon told the Catholic Courier. “It was not a lecture, or preachy, or overly intellectual or philosophical. It was practical and realistic and (Stebbings and Father Miller) encouraged much discussion. They answered questions and used examples that parents can relate to. The parents did contribute, and it became more of a discussion.”
Children need to hear the truth about sensitive issues from someone they trust, such as their parents, Fallon said.
“Maybe parents don’t know how to answer all the questions their children might have. These sessions are for that purpose, to give the parents the tools, the words, the answers. These sessions are about parents supporting each other. It’s building a community that gives parents a platform to share experiences, learn from each other and encourage each other,” she added.