Churches keep parents involved in children's faith formation - Catholic Courier

Churches keep parents involved in children’s faith formation

LIMA — At first glance, the gathering of 40-plus folks in St. Rose Church’s Brendan Hall may not have resembled a religious-education class due to the presence of several adults.

Except that on Sept. 29, the grown-ups were students as well.

In fact, that’s the norm for Community Faith, the second-year faith-formation model for the cluster of St. Paul of the Cross, Honeoye Falls; St. Agnes, Avon; and St. Rose. Rather than drop off and pick up their kids for class, parents remain with them the whole time — and get some education themselves while they’re at it.

Community Faith meets three times per month during the school year for nearly two hours, rotating among the cluster in conjunction with each church’s Sunday Mass. For instance, families met Sept. 29 as well as Oct. 20 at St. Rose following the 8 a.m. liturgy; Oct. 6 at St. Agnes School preceding the church’s 11:30 a.m. Mass; and Oct. 27 at St. Paul of the Cross after the 9:45 a.m. Mass.

According to Christine DeVito, the cluster’s faith-formation director, Community Faith involves youths in prekindergarten through 12th grade. Each student, along with a parent or other adult family member, is required to attend one session per month at the cluster church of their choice. The remainder of the faith-formation curriculum is home-based, with families reflecting on the weekly Sunday readings and engaging in workbook-guided discussions.

“Getting the adults involved is very important to us,” DeVito said. “We’re trying to empower them to be the leaders of their faith within their family.”

A typical Community Faith gathering involves opening prayer and icebreakers followed by such activities as a video, skit or presentation. Families meet in small groups and as part of a single larger group, discussing the theme for that day before engaging in closing prayer.

The Sept. 29 theme was “Sharing the Good News,” with participants being asked to recall something good that had happened to them that week. DeVito noted that Community Faith themes are often based on the church season; for instance, recent sessions focused on the rosary, since October is a special month for rosary devotion.

Programming is tailored to all family members regardless of age. For example, Jennifer Fitzpatrick noted that while her son Lucas, now a third-grader, was preparing for first Communion last year, her daughter Annabelle, now a kindergartner, was kept occupied with worksheets and coloring pages.

Casey Fitzpatrick, Jennifer’s husband, said another plus of Community Faith is getting to witness firsthand what his children are learning. He also observed that “it helps to keep the kids more interested if mom and dad are there.”

Meanwhile, his wife noted that she finds the gatherings interesting as well.

“It’s wonderful. It’s an opportunity for me to learn, too,” Jennifer Fitzpatrick said. “There’s never a shortage of activities to do.”

Along with its educational aspects, DeVito said that Community Faith seeks to engage families more regularly in shared activity.

“It’s really a nice chance to spend time together. How often do we really sit down and talk about faith?” she said.

She observed that opportunities for family time — particularly in a church setting — are harder to find in this day and age due an increasing level of available activities in the wider community.

“I think family life is suffering because of how many choices there are,” she said, adding that more parishes in the Diocese of Rochester and across the country are moving to an intergenerational faith-formation initiative to address this concern.

In addition to uniting families,

DeVito said that Community Faith also is helping to strengthen bonds within the St. Paul-St. Agnes-St. Rose cluster that was formed in 2010. She said that a single Community Faith session typically comprises families from all three churches; for instance, the Fitzpatricks usually worship at St. Agnes Church but traveled to St. Rose on Sept. 29.

“So far, it’s been really good. Everybody really enjoys it,” DeVito said of Community Faith. “Attendance has been consistent, and feedback has been good.”

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