Domestic Church: Strong Faith, Strong Families

Domestic Church: Strong Faith, Strong Families

By Mary Lou Hughes

PIANO_PRIMO

Dr. Joanne Paradise addresses clergy, educators and other lay leaders Nov. 13 in Vineland on the importance of the family in fostering religious faith. Photo by James A. McBride

Dr. Joanne Paradise addresses clergy, educators and other lay leaders Nov. 13 in Vineland on the importance of the family in fostering religious faith.
Photo by James A. McBride

On Nov. 13, in a banquet room in Vineland, the Year of the Family began in the Diocese of Camden. Gathered for dinner, conversation and planning for over 50 parishes were 172 priests, Catholic school principals, parish catechetical leaders, deacons, parish catechists and staff.

The event was sponsored by the Catholic Schools Office, Faith & Family Life Formation and various publishers who supply the faith formation materials for schools and parishes throughout the diocese. The afternoon and evening was organized with the hope that the Catholic elementary schools and their sending parishes would take the opportunity to begin a conversation on their roles as agents of the church to support the domestic church in the lives of the families to whom they minister.

Dr. Joanne Paradise, a nationally known speaker and consultant for Our Sunday Visitor—Curriculum Division, invited all present to recall that the family is the first and most basic community, the domestic church. It is here that we are gathered and formed by God and our families. It is from the family that we are sent into the world to act as disciples of Jesus in the world. As St. John Paul II told us in Familiaris Consortio: “…the family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love,..a living reflection of and a real sharing in God’s love for humanity….”

Laurie Power, Director of Lifelong Faith Formation at Holy Child says this was her take-away: “Love’s movement is always outward focused.” We learn how to love in the family so that we are able to share God’s love with the world.

“When someone loves you they say your name different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth” (Danny, age 7).

Dr. Paradise reminded listeners of the basics — baptism. We received our names at baptism; who are we called to be? How can we help families, in today’s world, discover who God created them to be? She admonished ministers to ‘stop trying to teach families to be spiritual’ and instead ‘help families discover what God created them to be’.

Patricia Patterson, Coordinator of Faith Formation at St. Clare of Assisi, points out that preparing families for a child’s baptism is a “huge piece in the puzzle for evangelization and outreach.”

The challenge for ministry with families is for us to meet them where they are while helping them to discover what could be.

Answers to the evaluation indicate parishes and schools want to find ways to support families as domestic church and the number one hindrance to accomplishing that is “overscheduled families.”

A portion of the event was given to conversation at tables about what had been heard, where it leads, what is, what needs to change and some even began on the how to begin.

A reminder from Albert Einstein: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Our world has changed; while remaining faithful to the Gospel message, we do need to ask ourselves how we can better present it in the world in which we live.

Mary Lou Hughes is co-director, Faith and Family Life Formation, Diocese of Camden.

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