CHERRY HILL — As the day’s presenter threw out the challenge to “reach outside the parish walls (and) meet families where they are at,” the parish catechetical leaders and catechists here at Saint Mary’s parish hall, more than 50 of them, were undaunted by the task. Indeed, they were energized.
“We need to find them, whether they are on a park bench, at the mall, or somewhere else,” stressed Renee Krumaker from Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Absecon.
Sitting next to her, Deacon Len Long, faith formation leader at Brigantine’s Saint Thomas Parish, agreed. “We must open the doors, and allow them in,” he said.
These men and women, who spend hours every week passing on the tenets of the Catholic faith to their students young and old, were themselves formed at a continuing education workshop on Oct. 3 on “Connecting Families to Sacramental Ministries for Children and Youth.”
Joan Weber, project coordinator for Youth and Family Ministry Services at the Center for Ministry Development, was the energetic speaker for the day.
Weber provided statistics demonstrating the diverse backgrounds, structures and habits of today’s parish families; their frequency of mass attendance; their perceptions of prayer; the importance they place on the sacraments such as baptism and Holy Eucharist for their children; and household realities (i.e. single parent, two working parents, grandparents as primary guardians).
“There is no cookie-cutter ministry,” Weber stressed, adding that educators must address families’ hopes, challenges and fears.
“Listen, and accompany them.”
In providing resources to parents on the importance of a prayer-filled and sacramental life; hosting family festivals at the parish; and giving them tools to celebrate liturgical celebrations such as the Easter and Christmas seasons in their own home, catechetical leaders and catechists will create a renewal and “echo of faith” for families, she said.
“The day was designed to help our parish leaders bring the families in closer to the faith,” noted Mary Lou Hughes, co-director of the Camden Diocesan Office of Lifelong Faith Formation, which organized the education workshop.
For the gathered, it was message received.
“We can’t pigeonhole our families, or paint them with the same paintbrush,” Krumaker told her table.
Her colleagues in crafting the echoes of faith nodded.
“We need to be facilitators of grace,” said Maria Isabel Duran, coordinator of religious education at Atlantic City’s Parish of Saint Monica.