confessionAll too often religious education programs help prepare children for their First Reconciliation but struggle to assist the parents in preparing their children.  They, after all, are the primary educators or might I say     “prepare-rs”.  This year I really wanted to look at our First Reconciliation parent meeting in a different way.  I wanted to touch parents lives so that in return they would be able to impact their children.  I found a very powerful video and showed it (outline below).  I didn’t want the meeting to just be me or someone talking up front, but since all these parents are part of our church family I wanted them to grow together and share their lives together. That is why I then had them interact at tables with small group discussion questions.  Below I have additional details regarding what I did but first and foremost it was about touching the hearts of the parents because if we can engage their hearts and minds it will naturally overflow onto their children.  I was grateful to hear that it was well received and parents were in fact touched by what they experienced.


I opened with a prayer and then went right into this video:

Forgiveness Video:

Then I had parents answer some questions about the video and about how theyprodigal Sonpic
have taught their kids about forgiveness and hope to prepare them as they
prepare their child for their First Reconciliation.

Following the small group discussions our Pastor spoke for about 5 minutes encouraging parents and then I showed the following video:

Sacrament of Reconciliation Explained:

Afterwards, I shared a few thoughts and went into some specifics from a folder of material we give about helping their children prepare for their First Reconciliation.

I ran out of time but I wanted to then share this video:

Beautiful Things:



What do you do to impact the parents at meetings like this?  I’d love to hear from you!

Here are 5 ways to encourage parents to contribute to making their child’s Faith Formation most impactful:

parent working with child







  1. Parents are first – You are the first and primary educators of the faith to your children. How are you helping them, as Pope Francis says, “meet Jesus”?  How are they growing in “grace and wisdom” (Lk. 2:52) during the years you have them under your roof? Do your children see you taking time to pray & grow in your faith? The habits and attitudes you model are the most important ones in your child’s life and make the most impact. Your words & actions speak to what your kids see as most important to you.


  1. Attitude – Your attitude can make a world of difference to your child(ren). Weekly class attendance, family discussions about what was covered in class and general attitudes on going to Mass, praying together and involvement in the parish have an effect on your child.


  1. Faithfulness – God desires to reveal Himself to us because He loves each one of us so very much. Through weekly attendance in our School of Religion Program you are witnessing your faithfulness to the promise you made at your child’s baptism: to raise them in the faith and assist them in their spiritual growth. Your goal is to help your kids get to heaven – this is the most important thing you can do as parents.


  1. Prioritize – When your child sees (even when she/he doesn’t always like it) that you put weekly faith formation as a top priority they become aware by your example how important faith is to you as parents. Your actions and choices speak volumes!


  1. The power of praying parents – Pray daily for holiness in your family and for the spiritual needs of your parish community. Put your trust completely in God, our heavenly Father, who will hear you and do what is best for you.  After praying and seeking God’s intercession for a specific intention which was answered, St. Faustina said: “Now I can see how much power intercessory prayer has before God”(Diary 202).

What tips do you have?  Please share!

parents1Almost no one disagrees that we need to help parents pass on the faith but the perennial question is “How” to do that and “How” to equip parents.  Some might say that we need to drop our children’s catechesis programs and only have adult faith formation program, after all adult catechesis is the “chief form of catechesis”. Although this is true, it would seem that a more practical approach is to have both at the parish.  So how do we not only keep parents “in the loop” on what we are doing in our programs but also help them pass on the faith to their children?  I offer thee suggestions:

1) Pray, Pray, Pray for them to open their hearts.  Parents often are so busy doing good things for their kids, but too often the “One thing necessary” gets less attention.  Only the Holy Spirit can give parents the eyes and ears they need to see just how important their child’s faith formation is to their child’s development as a person.

2) Communicate, Communicate, Communicate.  Make them aware of what their child is learning about and how they can be involved in the learning.

3) Empower, Empower, Empower.  Find ways to educate the parents.  Offer workshops, enrichment sessions, provide articles and resources for them to be able to grow in their knowledge and love for the faith.

What are you doing to “keep parents in the loop”?  Please share ways you inform and involve parents in the faith formation of their children.

busy-family1Husband: Honey, I have to work later than usual tonight and Thursday night so you are going to have to find a way to get Joseph and Abbey to their commitments on those days.  I don’t know is Susan has anything but check with her and see.

Wife: Honey, I also need work late on Thursday, so who can we ask to help get our kids to their commitments?  I also have something I committed to on Saturday so you are going to need to get the kids to their events and figure out meals for them.

Kid #1: My friend is going to church and learning about God why don’t we do that?

Dad: Because we have so much going on we are not able to do that right now.  You’ve committed to this team and you need to take responsibility and be committed to your teammates and not let them down.  God understands that we are busy and that we love Him.

Kid #2: Mom, can I go to the middle school youth program every Wednesday evening from 5:30 to 6:30 – they have lots of great things going on and my friends are really excited about hanging out at church?

Mom: That sounds great, but I have to get your brother to his practice and then run to the store to pick up groceries for the week.  Maybe if we don’t have anything next week we can do it.

Kid #3: Mom and Dad when are we going to go out for Pizza like you promised?

Mom: Your Dad and I will look to see when we can do that, but probably not this week because there is a lot going on.

Kid #1 &3: But that is what you said last week.

Chaos, I tell you, Chaos

Our world is spinning at such a fast pace and well intentioned parents (myself included) say yes to doing x, y and z.  It’s mostly for my kids or for my work or for an organization I help out at.  With all the well intentioned committments parents make where is the time for God, for Religious Education, for family time and for quiet?  If you ask me it seems that the devil is pretty happy right now about the state of our busy lives.  We are so busy doing “good things” that we don’t have much time for God, much time for one another, much time for silence and prayer, much time to clear our minds so that we can make sure what we want most is happening – to get our family to heaven and to do it according to how God wants us to do it.

Challenge #1challenge

Ok, Ok, I know what your thinking: I bet I could list 20 challenges and you are beginning with #1.  Challenge #1 is key: Do you have a clear picture about what is most important and how we can accomplish this with our family?  Usually the answer is no.  Families often jump into the rat race becuase they want the best for their kids, they want to provide for their family and they want their kids to be involved.  However, what ends up happing is that at the end of the day or more specifically the end of the year, or “the years” will we see the fruit of all we did or will we wished we’d spent a little more time and energy on other things – time with our kids, time growing in our faith, time with our spouse?

I have never heard someone say: I wish I would have spent more time on the practice field, more time at work making a little more money, more time watching the football game or “The View”.  You know where I am going with this.

Challenge #2

The World…  It has sold us a bill of false goods.  Our friends, extended family, surrounding influences are encouraging us to get our kids involved, that we are building character in our kids through all these activities, that working more at work will help us provide well for our families and numerous other commitments often don’t lead us to the place we hope to arrive at.  The problem is we don’t know how to begin again, or change direction.

Solution #1

Not so fast.  The solution is not singular yet it is simple.  One of the most important steps is to take time to consider what is most important for your family.  And doing this with the lens of faith.  After all we have been created for a purpose: To know, love and serve God here on earth so we can be happy with Him forever in Heaven.solution

Solution #2

When we look back on our lives will we see the decisions we made as intentionally helping our spouse and our children not merely be a “good person” that is well respected in society, but will they be a person who desire to live for the glory of God and to serve as Christ would serve?

My friend Ryan, speaks about his intense involvement in middle and high school and how he was told that it built character and all the other things that justify the intensity of his involvement.  As a parent he now says what it didn’t build character as much as “bring his character out”.  He shares now how important family time is and how important helping your kids development academically.  He will have his kids be involved in sports but is clear about how it is not as important as God, family and or academics.   I would add helping kids interact with adults properly and have proper etiquette makes them much more successful and happy than the busyness of their childhood and not getting to see Mom and Dad enough because they were so busy “doing good things”.  Also, Mom and Dad were so busy that they put aside the “best things” — faith and family until later and when later came it was too late.

Helping Families

How do we help families discover what is most important or put another way how do we help families realize that having their kids (and themselves) over-scheduled is not what is best for their family (and that fact that it doesn’t have to be that way)?  It goes back to what I said earlier – parents struggle to stop once they have gotten on that busy schedule and the “next level” is expected of their kid and of the parents.

Holy Families

Families find their joy and peace most in seeking and serving God.  Currently too many families are so busy that they don’t have time for this and at times don’t see the great benefit to be holy.  Too many families are ok with just being “good” or “nice” person.  We must continue to pray for families and encourage them one by one to seek the things that are above.  This is not an easy task but with persistence and the Holy Spirit’s help we can help families create a more balanced and grounded family life.  Our world desperately needs this!

In the Early Church followers of “the way” (Acts 9:2) would gather on the “first day of the week” (Acts 20:7) for “the breaking of the bread”((Acts 2:42).  This practice has been at the heart of the Church from the very beginning.  It is essential for the life of the Christian Community to gather each Sunday to honor God on the Lord’s Day.  Sunday Mass is foundational to living and bearing fruit in the Christian life.  Here are ways to encourage children and their parents to attend Mass every Sunday:

1) Share with them that they will be missed if they to not and mass

2) Communicate what God does every week at Mass (sharing His Word and His Body and Blood).

3) Discuss how faithfulness to the Commandments and the Precepts of the Church draw us closer to God.

4) Share the impact of the Mass in your life.

5) Pray for parents and kids to have the grace to respond to God’s love by coming to praise and honor Him each Sunday.

Recently our parish gathered all the parents and 2nd graders for a meeting.  This year was different than in years past because I’m trying to include the parents in more things this year.  Our parish is trying to make an concerted effort to involve the parents in all our programming.  We have approxamately 166 2nd graders this year.  With a group this large we put half of them in the church for the 1st 25 minutes and half in the Parish Hall and then we switched.  The part in the church was with our pastor talking about the Sacrament as well as my coordinator who spoke about many logistical things.  I led the part in the parish hall.

Here is what I did with the kids and parents:

1) I opened with prayer reading the parable of the Vine and the Branches (John 15:1-6)

2) I then had parents and kids read it from the Bible at their table and answer 5 questions (and then having kids come up and share their answers):

  • Who is the Vine and who are the branches (verse 1)?
  • What does Jesus ask us to do (verse 4)?
  • What happens if we do what Jesus asks us to do (verse 4-5)?
  • What does Jesus say happens when we sin and cut ourselves off from the vine (verse 6)?
  • How does this relate to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and our relationship with Jesus?

3) Next I asked for a Dad volunteer and about 5 kids.  They helped me reenact the parable:  Dad was the Vine and the kids were the branches.  When I shared that when we do things that are not what God would have us do (when we sin) we break off from the vine (a few kids broke off) but then when we are cleansed (through going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation – kids went over to a poster I had that said Sacrament of Reconciliation) we are connect back onto the vine (kids reconnected to the Vine).  And finally when we do God’s will and are connected to him we “bear much fruit”.  Everyone was given an apple to illustrate this.  

4) Then I asked all the 2nd graders to go to a table where I had two things: 1) a branch from a tree and 2) a holy card illustrating an icon of the Jesus the vine.

5) I shared with the kids and parents to take the branch home and watch it for a week and reflect how when the branch is not connected to the vine it withers and dies.  We are called to stay connected to Jesus and he wants us to.  This time of preparation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a good time to help us remember the need to be connected to Jesus the vine.

6) I closed with a brief prayer.

I think it went over very well.  I was pleased with how it turned out and the good vibe I received about these two 25 minute experiences.


What things have you done with 2nd graders and parents at the beginning of the year parent meeting?  I’d really enjoy hearing about what others do to engage both parents and kids.



How do you help others to discern their vocation?  We might think that it’s challenging to find opportunities to talk about one’s vocation, but I would encourage you to reconsider.  Weather you’re in a 3rd grade classroom, in an RCIA session or spending time with teens at a service project you can help those around you consider what God has for them in their lives.  Often the most missed opportunity is to encourage someone to consider the priesthood, religious life or marriage.  Ask them if they have thought about what God is calling them to do with their lives?  Encourage them to really pray about it and to talk with their parents, a priest, a role model in their life about it.  Helping others understand that God is calling them first and foremost to holiness and then more specifically to a vocation of marriage, religious life or holy orders.

God is calling each us us do something and he has great plans for us.  We want to help children, youth and adults be open to what God desires for them and what God is calling them to be.  Last January I posted the following suggestion and wanted to list them again.   Here are some great resources for helping people discern their vocation:

The Archdiocese of Kansas City has 10 suggestions in discerning a vocation.  They also have a good article on 20 signs that someone has a priestly vocati0n that is worth looking at.

Also, here are some great tips using each letter of the alphabet for parents to help foster the idea of vocation in the home and help foster a good foundation so that a person can discern their God given vocation.  Also, go to A Mother’s Rule of Life for some good reflection and input on how to foster your child’s vocation (Catechist can learn from this too).

Here are a few more good general resources:

National Catholic Register article by Matthew Warner: “Teach Your Kids to Help Save the World”

A Mom writes “Why I Encourage My Kids to Consider A Religious Vocation”

The Archdiocese of Boston has a great list of various Vocation Prayers (consider adopting one of them and praying it in your classroom or by giving it to your students.

The USCCB has some good videos.

What resources or tips do you have to recommend about helping others discern their vocation?

A recent NCCL newsletter referred to a finance article from “The Telegraph” that talked about the great advice we can learn from Bob the Builder.  I really liked it because I think we live in a society that believes that our choices are endless and that we can do anything we set our mind to.  I realize that we don’t want to limit ourselves and how we should live to our full potential, but God has given each of us certain talents and gifts and we should head advice similar to Bob who asks “Can we fix it”?  Our question should be, has God given me the ability to do it (whatever it may be).  Also we could ask, is God calling me to do it?  The article said:

“Most of us believe in positive self-talk. “I can achieve anything,” we mouth to the mirror in the morning. “Nobody can stop me,” we tell ourselves before walking into a big meeting. We believe we’ll do better if we banish doubts about our ability or our strategy and instead muster an inner voice that affirms our awesomeness.

But not Bob. Instead of puffing up himself and his team, he first wonders whether they can actually achieve their goal. In asking his signature question – Can we fix it? – he introduces some doubt.

…In other words, questions open and declarations close. We need both, of course. But that initial tincture of honest doubt turns out to be more powerful than a bracing shot of certainty.”

It is my experience that we have to help the children, youth and young adults we catechize to see that the modern day approach to doing “anything” we set our minds to do is not completely healthy.  I think it can contribute to anxiety and discouragement because people are asking the wrong questions about all the things they could be doing in their lives.  I think all the choices we have for our lives and our kids lives creates anxiety because we feel like we have to keep up and make sure we or our kids don’t miss out on what’s available.

We have great opportunities in catechesis to assist students and parents in discerning what God is calling one to do.  What is God’s will regarding how I should respond?  The right questions will help us and our students discern properly according to God’s purposes and plans instead of the world’s or our own.

The Telegraph article concludes by saying: “So the next time you’re feeding your inner self a heady brew of confident declarations and bold affirmations, toss in a handful of interrogatives with a few sprinkles of humility and doubt.  Can you do that? Yes, you … well, you’ll have to ask that yourself.”

I’d love to hear your feedback!!!!

Quotes on the Mass

“What graces, gifts and virtues the Holy Mass calls down … repentance for sin … victory over temptation … holy inspirations which dispositions to shake off tepidity … the grace of final perseverance, upon which depends our salvation … temporal blessings, such as peace, abundance and health…”                                                                                – St. Leonard of Port Maurice

“It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass.” – St. Pio

“The Blessed Virgin Mary once told Her faithful servant Alain: “My Son so loves those who assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that, if it were necessary He would die for them as many times as they’ve heard Masses.”

The Center of Our Faith

The Christian Liturgy is at the heart of our Catholic Faith.  The Holy Mass is of inestimable value surpassing all other forms of worship.  How come today there are so many Catholic’s not going to Mass?  I read a statistic from the CARA Survey that found only 33% of Catholics attend Mass weekly.  Why the low number?  Are people too busy?  Do they not care that it is one of the 10 commandments?  Do they believe they have more important things to do?  Do they not know the value in participating at Mass each week?  It is probably all the above depending on who you talk to.

9 Ways to Foster Mass Attendance

Catechist Magazine posted a great article by Patricia Mathson on ways to encourage family participation in Sunday Mass.  I wanted to post it on my blog but Catechist Magazine asked if I would just provide the link.  Click the link above and it’ll take you right to it.  In a time when so many Catholics are not going to Mass on a weekly basis, it is so important to find ways we can encourage Mass attendance.

New Program

I’m very excited about a new program our parish began in September called Family Formation.  This program originated at a parish in Ham Lake, Minnesota and is now in over 80 parishes throughout the United States.  The pastor at Church of St. Paul realized about 20 years ago the need to help parents actually be the primary educators of their children’s faith lives.  The pastor spoke of how parents were teaching their kids (by their example) that its ok to just drop their kids off at CCD and let the parish take care of their religious education and then pick them up once they were done for the week.  It was teaching kids that once I become a parent I don’t have to learn about my faith anymore.  Family Formation involves the parents in the faith formation of their children.  It is a very exciting program where kids comes once a month and learn as well as the parents (in a separate learning space) and then parents are given home lessons to complete for the remaining 3 weeks of the month.

Humble Beginnings

When I first thought about bringing Family Formation to my parish I thought I’d have humble beginnings.  I prayed a Novena to St. Joseph and asked that if it was God’s will for us to begin this program then it would happen.  I had an informational meeting where about 30 people showed up and about 20 or so seemed pretty interested in doing it so went forward and prepared to bring Family Formation to my parish.  I hoped to have about 20 kids in the program.  I had no idea that by August I would have 175 kids registered and over 100 families.  I was amazed and I actually had to close registration because my classrooms were full and I could only find so many catechists and only had so much space.

God’s Work

I am very excited and nervous at the same time about this new program.  We still have other programs going on at our parish (a traditional religious education program and an alternative summer program).  I believe that God will do great things in these families lives as they give Him permission and as they seek to actively be engaged in the faith formation of their children on a new level.


To find out more info go to







I came across a great article about celebrating Sunday Mass.  It is called “Putting on Our Sunday Best!” by Anne Koester.  She makes great points about the importance of having a proper attitude and disposition at Mass each Sunday.  Here is the Link below.

familyonporchThe other day I was talking with a fellow DRE and we were discussing an interesting and very sad mindset of some parents today. We’ve both have had parents tell us “why do I have to do this activity at home regarding religion with my child?” that it why I send him/her to your program.”

It cannot be understated that parents are the most important formers/ educators of their children.  They know their child best emotionally, physically and spiritually more than any other person.  Weather a child attends Catholic School or not, parents have the primary responsibility of helping their children grow in faith.

Check out what the Church Documents say: the-churchs-teaching-on-the-role-of-parents-in-the-education-of-the-faith

It is clear that Religious Education Programs and Catholic Schools must reengage parents in their primary role as educators of the Christian life. Parishes and schools are partnering/collaborating with parents. It is true that parents are very busy and their time and energy is admirable to send their child to grow and learn about the Faith in the many programs provided by parishes and schools, but they are secondary to what parents should be fostering and doing in the home. May the Holy Spirit lead and guide parents to be authentic and equipped witnesses of the Faith.

3 Ways to Equip Parents

1. Always communicate with parents how important their role in passing on the faith is.

2. Continually provide ideas on how families can live the Faith at home.

3. Require parent involvement in sacramental preparation and faith assignments and activities.

Most of the schools were out for the summer this past Wednesday my neck of the woods.  I thought it was a good opportunity to send some book recommendations and a few family faith ideas to parents.  Summer is a great time to help kids grow in their faith since most do not have regular school.  Making room for additional reading during the year can be a challenge.  I think summer is the perfect time for parents to encourage their children to read some great faith oriented books.  Here is the list, by grade level, that I sent to parents.  What are you suggestions?  I’d love to read about your recommendations!

Pre-School – 1st grade
The Gospel for Little Children by Maite Roche
Brother Juniper – A great storybook teaches important lessons by Diane Gibfried
The Eight Beatitudes Coloring and Activity Book by Author:Virginia Helen Richards, FSP and D. Thomas Halpin, FSP
Hail Mary by Sabrina Bus
Friday Night with the Pope – One special sabbath is remembered in this storybook
The Bible for Little Children by Maite Roche
Who Built the Ark?
by: Sally Ann Wright

2nd and 3rd Grade
Little Acts of Grace by Rosemarie Gortler and Donna Piscitelli
Catholic Tales for Boys and Girls by Caryll Houslander
The Apostles’ Creed by Vicki Pastore
The Clown of God by Tomie dePaola
Princess & the Kiss: A Story of God’s Gift of Purity by Jennie Bishop (for girls)
The Squire and the Scroll: A Tale of the Rewards of a Pure Heart by Jennie Bishop (for boys)
Saint Therese and the Roses by Helen Walker Homan

4th – 6th Grade
Loyola Kids Book of Saints by Amy Welborn
The Imitation of Christ for Children by Elizabeth Ficocelli
Joseph and Chico: The Life of Pope Benedict XVI as Told by a Cat by Jeanne Perego
Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges
The Life of Saint Brigid: Abbess of Kildare by Jane G. Meyer
My Path to Heaven: A Young Person’s Guide to the Faith by Geoffrey Bliss

7th – 8th Grade
Beorn The Proud by Robert T. Reilly
U Got 2 Believe! by Fr. Stan Fortuna, CFR
Saint Catherine Labouré and the Miraculous Medal by Alma Power-Waters
St. Philip of the Joyous Heart by Francis Connoly
St. John (Don) Bosco and St. Dominic Savio by Catherine Beebe
Vincent De Paul – Saint of Charity by Margaret Ann Hubbard
St. Elizabeth’s Three Crowns by Blanche Thompson
The Father Brown Reader: Stories from Chesterton by Nancy Carpentier Brown

Ideas for the Whole Family
˜ Play games together and watch a great movie (Letters to God, Ann of Green Gables, The Ultimate Gift, Faith Like Potatoes)
˜ Pray a Rosary while traveling to and from your vacation destination
˜ Read from the Bible as a family weekly
˜ June is the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (pray a prayer to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus this month
˜ Reach out as a family to someone in need.
˜ Spend less time watching TV or surfing the internet and more time together as a family…outdoors, around a pool or in your front/backyard.

Do you have any ideas for the whole family to foster faith during the summer?

busy-so few of meBrenda Estill (I think she’s a DRE) had some good insights about parents and faith formation that I’d like to share  (this is from an email group I subscribe to).  She wrote:

“It amazes me everytime I here a parent say that their children won’t be able to attend class or they can’t attend a parent meeting because of another commitment which usually has to do with sports.
Now I love sports and I believe that physical fitness is very important but I also think our culture has taken it a little too far. We now have flag football for 3 year olds, traveling teams for kindergarteners, practices and games on Sundays (even our Catholic Schools are scheduling these) and how many kids not even out of high school have had knee surgeries. I had one mom tell me that her niece who is a junior in HS has already had 3 surgeries on her ACL.And how about the kid that is so stressed out by the abuse he is receiving from his football coach that his parents have spent 100’s of dollars trying to figure out why the lining of his stomach and esophagus are raw.
How much time, energy, resources and mental anguish are we going to continue spending trying to make sure our kids “succeed”.
When will we teach them to be still, quite and to enter into silence so that they may find the true direction for their lives. When will we teach them to follow the path that God has planned for them and not what the culture says is the only way to happiness.
We make so many excuses for why our families are stressed and can’t find time to spend together, maybe none of us want to admit that we to have bought into the lie of our culture– The more busy you are the less time for trouble.
But in the midst of this noise and comotion when do we here the voice of God–not often enough–not when practicing on Sunday leads us to miss mass or when we begin to believe as faith formation leaders that maybe we are pushing too hard–are we really? Our teaching isn’t about making the grade, making money, becoming the star athlete or even Rhoades scholar–it is about our eternal salvation. When we as parents say that our children’s salvation is important to us do we back that up with actions or do we fall into the category of “fitting in” with todays culture.
I will continue to strive for families to come and engage in Christian relationships and dialogue– and I will pray that they will not settle for what the culture has planned for them.”

Amen!  I think we need to continue to be strong in our ministry.  We need to help parents see the overarching value of faith formation as foundational to their children’s lives – more than anything else.  Parish programs have a very important role.  It is important to note that parish religious education programs are collaborating with parents, not taking the place of parents who are primarily called to lay the foundation of faith and morals in the lives of their children.  May the Holy Spirit guide busy families to slow down and grow together and in their relationship with God.

A couple of weeks ago our second grade parents who’s child is preparing for their First Holy Communion were invited to participate in one of the regular Wednesday night classes with their child.  Here is the outline of the night:

1. Children brought their parents to their regular classroom for an opening prayer service (and usual housekeeping things).

2. All the 2nd grade classes came to a large gathering area where parents interacted with their child doing the following (I was the MC helping facilitate and transition):

a. They looked up First Communion related Scripture verses and then shared with the whole group (I called upon volunteers) what they had discovered.

b. Parents worked with their child on a letter to Jesus expressing their excitement of approaching the day of their First Communion.

c. Everyone participated in a re-enactment of the Last Summer (we had matzah bread and grape juice and a script at each table).

This class allows for parents to be a part of their child’s First Communion preparations.  I hope parents are doing things at home to prepare and assist their child’s faith formation.  This opportunity which I do once during their First Reconciliation preparation and once before First Communion is always a way to give parents the opportunity to come together with other parents to continue their child’s preparations.

If you want any additional information about this class please feel free to email me at

What do you do in your parish to involve parents as their child prepares for First Communion?

Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators. This role in education is so important that only with difficulty can it be supplied where it is lacking. Parents are the ones who must create a family atmosphere animated by love and respect for God and man, in which the well-rounded personal and social education of children is fostered…It is particularly in the Christian family, enriched by the grace and office of the sacrament of matrimony, that children should be taught from their early years to have a knowledge of God according to the faith received in Baptism, to worship Him, and to love their neighbor. Here, too, they find their first experience of a wholesome human society and of the Church. Finally, it is through the family that they are gradually led to a companionship with their fellowmen and with the people of God. Let parents, then, recognize the inestimable importance a truly Christian family has for the life and progress of God’s own people. (GRAVISSIMUM EDUCATIONIS, Paragraph #3).

Recently, I had the opportunity to check out a great family program in Ham Lake, Minnesota where Religious Education is as it should always be – first carried out within the family and secondarily fostered by the parish community.  The Church of St. Paul has over 500 families enrolled in their religious education program called “Family Formation”.  Many home school, Catholic school and public school families participate in this dynamic program.  Here is a brief overview:  Parents and children gather once a month at the parish for about an hour and a half.  Students attend their grade level class and parents stay and attend a parent gathering learning about the same topic their children are learning about in class as well as receiving tips and insights regarding the 3 home lessons that are given for families to do at home over the next 3 weeks.  This program truly puts faith formation back into the hands of the parents.  It also fosters scripture reading, growing in prayer and making faith a normal part of everyday family life.  Check it out at

I’m going to begin it at my parish in the Fall and according to an initial survey and what I’m hearing I think I’ll have about 30 families signing up for Family Formation.  Come Holy Spirit!!!

How do you include families in your Religious Education Program?  I’d love to hear about what you and/or your parish does.

“The family is fundamental because it is the first place where people learn the meaning of life”              ~Pope Benedict XVI

A great practice during Lent is to promote frequent Mass attendance for the family.  Lent is really a time to “take stock” and to “go into the dessert”.   What better way to help children see what a special time of year it is than to go to Mass during the week?  This shows them that Mom and Dad, catechists and classroom aides are modeling for children the importance of going the extra mile by making time for something that helps them grow closer to Jesus and journey toward heaven.

A book every religious education program should have and every parent who has a child receiving their First Holy Communion should own is: The Weight of a Mass by Katalin Szegedi.  It is a wonderful book!

My family goes to my wife’s parents house for Christmas.  It is a joy to celebrate with family!  We then come home a few days later and continue to celebrate Christmas by having our kids open one gift each day until they have opened their gifts.  We also try to do something at meals and/or during the day that helps our family focus on Jesus’ Birthday and God’s blessings in our lives.  These are two ways we try to continue the Solemnity of Christmas beyond the 25th.  For most people in our culture Christmas was over on the 26th of December, but for Catholics we enter into a new liturgical season where the Church celebrates the wonders of the mystery of the Incarnation for 8 days like it is one (called the Octave of Christmas).  In addition the Christmas Season continues until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (always the second Sunday after Christmas).  The splendor of Christmas and God becoming man cannot be contained in just one day (or a few).  We are a liturgical people and need to seek to enter into each season as the Church calls us to do and draws us into.

Here are 2 thoughts I had about how to foster Christmas beyond one day:

1. Find ways in your religious education programs to encourage the celebration of Christmas beyond one day.  Most religious education programs are on break during the two weeks after Christmas.  However, finding ways to promote it to families before they go on break would be a good beginning.  In addition possible send an email or two during the Christmas Season promoting ways to celebrate it.

2. Foster the Christmas Season in the home.  The Word, Jesus, began His humble earthly life within a family and so it is with us, we must begin and continue our journey of holiness in our families.  Nothing is more important for a family than to foster a faith-filled home that learns to love Jesus and love one another as He loves.  Fr. Fernandez said “The Messiah wanted to start his redemptive task in the bosom of a simple, ordinary family.  The first thing that Jesus sanctified with his presence was a home” (pg. 230 of In Conversation with God).

Here is the closing prayer for both morning and evening prayer yesterday:

Father, all-powerful and unseen God,
you dispelled the shadows of this world
when Christ, the true Light, dawned upon us.
Look favorably upon us, Lord,
and we will praise and glorify his birth as man.
He lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.

Happy Second Day of Christmas and Feast of the Holy Family!  Jesus, Mary and Joseph teach all of us the way to Holiness.  The Church has always spoken of the Holy Family as a model and inspiration for each family ever since – they are the domestic church (as well as each of us who have families).  Here are a few thoughts regarding the Holy Family:

1. They are the holy family not because of what they “accomplished” but because of who they were – souls devoted to God.

2.  Today families are very busy doing lots of things (many of them for their children).  Every family is called by their Baptism to be a holy family and we don’t “accomplish” this as much as we live in the grace of God.  Our call and challenge is to be children of God, faithful to His ways and be at His disposal/service.  This is what draws us to holiness and forms us into a family that is modeling the Holy Family.

3. There is not one way of acting to be a holy family but there are a some essentials for parents to consider when striving to be a holy family – personal holiness (prayer life), faithfulness to the Commandments, a spirit of joy lived throughout the week, and an openness to God’s providence each day.

What are the characteristics you think are essential?  What qualities are present in a family that is emulating the Holy Family?

help us to live as the Holy Family,
united in respect and love.
Bring us to the joy and peace of your eternal home.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
~New Saint Joseph Sunday Missal (from the Collect of the Liturgy)

And he [Jesus] said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:3

My kids are the 3, 2, and 1 and they have an innocence about them that not only my wife and I delight in but so do others who encounter them.  This, I believe, is true for anyone who interacts with young children.  The authentic simplicity and excitement of children is challenging to match.  Adults seem to lose that sense of wonder and joy that kids have about the world around them.  Take for example the way a young child will talk about what is right and wrong: My 3 year old son will say things like…Daddy it’s not nice that my sister hit me or how carefree he is when he says…Do we get to go to Mass today? This is not to mention how uninhibited they are as they sing some song about Jesus.  All three of my kids know the St. Michael the Archangel Prayer and they say it with gusto.  The older we get the more we tend to lose what Jesus treasures in children and calls all His followers to imitate.  Here are 3 ways to live Matthew 18:3 in and out of the classroom:

1)   Be a person of wonder… Approach life as an adventure and take delight in the little things.

2) Imitate children by seeking to live life with a spirit of joy and simplicity.

3) At the end of each day find one thing that you did that resembled a child-like faith.  It may be challenge the first week or two but the more you do it the more you will “become like little children”.

Having this kind of faith and outlook on life brings renewal to the body of Christ from an authentic Gospel perspective.  And it helps others encounter the good news of Jesus Christ.

Last night I went Trick or Treating with my family.  It was a joy to watch my kids get excited about dressing up and going trick or treating.  My son went as St. George who “fought the dragon”.  He was so excited about it!  My daughter’s went as a princess and a Bumble Bee – not quite as inspirational.  In my experience with secular holidays I find that people are liturgical by nature – they want to celebrate.  They want to decorate and manifest a sense of joy, excitement and celebration in their lives.  Our Catholic faith is so rich because we have this as a natural part of our tradition.  Unfortunately we struggle to decorate and manifest the various Solemnities, Feast Days and Memorials of various saints and events during the Church year.  At least in our homes we struggle to decorate and celebrate like we do for holidays like Halloween, Valentines Day and Fourth of July.   I believe there are various reasons for this but suffice it to say we as Catholics should really work toward celebrating various Feasts of the Church Year.

3 Ways to Celebrate:

1. Celebrate All Saints Day as a special day – not just the day after Halloween.  Make going to Mass on All Saints Day a very special event.  Have a special dessert celebrating All Saints and talk about your favorite saints.

2.  Celebrate the saint your child is named after.  Make that day a special day where that person gets to choose what is for dinner.

3. Always connect the secular holidays to our Catholic Faith.  For example share with children that Halloween focuses (as least much of it) on what is scary and dark.  Christ is the light who dispels the darkness.  Also, the Saints are the opposite of darkness and fear because they were filled with the light of Christ.  It is the saints who we can go to in order to be protected and who can guide us on our path to heaven.

Happy Solemnity of All Saints!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

All You Holy Men and Women of God…Pray For Us!

“Parents are the most influential agents of catechesis for their children. They have a unique responsibility for the education of their children; they are the first educators, or catechists. They catechize primarily by the witness of their Christian lives and by their love for the faith. One way that parents communicate Christian values and attitudes to their children is by loving each other within the context of a Christian marriage and their love for Christ and his Church. Their participation in the life of the parish – above all in the Sunday Eucharist – their willingness to evangelize and serve others, and their dedication to daily prayer demonstrate the authenticity of their profession of faith.”

~ The National Directory For Catechesis

This year our program is sending progress reports to parents as a way to communicate with them how their child is doing in class. We send them out twice a year (December and May).  Progress reports are helpful for 3 reasons:

1) It allows catechists to communicate with parents how their son/daughter is doing regarding their attitude and growth in knowledge in the classroom. 

2) It communicates to the parents that what we are doing in the classroom/faith formation environment is important.  By showing a child’s progress or lack of it we are communicating that we want to help their child grow. 

3) It also gives catechists the opportunity to encourage, constructively comment and share to parents about their son/daughter.  This primarily gets communicated in the “additional comments” section. 

I had the form saved on a publisher document so I cut and pasted to a word document (therefore it looks a little less polished on the Word document). I’ve attached a copy below:

Progress Report

This year all our students were tested on their knowledge of the material they covered during the year. Some students did well and others did not.  An end of the year assessment helps our program for 3 reasons:

1) We see how well the students retained the marterial that was covered.

2) It helps our program know if we have a need to cover certain parts of the faith better.  If maybe one 3rd grade class did well and ther other did not it helps us become aware that maybe it is about the catechist’s need to grow need to improve or be more equipped. 

3) Assessments help parents see what their child may need to improve upon.  They are are great means of bringing awareness to parents which is a priority in our program.   

Granted an assessment of knowledge is only one component of a child’s faith formation.  Far more important is their relationship with God and their desire to grow closer to God.  It is, however, one way to asses students progress.  May Christ, the divine teacher lead and guide us always to transmit the Gospel to the students in our religious education program.

This is a great article in this “Year For Priests”.  Enjoy!  A few months ago I found this poster and put it on my office door.

From Catholic Mom:

This poster from the Diocese of Raleigh)

I hope that you often hear a prayer for vocations offered at Mass. We need more priests. Jesus implored us to pray for more workers because the harvest is in abundance. But I am also certain that each of us is called to do more than pray.

I do not believe that our priest shortage is because God has stopped calling men to the priesthood. Rather, young men have stopped hearing and stopped answering this call. As parents we are called to impart the faith to our children. We are to give them the faith foundation that allows them to hear God’s call. He is calling each of them to a vocation. For some it will be to the vocation of marriage. For some it may be to the vocation of consecrated religious life. For some it may be the vocation of being single. And for some it is the vocation of the priesthood. Our families, our little domestic churches, are the font of vocations.

Our parish community must support families as they nurture vocations. The parish should enable families to build a life centered around the faith. Parents cannot teach what they do not know. If you have read my blog for any length of time, you know that I frequently lament the sad state of catechesis of Catholic adults. Therefore, it is up to the parish to bolster the religious education of both adults and children. This takes time, talent, and treasure.

Over the last four weeks I have attended Mass in three different parishes. Every single one of them had an announcement from the ambo as well as a blurb in the bulletin pleading for religious education volunteers. If you are reading Catholic blogs, you are light years ahead of most of the Catholics in the pews. You are qualified to teach. Remember: God does not call the equipped. He equips the called.

Religious education efforts will foster vocations. You may plant the seed of faith in a child who is not getting this formation at home. You may strengthen and develop the faith of a parent so that he can nurture the vocations of his children. Your efforts and sacrifices for your faith will inspire others to make efforts and sacrifices of their own.

Of course, all this doing is not a replacement for prayer but done in conjunction with prayer. Children are never too young for us to pray for their vocations. I would like to share a prayer I try to say daily for my children.

Heavenly Father,

I bring to you my children. (insert names here)
I ask that you send your Holy Spirit into their hearts and give them the grace to hear your call. May they discern the vocation to which you are calling them. If you are calling a child to the vocation of marriage, I also ask you to send your Holy Spirit into the heart of his or her future spouse. May this spouse respond to your call and with my child seek to serve you faithfully. May they keep their faith in Christ anchored in your One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

I ask this through the intercession of our Blessed Mother Mary and through your Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

momdadandchildOur program is like many others where we share with parents how they are the primary educators of their child’s faith.  The challenge, however, is what are we doing in our programs to actually foster this.  Over the last few decades parents have played less of a role in teaching their children the faith and more of a role of bringing their child to the “volunteer experts” (i.e. catechists) to teach our children the foundations of the faith.  Granted I’m generalizing, but I’m hope you get the point.  We who lead Religious Education Programs have not intentionally taken anything away from the parents regarding them being the primary educators, nor are parents disinterested at making sure their children grow in their knowledge and love of the Faith.  Nevertheless, it seems true that parents are struggling themselves to know enough about the Faith to be able to teach their children why as Catholic we believe what we believe or how to connect everyday life with what we believe as Catholic Christians.  It is key in todays busy world to find ways to equip and facilitate parent involvement regarding the most important matter – faith and eternal life.  Here are a few things our program is doing this year for foster parent involvement beyond the classroom:

1) We had parent meeting at the beginning of the year sharing with parents how important their involvement is this year as their child grow in their knowledge and love of the Faith.  We also asked them after that 25 minute meeting to go to their child’s class to meet the catechists and get an idea about what they would be doing this year.

2) In our 1st – 6th grade program we use Faith First and they have a “With My Family” page that we make sure we send home each week for parents and their child to discuss.

2) In 2nd Grade we are giving homework for parents and children to complete at home and turn in.  Also, we are having two days during the year called “Bring Your Parent To Class” giving parents the opportunity to interact with their child as they grow in faith.

3) When children are absent, we are providing syllabus’ on our parish website for parents see what chapter they need to make-up at home.

There are just a few ways we are trying to involve parents in the faith formation of their child(ren).  If we do not find ways to involve the parents then the brief time we have them once a week means little for the overall faith development of the children we serve.  We must collaborate and team up with parents if future generations are to be grounded in their Catholic Faith.

Come Holy Spirit!

Year of VocationTheresa Johnson from Catholic Heritage Curricula wrote some great points about the impact of parents regarding the spiritual lives of their children and how they can help their children grow in their awareness and understanding of their vocation.  Here thoughts are below:

  • We introduce our children to their Heavenly Father from their earliest years.
  • We train our children to whisper into the very Heart of Jesus, and then to listen for His voice.
  • We surround our children with roadmaps of the Way.  In our Catholic homes, we teach them to take the Blessed Virgin’s hand so that she might lead them to her Son.   As a family, we participate in the life of Christ in His Body, the Church.   The very materials that we use to homeschool are selected because we yearn to have our children immersed and formed in Christ.
  • We desire nothing more than that our children learn to incline their ears to God’s voice, and be obedient to His perfect will.  This is the secret to their eternal happiness!
  • In the depths of our hearts, we pray that our children will respond generously to everything that God asks of them, knowing that He created them for a specific purpose, and that their lives will never be fulfilled unless they respond unreservedly.
  • As parents, we also without reservation give our children back to God, for they will only reach the joy of their fulfillment in His glorious and perfect will.

Childhood is certainly the time to begin forming little souls for eternity.  That formation sets the stage for decisions that our children will make as they reach adulthood.  Is God calling them to the vocation of marriage?  To the single life?  To religious life?

A solid, Catholic education certainly plays a part in shaping hearts and minds so that they might be prepared intellectually and spiritually to discern their vocations.  [Remember that ‘discernment of vocation’ isn’t limited to religious life alone, but any vocation to which God calls.]

When making any choice, it is of course necessary to have a choice!  That is, we have to know the options to weigh the options.  Because we as parents have answered the call to the vocation of married life, that is usually the vocation and choice that we, and our children, are most familiar with.  To examine the alternate call to religious life, we must reach outside our families to expose our children to this vocation, this choice.

An excellent website that features solid, orthodox communities along with a wealth of information on discerning God’s call is:

first_communionOur parish has 200 children receiving their First Communion in the next two weeks.  We will have three Masses for the First Communicants.  Here are a few ways that catechists and parents can help their child prepare for one of the most special days of their life!  

1) Take the opportunity to live in the moment

Yes, there is lots to prepare for…dress clothes, gifts, invites to the party, groceries, a clean house, etc, etc…  But don’t forget that is all secondary to helping your child be prepared and excited about receiving Jesus Christ body, blood, soul and divinity!  As you share how wonderful Jesus is to receive and to always be close to Him the child in turn will be excited and seek to focus on being close to Jesus.  Take many moments during the final days and share with excitement your love for Jesus and how Jesus helps you be holy, to be loving, to be patient.  As they see how important Jesus is to you they will continue to grow as they receive Jesus every Sunday. 

2. Make a Novena or pray a Rosary everyday for the one preparing for First Communion.        

Prayer is powerful and full of God’s abundance.  Take the time to pray and seek the floodgates of God’s life to be poured out to the child(ren) receiving First Communion.  

3) Continue a life of Grace

It’s not about one special day in the 2nd or 3rd Grade.  It’s the beginning of a marvelous friendship and abundant graces in ones life.  It’s sad that so many who receive Jesus in 2nd or 3rd grade don’t go to Mass very often after their First Communion – if they only knew the treasure of graces.  God knows how much we need Him and He wants to give Himself to us.  He wants to form a constant foundation and give us a wellspring of grace and strength to draw from in our daily life.  We need Jesus in the Eucharist so much – it’s our lifeline!  

4. Go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation – i.e., Confession

Go to the font of mercy and have children receive the sacrament.  Go to Confession so they can be cleansed of sins, even if it is just venial sin so they can be open to all the graces Jesus Christ has for them at their First Communion.  Going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation opens one up to a more profound reception of Jesus in the Eucharist.


Parishes throughout the country are preparing children to receive their First Communion in the next few months. Here are some suggestions on how parents can help connect and prepare their child who will be receiving the greatest of gifts.

1. Go to Mass as a family. Make the next few months special by helping your child see how important Sunday Mass is to your family. Spend time on Sundays talking about the Scripture readings.

2. Have parents go over the lessons they are covering related to the Sacrament of the Eucharist (and the Mass). At my parish parents receive a book (this year we are using Loyola Press’ First Euchairst Book) which consists of 7 chapters and a handout with each chapter. Parents are instructed to sit down with their child and cover the chapters and complete the worksheet. We encourage them to make it a special time for their child and to show enthusiasm as they cover the material.

3. Make visits to the Blessed Sacrament. It is very important to foster your love for the Eucharist by taking the time to visit Jesus who is really present in the tabernacle. If your parish has Eucharistic Adoration, be sure to take your child their for some time of prayer and help him/her come to know Jesus and love being in His presence.

4 . Parents – share how God is working in your life. Show your child that you have a personal relationship/friendship with Jesus that affects your whole life.

5. Pray. Gather as a family to pray the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary. Pray with your child for a open heart as they prepare for their First Communion. Show your child that your prayer life is an important part of following Jesus.


Here is a great quiz put out by Catholic Answers about some key aspects of the Catholic Faith. Test your knowledge and see how you do.