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.

This summer I was preparing for the upcoming year and one thing that I really wanted to do is to provide a series of helpful presentations for parents during this Year of Faith.  I’m providing a series of talks on the second Wednesday of each month during our traditional School of Religion classes as a way to encourage and empower parents in their faith lives as their children attend class.  Last month I provided a presentation on what the Year of Faith is and how families can make it a special year.  This month was on “7 Ways To Help Your Kids Get to Heaven”.  Although I had a low turnout, I felt that those who attended enjoyed the presentation.  Below is a copy of my powerpoint if you want to see the 7 points I came up with.  I want to thank Lisa Mladinich and Marc Cardaronella for giving me some input as I was putting this presentation together.


Let us pray for parents this year that the Holy Spirit will lead, guide and strengthen them to be salt and light to their children and to those around them.


7 Ways to Help Your Kids Get To Heaven

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







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!

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!