There’s a new idea taking root around the Diocese that might change the way some parishes provide religious education — and might even help keep young people and families from falling away from the Church.
Right now, kids who don’t go to Catholic school are required to attend weekly religious education classes at their parish. Typically, their parents do not participate in these classes.
The new idea is religious education for families, in which parents and children participate together. In the process, the whole family will learn more about our faith and become closer to Jesus Christ.
The formal name of this program is Family Catechesis. (Catechesis means religious instruction.)
A version of this program is already under way in Schuylkill Haven, at St. Ambrose Parish. Sixty families are participating. “In the past, I have seen some entire families disappear as soon as the youngest child receives Confirmation,” says Mary Ellen Johns, the parish Director of Religious Education. “Our goal is to keep families engaged in church, and to encourage families to build a Catholic culture in the home.”
There’s also a family religious education program at St. John XXIII Parish in Tamaqua. Melissa Grimminger, the Director of Religious Education, says parents who participate seem to like it. There’s also an added benefit, she said: “We’ve seen an increase in the number of families attending Mass together.”
Kristin Osenbach, the Diocese’s Director of Evangelization and Formation, is trying to spread the word among parishes about the benefits of Family Catechesis. It will be a gradual process.
“The Church teaches that parents are the primary educators of their children, and this program will give them the tools they need to be successful in that role,” Osenbach says.
Experience in other dioceses shows that getting families involved together in faith formation helps keep everyone engaged, and helps reverse the trend of people leaving the faith.
Osenbach hopes to launch pilot programs of Family Catechesis this fall, in which some parishes would offer families the option to participate. “Buy-in from parents, pastors, catechists, and directors of religious education will be important for this to be successful,” she says.
I hope parents around the Diocese will embrace the idea if it becomes available at their parish. Finding time in busy lives to learn about the faith together, as a family, is a golden opportunity to form a stronger bond with your kids, a bond that will last a lifetime.