Church parishes in the Diocese of Baton Rouge are inviting parents to examine how they are doing in passing on their faith to their children through a program Strong Catholic Families: Strong Catholic Youth.
Parents attending a Strong Catholic Families: Strong Catholic Youth Workshop at Holy Ghost Church in Hammond listen to a presentation and exchange ideas about sharing faith with their children. Photo provided by Trisha Labbe
Sponsored by the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis of the Diocese of Baton Rouge, Strong Catholic Families is a process that engages parents in reflecting, assessing and informing church parish leaders support and formation they need to guide their families in the Catholic faith.
Holy Ghost Church in Hammond is among the church parishes in the diocese that have embraced the program.
Trisha Labb, Holy Ghost director of religious education, said the church introduced Strong Families last fall during a Family Building Day. Parents discussed ways to bolster their family’s faith while their children received vacation Bible school-style catechesis. Following the presentations, families ate a dinner cooked by the Knights of Columbus.
During the Holy Ghost sessions, parents discussed: living fully the faith they want to pass on; making family top priority; managing their children’s activities so the family can spend time more together; supporting one another within the family; and living, modeling and talking about faith. Parents also received a list of questions to help them gauge how they are doing as a family and in sharing their faith. The church will have follow-up meetings to help parents address some of the issues with which they said they need help.
Holy Ghost will host other family activities, including a Family Fun Day on March 11 that will have food, entertainment and games. The Dad’s Club will cook hotdogs.
Labb said the family support program has already yielded benefits. More families are attending Sunday Mass and parents are taking charge of their children’s faith formation.
St. Joseph Church in Ponchatoula has changed its Sunday schedule based on Strong Catholic Families, said Becki Alford, youth ministry director at St. Joseph. The church moved its 10:30 a.m. Mass time to 11 a.m., and provides family formation from 9:30-11 a.m. Rite of Christian Initiation classes are held at the same time. Edge, a Life Teen ministry program for junior high youth, meets on Sunday mornings. The St. Joseph youth ministry provides catechesis and confirmation preparation for high school students on Sunday mornings.
St. Joseph changed its schedule so families can be together on Sunday. Overall, the experience has been positive, Alford said.
“We are seeing more parents coming forward and being involved in the church. It’s almost as if they were waiting to be asked,” stated Alford.
Chris Redden, director of student services and religious education at St. Jean Vianney School, said Strong Catholic Families invites parents to examine the way they do things regarding their faith. He will present the program on March 13 and April 22, 6:30 p.m., at St. Jean Vianney Church.
Redden noted parents inspire each other as they share ideas on “what works” in their families. “It’s always interesting to see how the conversation goes,” said Redden.
The conversations are based on results from the National Study of Youth and Religion, a study of teens that took place between 2001 and 2010 to find out what they believe concerning God, faith and religion. Redden said some results are reassuring and others are shocking.
“It asks some hard questions about whether we are celebrating our faith and passing it on or going through the motions,” Redden said.
He said parents don’t have to reinvent themselves to talk about their faith with their children, but they should do it meaningfully. “If you need to talk (about faith) in the car on the way to soccer practice, have that conversation. But make it something meaningful,” Redden said.
Brigitte Burke, associate director for youth and young adult ministries for the Diocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, said Strong Catholic Families helps church parishes and parents partner together to form children in faith. “It’s a commitment of the diocese and parishes to better support our parents.”