Shared journey in our faith begins at home

Five years ago, Sacred Heart Parish in Norfolk was in the midst of the parish’s first year of Family Formation, a religious education program focusing on parental involvement and support.

Sacred Heart was the first parish in the archdiocese to try that approach to religious education, which today is used in 10 parishes across the archdiocese. And more parishes are interested.

That was evident in the 50 or so pastors, directors of religious education and catechists attending the March 10 conference on Family Formation at the Pro Sanctity Center near Elkhorn.

But there’s more. The program meshes perfectly with the pastoral vision for the archdiocese – one church: encountering Jesus, equipping disciples, living mercy.

And why not? The program helps young people and their parents in their encounter with Christ, prepares them as disciples and helps them in that role, and builds the message of mercy, first at the family level and then at the parish level.

In matters of faith, parents are the first – and should be the best – teachers for their children. If faith isn’t lived and experienced at home, what happens in organized faith formation programs has little impact.

As teachers in the Family Formation program, parents have an opportunity to grow in faith as well as teach the basics of the faith to their children. Faith isn’t something on Sunday at church, but part of family life every day in the home.

Officials from participating parishes also cite parish unity as a benefit, as the program brings the young people and their parents together for some of the formation, reminding them that they are part of a parish community of faith and strengthening that sense of community.

While a successful program in many parishes, Family Formation isn’t necessarily intended for religious education programs in all parishes. Made up of diverse people, needs and assets, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all archdiocese.

But the concept of parental involvement can’t be emphasized enough, and not only for parish religious education programs. Any program for young people – Catholic schools and youth ministry programs included – also benefit when parents are engaged and connected, and in matters of faith, when parents share in that journey with their children.



Those of us who might believe that the little ones really don’t get much out of Mass because they aren’t paying attention might, in fact, be the ones not paying attention.

A call from our son, Nate, in Iowa, drove that point home.

The first Friday of Lent, Nate was going through the pre-bedtime rituals common in any home with children. And getting four children – eight and younger – corralled, bathed and dressed for bed is no small task.

As he was taking 2-year-old Lennox to his bed, Nate noticed the door to his daughter’s room was closed. He opened the door to find Liliana, 7, kneeling by her bed … still wrapped in the towel from her bath.

"What are you doing?" and "why aren’t you dressed for bed?" are the obvious questions from a busy parent in that situation. And Nate asked. Lili’s answer left him speechless.

"I’m praying for Grandma Pam," Lili said of Nate’s mother, who had been under the weather for a few days.

Praising and thanking her for the prayer, Nate asked, "but why was your door closed?"

"That’s what he told us to do," Lili said, as if it were obvious.

Not quite understanding what she was saying or where she was going with that comment, Nate asked her "who told us?"

"Jesus," Lili said. "That’s what that man told us at Mass … Jesus said that when we pray, we should go to our room and close the door. So that’s what I did."

It’s apparent Lili did something else Ash Wednesday … she paid attention at Mass.


Deacon Randy Grosse is editor and general manager of the Catholic Voice. Contact him at

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