Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Doing Better for the Next Generation of Catholics Pt. II

A couple weeks ago, I blogged about how my parents basically left teaching my siblings and I about Catholicism (as opposed to general Christianity) to our weekly CCD class. I talked about how my inadequate understanding of the Faith led me to question the Church and spend a number of years spiritually adrift. Now that I have embraced the Faith anew, I am strongly motivated to do a better job at raising my children as Catholics. I worry, however, about whether I will be capable of properly teaching the Faith to them when I'm still working on understanding it myself.

Denise Hunnell of "Catholic Matriarch in my Domestic Church" has written a couple of excellent posts about her experience teaching CCD. In one called "Reflections of a 7th Grade Catechist" on her personal blog, she talks about the frustration she feels when all her efforts do not seem to matter to her students' faith development. She writes about the 3 types of students she has in her class: those from strong Catholic homes for whom CCD merely reinforces the lessons they learn from their families; "Sunday" Catholics who listen politely but do not find it relevant to their daily lives; and those who view RE as "an onerous obligation with no real benefit other than keeping Grandmother happy".

In an article for Catholic entitled "Outsourcing Religious Education", Denise puts forth the provocative idea of replacing traditional CCD for children with a program that supports family Faith formation. She writes: "Parents drop their children off at CCD and pick them up an hour later assuming their little brains have been adequately filled with religious knowledge. Parents abdicate their role in faith formation. They outsource it." When parents are not committed to teaching the Faith by example, it is little wonder that the children cannot learn it in a one hour per week class. Denise compares it to the parable of the farmer sowing seeds in Matthew 13: "If faith is not being lived at home, all our efforts in the CCD class are like the seed that fell on the pathway or the rocky soil. They are never watered and nurtured. They never take root."

Denise suggests parishes offer a family catechesis program, where parents and children would come together with other families once per month. They would study lessons based on that month's theme and then take those lessons home to incorporate into family life. Denise writes: "For example, if the lesson of the month is on the Eucharist, families may try to attend at least one Daily Mass together or go to Eucharistic Adoration together."

This is an excellent idea and something that I would love my parish to implement. Many (if not most) of today's Gen X & Gen Y parents are like me in that they lack any firsthand experience with family Faith formation. We may have very good intentions about wanting to do better for the next generation of Catholics but it can be hard to put it into practice. Sure, there are books, magazine articles, and websites dedicated to helping us in this task. These are useful but don't provide the community that a program such as Denise's suggested one would.

It's not easy to go against the prevailing culture that pays lip service to spirituality on the Sabbath but ignores it the other 6 days of the week. It would be so great to have a group of other like-minded families in our parish to provide fellowship and support in this struggle!

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