At St. Francis Xavier, we use a family model for religious education. Parents and children learn together! Each year, a particular theme is covered – this year we are studying the story of salvation, the story of God’s great love for us revealed through Sacred Scripture. We try to make all the learning practical for living rather than simply academic.
Once a month, parents and children come to church and experience the information on their own level. Then, together as a family, they complete two lessons at home which expand on what they learned at church. The home lessons include video clips, games and worksheets that are done together. Where the information is too difficult for younger students, a simpler activity is provided. However, in most cases the information is presented in such a way that parents can simply explain it to their younger children. The home lessons are fun and interactive, providing a family friendly way to learn or review the truths of the faith.
In addition to the educational aspect, the program also includes a service and prayer component. Together, these form a “head-hands-heart” model that has proven to help form healthy, well-rounded Christian disciples. We know that unless knowledge of the faith draws us closer to Christ and to serving His people, it simply remains academic and ultimately can become prideful. Resources for the service and prayer components are provided to parents along with a binder of home lessons.
In 2005, Family Centered Faith Formation won the Mustard Seed Award, a national award bestowed by the National Catholic Education Association for the excellent way it incorporates parents in the faith formation of their children.
When families are new to this approach, they sometimes have questions. Here are answers to those most frequently asked:
How much time will this take?
The monthly meetings at St. Francis Xavier church take place immediately after the 10 am Mass and conclude at approximately 12:30 pm. The two home lessons should not take more than 1 hour each.
What textbooks will my children use?
Rather than having each child working in a different grade level textbook, we provide lessons that can be done together as a family. Occasionally, we add a worksheet specifically for a young child or an adolescent or a parent, but generally the truths, rituals and spirituality of our Catholic faith come alive through family discussion, games, worksheets, and hands-on activities. Families receive a binder containing these interactive lessons that are done at home. Each year they receive new materials for their binder.
Although textbooks are not used, be assured that the material is derived from many reliable sources, including the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Scriptures, Church documents and various reference tools all approved and sanctioned by the Catholic Church.
Will there be homework assignments?
For each of the home lessons there is one homework assignment – occasionally there are two assignments. Parents are asked to complete the assignments with their children and turn them in as they sign in for the monthly Church session. If the children in the family are very young, parents are asked to complete the assignments and explain the content on the age level of their children. This way, parents are being prepared to answer the questions their children may ask as they mature.
Will I be with my children the whole time during the monthly church sessions?
A portion of the lesson is presented with all ages present in the Church. Following the opening presentation the PK-4th graders will go to their classrooms in the lower level of the Church to process and expand on the information with their Catechists, The 5th-8th graders will remain with their parents to see a video and then go to their classrooms. Occasionally, the 5th-8th graders will remain with their parents the entire time.
What if our family does not complete the two home lessons?
As with any family activity – sports, school, work, social engagements – the key is planning. We recommend that the family decide together when they will gather to do the home lessons. Put a sticker on your calendar at home as a reminder that it is “Faith Formation Day”. Because you are given just two lessons, you have the flexibility of a free week to catch up.
The program is only successful if families are committed to doing the home lessons. The diocese requires 30 hours per year of religious education…gathering at church for 1 ½ hours each month will not meet that requirement. The home lessons complete the remainder of the 30 hours.
However, if a health or emergency situation arises that makes it impossible to do the work at home in a timely manner, please contact the director to discuss arrangements for catching up.
How much service is required of the families participating in the program?
Each family is asked to complete one Corporal Work of Mercy (caring for the bodily needs of others) and one Spiritual Work of Mercy (caring for the spiritual needs of others). A booklet containing an explanation of the Works of Mercy and a list of suggestions for performing them is included in the family binder and is also under the “Service” tab on the website.
Two report sheets are included in the back of the binder. Families are asked to document their service experiences and return these sheets at the end of the year.
And the prayer component…?
A booklet entitled “Passing on the Faith” is provided in the family binder. It contains key terms and teachings of the Catholic Church so parents can regularly review their children on the concepts that are covered in the monthly sessions. It also contains some of the prayers that are especially dear to us as Catholics. When your children enter the Confirmation program, they will be tested on these points of doctrine as well as the prayers, so it’s a good practice to teach them to your children along the way.
Families are also expected to attend Mass every week. What a blessing the Mass provides for us to be united with Christ in the Eucharist! He offers us his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity; how can we ignore his offer? A set of Mass Cards is in the back of the binder to be used to help your children prepare for Mass and also encourage a family dialogue about the homily. Just cut out the cards and leave them in your glove compartment. On the way to Mass, read the front of the card. After Mass, on the way home, discuss the questions on the back. Completed Mass Cards should be brought to Church each month to be entered in a monthly drawing.
We hope this will be an enjoyable experience for your family, filled with memories that will be treasured for years to come. As your children grow into adulthood, it will be a joy to see them appreciate and consult their faith in their decision making. Hopefully, you will see the fruits of your commitment as they pass on the Catholic faith to their own families someday.