This weekend our parish religious formation programs for children and youths begin. We have a host of dedicated and caring catechists and leaders who are willing to share their time, their energies and their faith with our young people. What a blessing they are for these young people and our whole community. But they cannot do this alone.
Effective religious formation calls for active participation and support from three key areas or groups – home, parish and religious formation program.
First and most significant is the home, parents and family. This may come as a surprise to some. The Catholic church has long asserted that “Parents are the primary educators in the faith. Together with them,...all members of the family play an active part in the education of younger members.” (General Directory for Catechesis 255) One might say that in the home and family the Gospel is made real. It touches the ordinary of life. Parents and family will be the first witnesses to what living faith is all about. In real and ordinary ways parents will be the true teachers or examples of prayer and care for their children.
On top of this, it will be the parents’ support that will make any program offered in the parish effective. Without the encouragement and support of parents, no program can be effective. The encouragement of regular attendance and the sharing at home of what was presented in the program is crucial to effective religious formation.
The second area or group that contributes to effective religious formation is the parish community. The sharing of faith is an invitation to the young people. This invitation to belong builds on baptismal call to enter a community of disciples. The parish community has a role to support and encourage these young disciples in their journey of faith. We are to offer a welcoming environment to them and show them examples of living and caring faith. In addition, our community is to offer them opportunities to express their faith through involvement and action.
Finally, of course is the involvement of the catechists and leaders themselves. Their commitment to the young people offers them a living example of faith-filled people who care enough about them to give their time and talent to them in the programs. The catechist’s role is more than sharing information. Our catechists and leaders are a living expression of God’s love for the young people with whom they share their faith.
All of these elements must work together in faith formation. It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child. It might be said that in faith formation, it takes a family and a parish community and a program with catechists to raise a Christian.