By JOANNE FOX
ALGONA – A family-based catechetical program has garnered a positive response from participants in Kossuth County.
The Family Formation program, initiated at the Church of St. Paul in Ham Lake, Minn., has been implemented at St. Cecelia Parish in Algona, in addition to a number of other diocesan parishes.
The model is designed for families with children in preschool through grade six. It also has an adult formation component. There is a three-year cycle of topics, so a child going through seven years goes over a topic two to three times. The second or third time around, the topic is handled in more detail and age-appropriate way.
St. Cecelia has parents and children come together once a month. A meal is available at 5:45 p.m.; the program begins at 6:15. Parents participate in adult formation presented by Father Ed Girres, pastor, or Father Jeremy Wind, parochial vicar, on a topic.
“After the adult formation, Jessica Manske gives an overview of the packets that the parents take home,” Father Girres said. “They have three ‘lessons’ to do with their children for the remainder of the month.”
Mankse, coordinator for family formation, pointed out the program assists parents with their baptismal promise to raise their children in the faith.
“This is quite a shift of thinking for most parents, who may have never considered they are the primary faith educators of their children,” she said. “Many think their role is to drop them off at school or a faith formation class and let the ‘experts’ teach them, but, the documents of the church call for parents to be the primary educators in their faith.”
Father Girres explained doing faith formation as a family is a completely different experience than just “reading about the faith.”
“With this program, parents and children are actually sitting down together talking about the faith,” he said. “Many prayers, devotions and activities are part of the process that the family is doing together.”
The Strong Catholic Family Project research indicated that families that grow in their faith in this manner have a far greater chance of having their children practice their faith into adulthood, Father Girres pointed out.
“Other research is clear: For every one new Catholic, we lose 6.45 Catholics,” he said. “Statistics from the Knights of Columbus illustrate that by the age of 29, more than one-half of baptized Catholic young adults have joined the ranks of the ‘none,’ or those having no religion.”
Father Girres added research from the Strong Catholic Families Project cites a direct connection to the practice of the faith in family as one of the most positive influential factors in keeping young people in the faith.
“The interesting thing, too, is that it’s not just about the faith, but also about having ‘healthy’ families who spend quality time together on topics that matter for their lives and their happiness,” he said.
Father Girres is convinced “if we cannot grow people into this process, there’s not much hope for the majority of our families or their children remaining in the church.”
“I may be sounding desperate, but we have to make this work,” he insisted. “Traditional catechetical programs may be good – but it’s not enough.”
Manske echoed those sentiments.
“I believe if we really pray for this program and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it will bear tremendous fruits in the lives of our children, our families and our parishes,” she said.