New faith formation tool puts families first

Pastors, directors of religious education, catechists and volunteers gathered at Saint John’s University in Collegeville May 19, for an introduction to “Pathways for Family Faith Formation,” a new program that will soon be available to parishes and Area Catholic Communities. More than 75 people from 42 different parishes and Area Catholic Communities attended.

The program is produced by Faith and Family Life Catholic Ministries, an organization that creates resources to support and form parents in their role as primary educators of the faith.

Father Tim Donovan, founder of Faith and Family Life Catholic Ministries, presents at the workshop.

The organization’s founder, Father Tim Donovan, and Pam Hurwitz, creative director, presented the workshop.

They explained how traditional approaches to faith formation are not working.

Amy Trisko from Parishes on the Prairie Area Catholic Community visits one of the prayer stations before the workshop.

“What we started to realize in doing ministry was that no matter how good the ministry was that we were doing, no matter how many things we poured into young people, if it wasn’t in their homes, it was unlikely that it would be in their hearts for the rest of their lives,” Father Donovan said.

The key is giving parents the tools to start those conversations at home, he said.

“I think Father Tim and Pam did a good job of laying out the importance of meeting people on the [Road to Emmaus] and walking with them,” said Christine Pinto, associate director for faith formation for the Diocese of St. Cloud. “We can’t wait for people to return to the Church and our structures. We need to go meet them where they are and support them in raising their children to be disciples of Jesus.”

The Pathways program is an “integrated and family-centered formation suite designed to facilitate a personal encounter with the Trinity and sustain a lifelong development of faith within the family,” according to the organization’s website.

Families participate in a combination of at-home projects, at-church sessions and at-church mini-retreats. Parents receive a box of activities with instructions for each topic. There are boxes for sacramental preparation — baptism, first Communion, first reconciliation, confirmation — and ongoing formation.

During the workshop, participants were able to open the activity boxes and try out the contents.

“While the morning was spent explaining why we needed a new approach and how we can reach out to parents and parishioners in an attainable way, I have a visual picture of the afternoon that will stick with me for a long time,” Pinto said. “A room full of adults all laughing, sharing faith and fully engaged as they look through at-home materials for families to do together to share faith and experience God in their everyday lives. It was truly amazing to see people connect in such an authentic way.”

There has been a lot of positive feedback about the program, Pinto said, and people seemed to recognize the need to reach people in new ways, rather than the old CCD or religious education models.

“The kids who continue to remain faithful today are the ones who had parents who were intentional, who prayed at home, continued to worship together, who had a habit of faith, something beyond the program they were experiencing.”

Author: Dianne Towalski

Dianne Towalski is a multimedia reporter for The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine.


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