At your child’s Baptism, the priest said to you,
“You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him (her) in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him (her) up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?”
(Rite of Baptism 159, p 94)
All of you, who have had your child baptized, answered Yes, to this very important question. What an awesome and rewarding responsibility and commitment.
As parents, you are the primary teachers of your children in the practice of the faith. We read this in the Church’s General Directory for Catechesis, # 255 and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 2223. We also read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church the following…
*2226 - Education in the faith by the parents should begin in the child’s earliest years. This already happens when family members help one another to grow in the faith by witness of a Christian life in keeping with the Gospel. Family Catechesis precedes, accompanies and enriches other forms of instruction in the faith. Parents have a mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God. The parish is the Eucharistic community and the heart of the liturgical life of Christian families; it is a privileged place for the catechesis of children and parents.
This responsibility of formation in the faith of your child however, is not something that you have to do alone. With the support from your parish community, your pastor, your parish catechetical (faith formation) team and the office of Evangelization and Catechesis at the Archdiocese of St. John’s, you will be able to fulfill the undertaking that you committed to at your child’s Baptism.
The aim of the FAMILY CATECHESIS department at the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis is to…
- provide support and formation for parish co-ordinators and catechetical teams through workshops, presentations, talks, discussions, conferences, and faith formation opportunities.
- offer resources for parish catechetical teams to provide for families(i.e. the Born of the Spirit Resource, lending library, videos etc.).
- offer the assistance of the Diocesan Catechetical Office and Director of Family Catechesis who will travel to parishes throughout the Archdiocese to provide support and assistance.
- support and empower parents in their role as primary teachers of their children in the practice of the faith, by providing materials, presentations, opportunities for discussions and workshops to help them in their role.
Formation in the Faith is more than a program; it is a process that encompasses the whole of life. Formation is not only what we teach our children and what they know, it is more importantly how we as families develop our personal relationship with Jesus, and live that in our lives.
Birth to School Age
From Infancy to School Age it is important, to nurture the foundations in faith and to help the child grow in the Spiritual life.
This is accomplished through…
- the nurturing environment of the home through the love of parents
- the love and care of family
- the teaching of prayer (Our Father, Grace, Hail Mary etc.)
- the witness of everyday family life
- the telling of stories, especially Scripture Stories
- the faith and worship of the community
At the age of 3-5 when a child’s ego is still forming, formation (catechesis) also affirms and celebrates the wonder and awe of God’s creation. Catechesis honours the natural, intuitive religious sense of the child as they discover the holiness of being human.
At this time formation includes…
- introducing Jesus as the expression of Fatherly Care and Love of God on whom we depend for all things, and whose love is experienced in the love of their family
- introducing the child to the Easter and Christmas narratives from Scripture as well as through story books
- introducing the child to the Church’s simple forms of prayer
- introducing the child’s to the primary symbols of our Christian faith
- living that faith with the child through actions and deeds
School Age Children
When the home becomes the center of passing on our faith, faith is not just another subject on a school schedule but something that is to be lived everyday.
Once the child has reached school age it is recommended that they be a part of a family faith resource that offers support from the parish community, pastor and the Catechetical team of your parish.
The Resource recommended and provided by the Archdiocese is the Born of the Spirit Series. This Resource helps families focus more on faith formation and not just on sacramental preparation.
The Resource encourages families to have a relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit and to live this faith in their daily lives through the Gospel, the Church, Celebration of the Eucharist and their daily actions.
The Resource consists of In God’s Image (optional), We Belong to God, We Belong to the Lord Jesus, In the Spirit We Belong, Come and See, May We Be One, and You Shall Be My Witnesses.
They are as follows…
In God’s Image,is recommended for preschoolers up to the age of 5.
This year introduces the children to the concept of God in our daily lives through our friends, family, environment, celebrations, and how we belong. It also introduces them to some simple prayers and to the Church.
Year 1, We Belong to God, is recommended for children 5 (turning 6 by Dec. 31st). It builds upon your child’s experience of belonging. Participating in this resource will help families to extend and deepen that sense of belonging to God and to the family of faith. It also introduces the basics and foundations of our faith, including prayers such as The Our Father, Glory Be, and Hail Mary etc.
Year 2, We Belong to the Lord Jesus can begin when the child is 6 or 7 and has completed year 1. The focus in year 1 was on God’s love and in year 2, the focus is on Jesus who is the most perfect expression of God’s love for us. Year 2 is about, meeting Jesus and especially about meeting Jesus in the Sunday Eucharistic Liturgy, the Mass. The children will grow in friendship with Jesus and a special way is through participating with the family of Jesus in the Eucharist. This year will also introduce the Holy Spirit as the helper of Jesus, who helps us to see how God is present and acting in our world.
The 3rd Year, In The Spirit We Belong, is about the Holy Spirit. Children and families are introduced to the stories of some people in our faith tradition who were filled with the Holy Spirit, and are reminded that the story of Jesus is really a story of the coming of the Holy Spirit into our midst. It is the Holy Spirit who leads us to Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist and who places in us a desire for Reconciliation.
In Year 4, Come and See, we explore the Good News, the Gospel of Jesus Christ and we will discover how this Good News proclaimed by Jesus is handed on from generation to generation by the Church. We come to know Jesus through those who were closest to him, the Apostles. The words of Jesus “Come and See” are extended to the young person, who is invited to deepen his or her relationship with Jesus and to become even more fully a disciple of Jesus. This year opens up the Scriptures for children by placing the Gospels in their hands.
May We Be One,Year 5, is about the Church as the community of God’s people where the Lord Jesus is visible, active and present in the power of the Holy Spirit. Families become familiar with the Old Testament and how Jesus came to proclaim the coming of the reign of God. The Church, guided by the Holy Spirit continues the mission of Jesus Christ in the world today.
The last year in Family Catechesis is Year 6, You Shall Be My Witnesses. This year is about the moral life of young Christians who are witnesses of God’s justice and love when they are firmly rooted in the faith. This year is based on the Bible and presents how God’s covenant, with the peoples of the earth, is reflected in moral existence by the witness of love, justice and compassion.
The Born of the Spirit Resource is meant to be a help to parents, and to be a supplement to full participation in the life of the Church – participation in the Sunday liturgy and Sacraments, participation in liturgy of the Word with Children and the life of the parish Community
Catechesis, is thus, a fundamental element of Christian initiation and is closely connected with the sacraments of initiation.(General Directory for Catechesis 65, p67)
Along your child’s faith journey the Sacraments of Confirmation Eucharist and Reconciliation may be celebrated.
The aim of catechetical activity consists in precisely this: to encourage a living, explicit, and fruitful expression of faith(GDC 66, p67)
Beyond Year 6
Formation in the faith does not end when the child completes Year 6.
We never graduate from our faith, formation continues until death.
To provide formation opportunities for children after Year 6, parishes and the Archdiocese of St. John’s offer catechetical sessions, retreats, (locally and other provinces), outreach events, youth groups etc where young people can come together to continue to grow and live out their faith.
Please check with your Youth Coordinator at your parish or contact the Archdiocesan Youth Office.