Margaret Dwyer Hogan's faith formation families were more engaged than ever in this year of virtual learning, capped off with a special online retreat.
Sometimes the tools we need to evangelize are right in front of us. When I started last July as the Director of Faith Formation at our parish during COVID, I felt overwhelmed in figuring out how to continue our programs and provide comfort to families overwhelmed with anxiety and at-home learning. We were not allowed to do classes on site – so we needed to find a model that was book based and provide support as needed. We were counting on our families to do a lot on their own – when they were already overwhelmed with remote learning for regular school. So much screen fatigue.
We were frankly an awe when 80% of our families signed up for faith formation in a year with all remote learning. I had previously judged many of these families for dropping of their kids for classes but not attending Mass and in a year when we would have given them a pass, they enrolled and picked up books to do with their kids at home. Clearly there was a desire to ensure their children’s faith formation continued.
Our model for delivering curriculum was adopted from our sister parish: record a master catechist on YouTube doing each chapter of the book for each grade, and simply post it with an optional e-assessment. That worked for delivering the content – but what about the retreats, I wondered? Isn’t an essential part of sacramental preparation that retreat experience?
As the year progressed, I could see in the younger grades especially that the videos were being watched and the parents were engaged. How could we harness the parents involved this year to lead them to a deeper understanding of the Sacraments of our beautiful faith?
Lisa Hendey’s book, I'm a Saint in the Making, was the perfect vehicle to launch important conversations with our second grade families. Our retreat this year for second-grade sacraments was to purchase these beautiful books, send them in the mail to each of the families – and provide a virtual retreat with Lisa on a Sunday afternoon. Our families LOVED this book so much that many have independently purchased the book for other families as gifts! Lisa was AWESOME during our virtual retreat – quite a feat, as she had lost her mom just a few days before.
I have come to truly appreciate the generational aspect of our Catholic faith during these past nine months in my new job. I think to my own mom who always made sure we got to Mass on Sunday, and said grace before dinner. Often she would pray when she heard an ambulance. I feel a heaviness in my heart to realize we have a generation of parents who are not comfortable or versed in the daily habits that connect us with our Heavenly Father, Blessed Mother, and Lord. It is not because they don’t desire it, it is because no one has taught them how. Becoming a saint seems unattainable – unrealistic as we battle life day to day. Even for me as part of the Catholic Mom community, I am intimidated by the strength, depth and talents of so many.
A recent survey I read said that many people don’t volunteer as catechists at church because they feel unworthy, or not knowledgeable enough. What a shame. Everyone is on a journey, each of us our own – but the one constant we all share is a desire to go to heaven, and to be the person we were created to be.
Lisa’s book makes it clear that we are all called to be saints – in a way that is relatable and attainable. What a gift! I was thinking this morning I should provide some sort of trinket for our First Communicants this weekend, but realized they already have a beautiful keepsake from our parish– a book they can treasure forever and maybe share with their own children some day.
Thank you, Lisa, for this book. To anyone looking for a new way to reach younger families in their parish, this is a a great place to start!
Copyright 2021 Margaret Dwyer Hogan
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About the Author
Margaret Dwyer Hogan is a mother of four, married for 20 plus years to Michael Hogan. In 1998 at the gentle invitation of a friend, she learned to pray the mysteries of the Rosary using a card published by Holy Cross Family Ministries. This led to a radical change in her family life. Margaret now promotes devotion to Family Rosary however she can! At CatholicMom.com, Margaret coordinates the Sunday Gospel Activities.