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September 15 - 28, 2013

Catholic schools, parishes helping parents develop children’s faith lives

By Michelle Martin

Staff Writer

Resources for the Year of Strong Catholic Parents

To learn more:

Catholic Parents Chicago

Preparing for sacraments

Book of the month

Bible passages for parents

Parent-to-parent wisdom

Office of Catholic schools Parents as Partners

It’s the Year of Strong Catholic Parents, and Catholic schools superintendent Dominican Sister Mary Paul McCaughey couldn’t be happier.

“I love this year,” she said, noting that it brings together themes of several of the years in the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Strategic Pastoral Plan. “It integrates this whole emphasis on youth, the emphasis on sacraments and Eucharist. It brings together a community around children.”

While the Catholic schools office has abridged the title to the “Year of Parents” in recognition of the fact that not all Catholic school families are Catholic, it is encouraging schools to work with their sponsoring parents on ways to emphasize the role of parents in helping their children develop solid lives of faith, said Esther Hicks, director of Catholic identity and mission for the Office of Catholic Schools.

The office itself is featuring messages for parents and about parenting on its Facebook page and Twitter feed, and sharing the “Raising Faith-Filled Kids — One Word at a Time” word of the week from Loyola Press author Tom McGrath. Those words are meant to offer parents some insight and a chance to reflect on what is important in their children’s lives.

Parents will also find information designed to offer support and encouragement on the Office of Catholic Schools website, and links to the archdiocese’s Catholic Parents Chicago website.

All of it celebrates the importance of parents in the lives of their children, Sister Mary Paul said.

“If we define ourselves as those who treasure life, the dignity and reverence of life, we make the investment it takes to create those structures and those opportunities of grace for children,” she said. “It changes us fundamentally, our own faith lives. To be open to the service of youth, and to let them serve us in many ways, I think it brings us around the altar again and reminds us of our best selves. It’s not just strong Catholic parents — it could be strong grandparents or godparents. To me, it’s the opportunity to say I’m not here for myself. My salvation is nice. I’m relying on God’s grace. But I’m really here to be a vehicle of grace for other people.”

Focusing on the role of parents — the backbone of Catholic schools — can remind them just how important they are in their children’s lives, and in their faith formation.

To that end, parents will receive a handbook that details their role in the religious education and sacramental preparation programs in the archdiocese, probably sometime around Catholic Schools Week at the end of January, Hicks said

“In terms of kids’ performance, one of the biggest predictors is whether they eat with adults,” Sister Mary Paul said. “If that’s true of the dinner table, shouldn’t it be true of the eucharistic table as well? That’s my take on the year. I think it’s great.”

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