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January 12 - 25, 2014

Year of Strong Catholic Parents’ progress report: plenty of energy

By Michelle Martin

Staff Writer

Halfway in, the Year of Strong Catholic Parents is going, well, strong.

Several archdiocesan agencies and organizations have gotten involved in this, the third year of the archdiocese’s Strategic Pastoral Plan. The Office for Catholic Schools and the Office for Evangelization and Catechesis have both helped develop and distribute materials and information, and continue to do so.

Meanwhile, about half the archdiocese’s 356 parishes have named a family advocate, who gets two emails a month with resources that might help them strengthen their positions as familyfriendly parishes, said Nancy Polacek, coordinator for the Strategic Pastoral Plan.

“Raising Faith-Filled Kids: One Word at a Time,” which offers short reflections on words drawn from Tom McGrath’s book “Raising Faith-Filled Kids” (Loyola Press, 2000), has perhaps proven the most popular offering, getting thousands of visits to the Office of Catholic Schools Facebook page and being distributed in parish bulletins and on school websites.

Resources for homilists who wanted to preach about family during the Christmas season were posted on the Strategic Pastoral Plan website, and the archdiocese is offering a total of $17,000 in prize money for a video contest for teenagers in which they are asked to make a video demonstrating the importance of parents passing their faith on to their children.

Deadline for entries is Jan. 15; for details, visit

A similar contest last year drew 44 entries, Polacek said.

Not every parish is doing everything Polacek’s office suggests, but that’s the way the strategic plan is supposed to work.

“All along, the Strategic Pastoral Plan has talked about having a bias toward local implementation,” she said. “We offer a variety of resources, and parishes can pick and choose what works for them.”

Many parishes are taking advantage of Liturgy Training Publications’ “Celebrating Sundays for Catholic Families,” a book that offers parents prompts for discussions before and after Mass each Sunday, Polacek said. A sample book was mailed out to each school principal and director of religious education last fall; dozens of parishes have since submitted orders for more than 50 books.

Parishes also received copies of “Building Stronger Families,” a booklet produced by Our Sunday Visitors, for parents bringing a child for confirmation this year. Parents bringing children for any of the sacraments can receive Family First Friday email messages. Five hundred recipients have signed up so far.

Deacons have been invited to share their best practices for the sacrament of baptism, and parishes were offered a survey to determine how family-friendly they are. Meanwhile, parents are invited to log on to the Catholic Parents Chicago website, (, which offers online resources and a place for parents to share their own wisdom.

The archdiocese is also in the process of planning for a Catholic Family Day at Six Flags Great America in June, when Catholic families will be able to get discounted tickets to the amusement park through the archdiocese, Polacek said.