The family has a privileged place in catechesis. The Catechism states that “parents receive the responsibility of evangelizing their children” and calls them the “first heralds” of the faith (2225). The family is called “domestic church”—the church of the home (CCC 2224). For this reason, parents are the first and most important teachers of the faith for their children. In recent decades, however, it has been difficult for parishes and Catholic schools to make the shift to practices that are consistent with this understanding. Parents have come to think of the parish and school as the places where children are taught about the faith, and many families have left it almost entirely to these institutions to catechize their children. Still, recently, the quarantine that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic thrust us into a new reality—one in which, by necessity, children were learning everything, including their faith, at home. How might we use the momentum and opportunities that have been gained in this moment to craft an approach to catechesis that engages the domestic church in new ways? Here are a few suggestions for partnering with parents.
Give families ways to connect faith to everyday moments of family life.
When we hear that parents are the first and most important catechists of their children, we are sometimes tempted to encourage a didactic-style catechetical session in the home. While it’s wonderful for parents to conduct full lessons with their children, especially lessons about their faith, there are a variety of reasons—including time, confidence, and competency—that might make parents hesitant to dive into a full-length catechetical session at home. Sure, parents are primary catechists, but the parish is also a privileged locus of catechesis. The parish helps to make catechesis systematic and comprehensive, equipping parents in their role of bringing the faith to life through everyday experiences.
If, rather than trying to turn every home into a traditional classroom, we give parents the tools to connect faith to life in ordinary moments, we can assist families in developing a truly Catholic identity and worldview. Rather than offering a worksheet the family completes together, consider offering one way to live the content presented that week or reflect on its connection to our daily lives at home. For example, if a second grader has just completed a lesson that includes the Gospel in which Jesus says that he is the Bread of Life, offer parents this instruction: “This week, when you serve your children bread (e.g., a sandwich or a roll with dinner), remind them that Jesus said he is the Bread of Life. Ask them, ‘What did Jesus mean when he said this?’”