We recently had our fifth child baptized, and I was remembering our baptism class shortly before our first child was born. It was doctrinally accurate and fully explained the signs and symbols of the Rite of Baptism. I was a young DRE at the time, and it was the same sort of class that I offered as part of my ministry. But if I’m honest, it was woefully inadequate to prepare us to raise our children to know Jesus and his Church.
A few years ago, I was listening to a webinar given by Dr. Joseph White on early childhood catechesis, and he said something that has haunted me ever since. He said the Church routinely fails families when they need us the most: after the birth of their first child. Think about that for a moment. When a family has their first child, they typically research child development, search for the best practices in raising this little person, and restructure their lives and social circles around their baby. At this critical moment in the life of a young family, what do most parishes do? We require a ninety-minute class focused almost exclusively on a fifteen-minute ceremony before we fade out of their lives for five to ten years. Then we suddenly resurface with hoops to jump through in order for the child to receive first Communion. There is something deeply flawed in this approach.