In this file photo, a young student colors a picture related to his religious education lesson in St. Mary Parish, Colts Neck. Ken Falls photo
In this file photo, a young student colors a picture related to his religious education lesson in St. Mary Parish, Colts Neck. Ken Falls photo
Earlier this year, the COVID-19 pandemic altered the way we encounter one another, our families, friends and parish communities.

I miss being in community at my parish, going to Mass on Sunday, seeing familiar faces, chatting with fellow parishioners and attending the monthly Knights of Columbus Pancake Breakfast. The simple encounters that we all took for granted have changed. We are all feeling a sense of loss.

In reflecting on the definition of Catechesis – “to echo the Word of God” – I realize these times are presenting us with a unique opportunity – one in which families can grow closer to one another and in their relationship with God. Is this the year of the “Domestic Church”?

Whether your child attends Catholic School or an after-school religious education program, the influence of the family and how the family practices the faith will have a more profound impact than what a catechist can achieve in an in-person classroom setting or through a virtual platform.

“Family catechesis precedes, accompanies, and enriches other forms of instruction in the faith. Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2226)

The Church celebrates Catechetical Sunday each year in September. This year, we celebrate on Sept. 20. Each year a theme is chosen.  Our theme for 2020 is “I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you.” The work of catechesis is an invitation to experience and encounter the new life given by Christ himself. 

So, who are the catechists? By virtue of our Baptism, we are all called to be catechists! Parents are encouraged to remember that they are the primary educators of the faith for their children. The grace we receive in the Sacraments provides the strength to hand on the faith to others, to be catechists. Many times, I have heard a parent or family member say, “I cannot teach my child the faith.” This is where Catholic School and religious education can assist the parent and family. The relationship between the religious education teacher/catechist and parent is a partnership. The Church is called to support parents in the formation of their children. 

Parents, I encourage you to examine the faith practices in your homes. Does your family attend Mass together? In these challenging times, if you cannot go to Mass in person because of the pandemic, are you watching Mass at home as a family and making a spiritual communion? Do you read Bible stories to your children? Do you have reminders in your home that you are Catholic – for example, a Crucifix hanging above a doorway? Are you praying before meals? Adding a prayer, perhaps a daily Rosary, to your family life can be the first step in catechizing your children and the entire family. 

Our Catholic faith is filled with traditions. When families celebrate the First Holy Communion of a child, the entire family gathers together. We celebrate in the name of Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for us to enter eternal life. Take this celebration of the Eucharist into your home, and talk to your children about the grace we receive in the Sacrament. 

“I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you.” This is a call to all catechists to continue passing on the faith with love and courage. It is also a reminder for parents to live out their mission of family life, to teach and practice the faith with their children. This is the Domestic Church!

A family that prays together stays together. Take some time and reflect on your own family and how you practice the faith at home. Remember, it is never too late to begin a relationship with the Lord! He is waiting for us to encounter him – even when we are far apart physically from our parish communities.