At St. Francis Xavier, we use a family model for religious education. Parents and children learn together! Each year, a particular theme is covered – this year we are learning about Jesus through the insights found in the Gospel of Matthew. We try to make all the learning practical for living rather than simply academic.
To lessen the possibility of contracting and spreading the COVID virus, our classes this year will be held virtually. Once a month, 5th-8th graders and parents of ALL AGE children will attend a Zoom session where they will view a portion of the “T3 Matthew: Thy Kingdom Come” video series followed by breakout sessions to process the information. PK-4th graders will not be present at these Zoom sessions but will instead, at any time in the month, view a pre-recorded class videotaped by their Catechists. Then, together as a family, they will complete two follow-up lessons per month. These lessons include video clips, games and worksheets that are done together online and submitted back to the office electronically. Where the information is too difficult for younger students, a simpler activity is provided. However, in most cases the information is presented in such a way that parents can simply explain it to their younger children. These follow-up lessons are fun and interactive, providing a family- friendly way to learn or review the truths of the faith.
In addition to the educational aspect, the program also includes a service and prayer component. Together, these form a “head-hands-heart” model that has proven to help form healthy, well-rounded Christian disciples. We know that unless knowledge of the faith draws us closer to Christ and to serving His people, it simply remains academic and ultimately can become prideful. Resources for the service and prayer components are provided to parents electronically on the website.
In 2005, Family Centered Faith Formation won the Mustard Seed Award, a national award bestowed by the National Catholic Education Association for the excellent way it incorporates parents in the faith formation of their children.
When families are new to this approach, they sometimes have questions. Here are answers to those most frequently asked:
How much time will this take?
The monthly Zoom meetings will be approximately 1½ hours long, beginning at 10:30 am and ending at Noon on designated Sundays. The pre-recorded PK-4th grade lessons are approximately 1-1½ hours long. The two home lessons should not take more than 1 hour each.
Do I need to sign-up for the Zoom meetings?
Yes. You will receive an email each month reminding you to register using “Sign-Up Genius” for the breakout session you wish to attend. If your oldest child is in 5th-8th grade, an adult must accompany him to the Zoom breakout group because there will be discussion that takes place between the child and the adult. If your oldest child is in 2nd-4th grade or PK-1st grade, you should sign up for one of these groups. During the breakout sessions for parents of PK-4th graders, you will participate in a discussion about how to convey and nurture the faith with children of this age.
What textbooks will my children use?
Rather than having each child working in a different grade level textbook, we provide lessons that can be done together as a family. Occasionally, we add a worksheet or activity specifically for a young child or an adolescent or a parent, but generally the truths, rituals and spirituality of our Catholic faith come alive through family discussion, games, worksheets, and hands-on activities. The lessons for the entire year can be easily accessed on the FCFF website.
Although textbooks are not used, be assured that the material is derived from many reliable sources, including the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Scriptures, Church documents and various reference tools all approved and sanctioned by the Catholic Church.
Will there be homework assignments?
For each of the home lessons there are a few homework assignments. Parents are asked to complete the assignments with their children and return them electronically before the following Zoom meeting. If the children in the family are very young, parents are asked to complete the assignments and explain the content on the age level of their children. This way, parents are being prepared to answer the questions their children may ask as they mature.
What if our family does not complete the two home lessons?
As with any family activity – sports, school, work, social engagements – the key is planning. We recommend that the family decide together when they will gather to do the follow-up home lessons. Put a sticker on your calendar at home as a reminder that it is “Faith Formation Day”. Because you are given just two lessons, you have the flexibility of a free week to catch up.
The program is only successful if families are committed to doing the home lessons. The diocese requires 30 hours per year of religious education…the 1½ hour Zoom meeting each month will not meet that requirement. The follow-up home lessons along with the service and prayer components complete the remainder of the 30 hours.
However, if a health or emergency situation arises that makes it impossible to do the work at home in a timely manner, please contact the director to discuss arrangements for catching up.
How much service is required of the families participating in the program?
Each family is asked to complete one Corporal Work of Mercy (caring for the bodily needs of others) and one Spiritual Work of Mercy (caring for the spiritual needs of others). An explanation of these Works of Mercy along with a list of suggestions for service that can be done even during stay-at-home restrictions can be found under the “Service” tab on the website.
Two report sheets are also included under the “Service” tab. Families are asked to document their service experiences and return these sheets electronically by the end of the year.
And the prayer component…?
A booklet entitled “Passing on the Faith” is provided electronically on the website under the “Prayer” tab. It contains key terms and teachings of the Catholic Church so parents can regularly review their children on the concepts that are covered in the monthly sessions. It also contains some of the prayers that are especially dear to us as Catholics. When your children enter the Confirmation program, they will be tested on these points of doctrine as well as the prayers, so it’s a good practice to teach them to your children along the way.
Families are also expected to attend Mass every week when attendance is permitted by the diocese, unless there is a health issue that would endanger them or others. What a blessing the Mass provides for us to be united with Christ in the Eucharist! He offers us his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity; how can we ignore his offer? A set of Mass Cards is provided online to help you prepare your children for Mass and also encourage a family dialogue. Even in times when Mass is not allowed, these Mass Cards will be a source of grace as they will help your family think about the Scripture that will be proclaimed at Mass each week. The Scriptures are the Word of God and unite us with Christ even when we cannot receive Holy Communion.
We hope this will be an enjoyable experience for your family, filled with memories that will be treasured for years to come. As your children grow into adulthood, it will be a joy to see them appreciate and consult their faith in their decision making. Hopefully, you will see the fruits of your commitment as they pass on the Catholic faith to their own families someday.