Today our children’s lives are a bustling schedule of constant activities and social events.
Catholic parents are challenged to create a meaningful faith formation for their children, competing with a world filled with the distraction of sports, clubs, television, Internet and video games.
Katie Dawson, director of Parish Faith Formation in the Diocese of Orange, says that all 62 parishes within the Orange Diocese have faith formation programs that are offered for adults and children that provide spiritual growth opportunities.
“Parents should build ‘down’ time with their children to cultivate spirituality,” says Dawson. “Children need to be reminded they have been given a great gift of life to live. They need to learn how to pray and take time to pray, and make time for solitude and reflection. Children naturally believe in God, but if the parents don’t affirm it, it will dissipate.”
The Office of Religious Education at Holy Family Cathedral in Orange is engaged in continuing the mission of Jesus Christ through evangelization and catechesis. As a community of faith they are called to discover and give meaning to the Gospel message through word, worship and service. They offer numerous children’s (and adult) faith formation programs focused on the family, the catechist and the church community. Classes are held on morality, sacramental preparations, diverse prayer experiences and Liturgical year education celebrations programs.
There are currently 26,000 children between the ages of 5 and 13 currently enrolled in faith formation classes in the Diocese of Orange.
Sally Todd, the associate superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Orange, suggests that an easy approach to begin developing children’s faith formation is to commit time each week for the family to say the Rosary or simply to share grace before a meal.
“It doesn’t have to take a lot of time, but it is a commitment,” says Todd. “Lighting a candle and saying a short prayer can be the beginning of developing faith formation within a family. Praying together promotes spiritual growth and repeated practices will help the children to develop their spirituality.”
Todd says parents should encourage the children to share their religious education with the family.
“The building of a family structure further develops when the parents and children discuss the children’s religious education at home,” Todd says.
“Other ways that families can develop a faith formation is to check the Liturgical calendar and make an effort during Lent and Advent to say the Rosary together.”
In her book, “Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus”, author Sherry Weddell emphasizes that the Church’s goal must be to help anyone who is open to developing a positive inward disposition that wants to do God’s will.
Statistics tell us that only 30 percent of Americans who were raised Catholics are still practicing and 10 percent of all adults in the U.S. are ex-Catholics; statistics also show that the number of marriages celebrated in the Church has decreased by nearly 60 percent between 1972 and 2010. If the Church is to reverse these trends, then the evangelizers must be evangelized. Weddell has designed programs to help Church leaders and parish staff and all Catholics transform parish life.
To help parents develop and maintain faith formation for their children is a major challenges for Catholics today, and the Catholic Church in Orange County continues to strive to educate and put programs in place to help the faithful.