The responses to the first Listen to Me survey have been astounding so far. If you are charged with the care of souls, could I recommend you do this? It takes about twenty minutes to whip together a Google form, and then you have a free, confidential way to ask open-ended questions that let people tell you what they are really thinking. Even the shy people. Even the people you think you have pegged, but really you don’t.
Do this, guys. You’ll be stunned at what you learn.
Meanwhile, let’s listen to what a few moms had to say in response to the question, “Is there anything the parish could do to make it easier for you and your family to learn about the Catholic faith?” I’m quoting only those who indicated I could share their responses. The content isn’t edited or pared down in any way. I’ve copied and pasted all the answers to that particular question, or if the person indicated they answered it elsewhere on the survey, I grabbed the answer as-directed.
These answers are in no particular order, just served out as they came in, though I did pull a really positive one to stick at the end, so that we could finish happy.
Our parish does a really good job offering Bible studies, etc. We have several–dozens–of intentional followers of Jesus longing to learn more about Him and His Church.
CCD is Wednesday nights at 7. This is an improvement over 9 am Sunday morning (because I’m not a morning person, and don’t want to try to get up there at nine when Mass is at ten). The result of CCD at that time, though is — when I’m working until five o’clock (in yet another town — thirty miles west of where we live) I have to get home, get my children fed, get them rounded up and ready, and drive another twenty minutes north to get to CCD. We have one hour. We don’t start classes until the last Wednesday of September (although school otherwise usually starts around August 15th), and ends the last week of April (with a picnic). May is out of the question, because every small town high school has graduation in May, and families cannot manage it.
So — more CCD classes (which answers the next question). Maybe a strictly Catholic VBS (instead of the community VBS which can only give our kids a Catholic experience stripped of everything that might make our Lutheran and Methodist neighbors uncomfortable). Maybe having a mid-week mass at a time other than 8:30 am (or at any time other than during the work day).
Maybe, given the cyber-nature of our lives, more of an online presence, period.
No. I think they try hard. I am a reader though and learn best by reading on my own.
Having other faithful Catholic families around, to grow up with, to make it their “norm.” Their cousins on my side are of course Protestant, and my husband’s siblings don’t have kids yet (and they’re mostly Catholic in name only anyway, not practicing).
I wish I knew the answer. My husband is very tolerant of my attending the faith formation activities in the parish (40 hours, Advent or Lent series, Bible studies) but he has no interest in attending any of them. He attends Mass and except for helping at the parish fair, that is it for him. I wish I knew the ‘thing’ that would encourage him to learn more about the Catholic faith.
Offer inter-generational programs.
I don’t know. Except that I generally feel my child will receive better education in the faith if I teach it myself than if I entrust him or her to the religious education system at churches. I know there are many good teachers but there are many who do not truly teach the catechism and warp our beliefs and I don’t see how I can be certain what kind of teacher my child is getting. So I just steer clear and do it at home. I suppose more faith that only well trained, orthodox teachers would be in charge of RE would help.
I wish there were a more serious catechesis offered for children in our area. Not a watered-down Sunday-School “God Loves You” lesson offered once a week while my husband and I stay in the pew, but actual training in the catechism.
Childcare during faith-building events. My parish is large and hosts frequent Bible studies, speakers, and other events, but parents usually can’t attend because hiring a babysitter for three kids at $50 a night for a 24-week Bible study course would cost $1,200.
Adult ed! Bible study! Small groups!
Hold events for parents at the SAME TIME as those for children, so the times overlap and everyone has a place to go.
Bulletin inserts are always helpful to me.
Maybe a “Did you know ____?” at the time of the announcements.
I’m more educated in the faith than most of the priests I’ve ever had.
I always thought an ongoing family catechesis program could be great. Not sure how the logistics would work, but the idea is appealing to me. Or just any kind of family oriented prayer experience or night?
A QUALITY WEBSITE with good links to good Catholic resources would be wonderful. None of the parish websites in our diocese are very helpful.
Teach it from the ambo. People don’t need to hear about how damn special they are, one more time in a sermon. They need to understand why the sign of the cross matters and opens our prayer and mass; what the Eucharist is; why we DO the things we do. They need to see the connection of it all to scripture. I’ve noticed in church that people pay attention when the sermon actually teaches something — whether it is something historical about biblical culture, or about the whys and wherefores of the faith — they DO NOT pay attention to, “you’re special; be kind to yourself; God is special; Mass is special.”
More programs offered on-line. There are programs from Ascension Press that allow people to go through programs on-line on their own. The cost is minimal – like $10 a month to the Parish after they have purchased a Starter Pack for a program. Study programs can then be setup online and promoted to the Parish and people can sign up on their own to learn more about the Mass or Prayer. Parishes resist doing things this way as they want the people coming to a class where they can meet – This is totally understandable and of course this is the optimal way to learn. But on-line learning can just be another option, especially for college age students.
No, they’re pretty helpful here about this.
Mother-baby friendly events, as well as child-friendly/family-friendly events.
One or two more time options for Communion prep would be nice. A family class time, so I wouldn’t need a sitter when I took a class, would be awesome.
Our parish is struggling to find a good way to implement an adult RCICA (RCIA for Catholic adults). Probably our best catechesis program for adults has been Theology on Tap which is generally targeted to young adults, but in our parish is well attended by adults of all ages.
I don’t know. I’m not really looking for that so much.
Family events where babies are welcome and room is made for them. We attended a retreat once that was during the day with a separate, but connected room with a changing table, crib and rocking chair.
Events in the morning or afternoon, evenings don’t work for us – ever.
More studies. Retreats. etc. The parish/Archdiocese is doing the Why Catholic program but I chose to do the Catholic Scripture Study instead. One night a week was hard enough for me.
This is the area I want to help improve as I mentioned above. My inquiries about an inquiry group and points my husband wanted to expand on our website has led to our parish beginning to look into providing more information on a lot of fronts (bulletin, social media, website, person-to-person, etc.) Our pastor views it as religious education and we’re beginning to push it beyond the typical groups to the whole parish and beyond…
I wish the Life Teen/PSR classes were less dumbed-down and more in-depth. I have a ton of Catholic resource books and my kids really know their catechism and Catholic history by the time they leave homeschool and enter the high school. So I don’t send them to those classes.
But, to be fair, we’re sending our 7-yo to the local Catholic school next year for her 2nd grade year so that she’ll get the first communion stuff without us having to go to the PSR classes and to satisfy the parish requirements for that. We’ll supplement at home.
Maybe more babysitting offered? They’re pretty on top of that too, though.
Take more time during homilies and other moments when appropriate to educate those in attendance on what is happening in the Mass. Help us to become more informed and engaged. Help those of us with non-Catholic family members (and automatic mode Catholics) feel curious about and proud of our faith.
More programs geared towards families as far as when they are offered (time of day) or programs that actually have childcare available. There are programs currently that look great, but without childcare we cannot attend.
I would love to get the Magnificat regularly through our Parish
Make inquiries into RCIA and baptismal preparation a little more accessible. Bureaucracy difficulties are amazingly frustrating, and don’t give a good impression on those looking tentatively, at the sacraments and the church. Having baptismal preparation in the evening when most soldiers (we’re a military family, and go to the chapel on post) are off duty would make life significantly easier too, rather than an early afternoon meeting time.
My husband started teaching the Baltimore Catechism at our church before Mass and I have started a women’s group and we read papal encyclicals. We are learning about our faith in these ways.
Having classes/Bible studies/etc. after Mass on Sundays or on mornings during the week. Better times for PRE classes. Not everyone has a 9-5/M-F job.
Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. Husband & I have boatloads of theological knowledge, but I’m deeply impressed by the way that CGS encourages the child’s own life of faith.
Make the military not work our husbands so much and we could learn as a family.
We teach and learn at home.
Encourage teachers and Priests to talk about the controversial stuff that most do not address. So many do not understand or know the faith because parish staff is afraid it will hurt people’s feelings to discuss theology behind why we believe certain things and need the Sacraments. We are teaching a watered down faith to teenagers about to be confirmed because I’ve been personally told by staff that I was not to discuss divorce, birth control, etc. or explain our stance because it might hurt the kids’ feelings if their parents are not practicing Catholics, do these things and still take Eucharist. I have also been told that these 15/16 year old are not smart enough to understand theology of the body or apologetics when it comes to our faith. How are we supposed to raise the next generation of Catholics to carry on our faith if they do not believe or understand?
Have more Faith Formation nights. Like sermons/teachings on a Tuesday night with childcare provided.
I would like an evening Adult Faith Formation Class.
We need more staff, a youth minister, and an adult faith formation leader. We are so limited in what is offered because of limited staff.
I probably would have had a long list of suggestions before I started working with CCD and eventually becoming the DRE. Once I really was in the trenches, I started to realize teaching the faith is so much harder than people think. Everyone thinks they have an answer. I see so many blogs on the subject, but most of them are completely unrealistic. Until you’ve really gotten involved in catechetical ministry you just don’t know what it’s like. I guess what I would answer now would be more family centered activities directly related to the faith and short answers, bullet points, etc about different topics in the bulletin.
Catechesis of the Good Shepherd would be nice.
Our parish is actually great with offering continued learning classes and seminars.
I wish the church did more to connect families and groups. I think both my husband and I could benefit from meeting other families that face the same challenges. We definitely feel very isolated from the larger parish community.
Adult faith formation classes? I don’t know what a good format is for adults.
More seminars offered on weekends versus weekdays. It’s hard to work full time then find childcare for weeknight seminars. Also, options for childcare during seminars if children are not allowed. As my child becomes school age, I think a separate children’s liturgy would be awesome. Maybe do an activity based on the readings and homily then rejoin their parents before the Eucharistic prayer starts.
Homilies with some meat instead of generic “love everybody” themes would be nice.
Our Parish is actually giving away the Lighthouse Catholic Media CDs instead of selling them and our whole Parish is addicted to them. Our neighboring Parish has an “Ask Father” event where people submit questions anonymously and Father answers them. I love that idea! I’d even offer to host it.
How about an online course like a MOOC but for the parish / deanery? At an adult level, but not too theological as that could well put people off. But many of us have a child’s knowledge of the faith and we should have a chance to update it.
I wish the homily was more challenging and talked more about concrete ways to live our faith. We have whole family catechism which is really nice, separate classes for little kids, big kids, and adults.
I’d love to have an ongoing couples group.
Rather than CCD, why not have more Parish missions? I’ve learned so much about my faith by attending those sessions but they only happen during Lent.
I think more retreats would be nice since our parish is the greatest distance from our diocese.
Good homilies with invitations to Q and As. Cd and book recommendations. Authors and speakers to visit.
Better support for homeschoolers.
Nope. That’s my responsibility. I don’t need to be spoonfed.
More classes and groups, even casual ones, would be wonderful. I’m very, very shy and this would be a wonderful way to meet others and learn more.
“Bang for your buck” homilies that are instructive and well thought out.
Adult Education post confirmation. We tried the “Why Catholic” program with our church and it was painfully pedantic. There is nothing for Catholics who already know their faith besides taking masters degree level theology classes, and no one has time for that with families. The church has a hard enough time finding people to teach first communion prep to 14 year olds. The parish is (understandably) trying to save people from drowning. There will never be anything for those of us who can tread water.
In truth, we seem to do all right learning about the faith. My husband is of an intellectual, philosophical bent, and leaning more about our faith is one of our common loves.
I wish we had more homilies about the harder teachings of the Church. Even lay leaders in my parish lead publicly scandalous lives and are ignorant of church teaching.
Make RE a FAMILY-centered experience, instead of a “drop-your-kid-off-and-we’ll-teach-him-more-than-you-could-ever-possibly-know-about-the-Catholic-Church” situation. My husband and I have taught RCIA in our parish for 3 years (after having taught Baptism for 4 years) and we have learned SO MUCH from teaching it! We both grew up Catholic in Catholic schools, but there is so much more to know than what went in one ear and out the other for 12 years in parochial schools!
We have a good offering of adult education – offered by lay people who are permitted to do this without interference provided the priest trusts them and they have the right educational formation themselves. These lay people are on the whole able to provide a more generous interpretation of the faith and one more attuned to lay realities.
The missing element is training and educating people to be confident in the church’s broad liturgical tradition so that we could have a flourishing life of prayer and worship as a community outside of the Mass and rosary.
We belong to a fairly large parish with an elementary school and high school. There are A LOT of young families with children. Every year there is a Mother’s Retreat that is one overnight. Babies are not welcome. This goes against so much of my instinct about being Catholic and open to life. I tried to fight it a few years ago but got nowhere. It still makes my blood boil just thinking of it.
I also recently emailed our director of adult formation, twice, about starting a Bible study that would be friendly to moms with young children attending with them. No response.
Our parish is awesome. People drive an hour to come to our parish (little rural parish in sticks; looks like public storage on the outside) for the quality of the liturgy and the Faith Formation program.
And there you go. There were many more responses from parents who didn’t want their answers shared publicly, some of them absolutely heartbreaking. Do this in your own parish. You need to hear the whole story, and I’m not at liberty to publish it all.
Artwork: Attributed to Orazio de Ferrari [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons