Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) For Parishes
Q: How many workers are necessary to implement Family Formation in a parish?
A: The number of workers will vary with the size of your program, but in general you will need prayer support, classroom catechists, musicians willing to lead praise and worship, monthly adult speakers, nursery workers (if nursery is offered), people to pass out Home Lessons, a principal, and an overall coordinator.
All members of the Body of Christ are endowed with unique gifts to be used for His service. As with many areas of parish life, this principle is important in making your Family Formation program a success. Encouraging parishioners to use their gifts in service of the Church's educational mission is important to your program and to their individual Christian growth.
Q: What is the most difficult part of this program?
A: The biggest challenge to families is simply finding the time to do Family Formation each week. At our first meeting of the school year, we have parents and children get together and agree on a time, put it in writing, and commit to setting aside one hour each week. For many, the traditional Wednesday CCD night works because there are typically no other school activities scheduled at that time. Others may choose Sunday afternoons and use their Family Formation time as part of the way they keep the Sabbath holy.
Q: What is the pastor's role in Family Formation?
A: A priest holds a singular position of authority in a parish and can effectively set a positive tone by his encouragement and support of Family Formation. Through his priestly ministry, he is uniquely qualified to remind parents of their sacramental vows to raise their children according to the Faith, and can remind them of the graces they have received to enable them to make these sacrifices. In addition, priests are typically pleased to have the additional, regular opportunities for adult catechesis and will often give the teaching on the monthly topic (or raise up other volunteers in the parish to do so).
Q: What if my pastor isn't supportive?
A: Obeying legitimate authority is an important part of being Catholic. If your pastor is not supportive, we would not recommend using Family Formation as a parish-wide program. You could, however, use it with your own family through Family Formation For Families.
Q: How do you include younger and older children in the Home Lessons?
A: Each Home Lesson offers parents a great deal of flexibility and a variety of activities. This allows parents, who are the best judges of their children's skills and attention spans, to tailor lessons to their own family's needs.
We encourage parents to challenge, but not overwhelm their children. With younger children, it is best to approach topics at the most basic level knowing that they will be covered again the next time through the three-year cycle.
You can also purchase our Little Lambs program for families with preschool-aged children.
Q: Can you use Family Formation with high school students?
A: Family Formation is designed primarily for use with kindergarten through sixth grade students, but many families get all their children (including preschoolers and highschoolers) involved in doing the Home Lessons. The games, stories, and activities that reinforce each lesson are fun for the entire family, and there are many benefits to having your whole family learn the Faith together.
Q: What do you offer for sacramental preparation?
A: There is a separate Family Formation program for those preparing for the sacraments of First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion. Students in our program (typically second graders), meet at the same classroom time as regular Family Formation students. Instead of learning about the topic of the month, they are on a separate track, concentrating on their preparation for one of these sacraments.
Each sacramental prep student receives a booklet containing Home Lessons to do with his or her parents the other three weeks each month. Students prepare for their First Reconciliation during the fall semester and, after receiving that sacrament, prepare for First Holy Communion in the spring.
Q: Would you recommend offering both a traditional CCD program and Family Formation to the families in our parish?
A: Normally, we recommend offering only one program so as to use the available resources in your parish most effectively. In making the transition, some parishes have found it effective to choose a small number of committed families to use Family Formation on a pilot-program basis for a year. The following year, these families are able to work with the priest/Director of Religious Education (DRE) as advocates for Family Formation, giving testimony to its effectiveness to the other parents in their parish.
Q: How can parents who aren't adequately catechized teach their children the Faith at home?
A: Parents do not have to be experts in the Faith to use Family Formation. Each lesson is written at an elementary school level, and is easily understood by everyone. By simply spending a small amount of time in preparation each week, parents can become familiar with the topic in the upcoming lesson. Additional references from Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church are given for those interested in further study of the topic. One of the richest blessings of Family Formation comes as families learn about the beauty and truth of the Catholic Faith together. Many parents have testified to the fact that, through Family Formation, they have come to learn and understand the Catholic Faith for the first time.
Q: What do you do with parents who are resistant to the idea of teaching their children at home?
A: Even the least committed Catholic parents have an interest in their child's religious formation. By making Family Formation the only option in your parish, families are compelled to try it, and most will soon see the effectiveness of the program. Also, do not underestimate the value of having your parish priest's support. His enthusiastic endorsement of family-based catechesis from the pulpit and at your monthly gatherings will convince many families to give it a try. Personal contact by the Director of Religious Education (DRE) or another enthusiastic parent could help to encourage them through difficulties.
Q: What about children who go to Catholic schools?
A: Faith formation at home is critical, regardless of a child's school environment. By using Family Formation, a family can grow together in their faith, and the shared faith experiences offered make for many teachable moments throughout life. Children receive significant lessons in the importance of continuous education in the Faith as they see their parents giving priority to their own progress. At every age, growth in our faith is important!
Q: Is the Family Formation program on the Conformity List of the USCCB Subcommittee on the Catechism?
A: Throughout its history, Family Formation has strived to provide families with solid catechesis in line with the teachings and authority of the Catholic Church. In the very beginning, the parents who developed the home and classroom lessons were under the direct supervisory care of our pastor, Father Tim Nolan. As the program moved beyond our parish boundaries, each lesson was reviewed and refined by someone with a degree in Theology. In January 2007, Rev. Michael Byron granted Family Formation the Nihil Obstat, followed by the granting of an imprimatur by Archbishop Harry J. Flynn of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. Since that time, we have reviewed the criteria for conformity as set forth by the USCCB Subcommittee on the Catechism, and we continue to work to align our materials with their very worthy standards. In addition, prior to his death, the late Reverend Richard M. Hogan (1) reviewed a portion of the materials and provided feedback to ensure the curriculum is theologically sound and comprehensive.
However, because we are self published, Family Formation does not meet the mandate of the Subcommittee on the Catechism which is limited to the review of elementary and secondary level catechetical materials created and submitted by catechetical publishers. That fact, however, does not preclude dioceses or parishes from using the program. According to the USCCB, "even for publishers, not all catechetical texts and materials are subject to a conformity review, and if ... materials are not eligible for a conformity review by the Subcommittee, individual Bishops and their diocesan offices typically monitor and approve such catechetical materials for use in schools and parish catechetical programs." (2)
(1) Rev. Richard M. Hogan, M.A.; Ph.D; pastor; author and editor of the "Image of God" series, a textbook program for use in Catholic religious programs for grade-school age children; frequent guest and host on EWTN; author of three books on the theology of Pope John Paul II; pioneer in writing and teaching of the Theology of the Body.
(2) http://www.usccb.org/catechism/document/ - click on "Clarification of Conformity of Catechetical Materials"