Message from the Pastor
Religious Education Registration and the Faith Formation of Children
While we continue in these unprecedented pandemic times and restrictions, and yet having to reschedule the celebrations of First Communions and Confirmations for those who have completed their Sacramental Preparation from the previous Religious Education schedule, it is now time to Register for the new Cycle of the Faith Formation of Parishioner Children. So, please see and follow the Registration process and details presented here.
Not only has the pandemic affected the previous Cycle of our Sacramental Preparation and the administration of the Sacraments, but the joyful reality of the birth of ‘Baby Kassian’ to our Director of Religious Education & Parish Life, Elizabeth Chopra, and her decision not to return to work after her maternity leave, has presented its own additional affect on Parish Life. I am tremendously grateful for Katie Riley continuing the Sacramental Preparation and Faith Formation of our Children through an excellent group of Video presentations that she has developed in consultation with Elizabeth, and with the assistance of others who help in our Children’s Ministry. Their aim is to ensure that those to receive the Sacraments are as prepared as possible in what has turned out to be a very different year of Religious Education and Parish Life. I also thank the Parents who have committed their support to Elizabeth and Katie as we went into these changed realities. Finally, I thank our Director of Administration, Stephanie Panzariello, for also having to address various ‘administrative aspects’ of the Program.
As a reminder, the primary focus of the Religious Education aspect of any Parish Faith Formation Program must be the formation in our Catholic Faith of those Children and young adults preparing to receive the Sacraments of Reconciliation, First Holy Communion, and Confirmation, in accordance with the requirements of the Archdiocese and the universal Roman Catholic Church. With the Teachings of Jesus Christ as the Foundation, it is from those pillars that the Religious Education Program must emerge. This is first and foremost, and our resources and approaches are directed towards that goal.
Last year we introduced a creatively different approach via a program offered by Our Sunday Visitor (OSV), “Encounter with Christ.” It is a program of Religious instruction to ensure our conformity with the requirements of the Church. We are pleased to continue that approach in this new Cycle. It represents the most flexibility we can provide, recognizing busy family schedules, and the schedules and realities of Parish staff, facilities, and available Catechists.
The Program and schedule is also in keeping with the Church’s expectations of Parental responsibility and involvement in the Faith Formation of their Children.
As those who continue in the Program from last Cycle know, the Program includes a ‘3-prong approach’:
Classroom Instruction (which in these pandemic or other times of difficulty may be accomplished ‘virtually,’ rather than a physical in-Class presence) only for those preparing to receive the Sacraments of First Reconciliation and Holy Communion (Grade 2), and Confirmation (Grade 8), each with their own schedule of weekday evening Classes;
a Home Study/Instruction Program between Parents & Children for those in Grade 1 thru 7, with a very flexible ‘schedule’ throughout the Week at Home, and through online interaction and completion of assignments;
and occasional gatherings of Parents & Children in ‘Family Faith Formation Sessions’ of presentations or talks, those vibrant and interactive sessions arranged by ‘Miss Katie,’which will take place on particularly scheduled and announced Sundays.
All of this, and every other activity of the Parish, is based on the absolute requirement of participation at Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. This remains an unchanged requirement for ALL of us Catholics, not just the Children registered in the Religious Education Program! The 10 Commandments have not been reduced to 9. The 3rd Commandment to ‘Keep Holy the Sabbath’ (our Sabbath being Sunday’s Mass) remains a serious Obligation of our Catholic Faith. To frivolously miss Mass (that is, without reason of personal illness or caring for another who is seriously ill in the absence of someone else being able to do so, or other unforeseen truly grave reasons preventing one from giving the Lord an hour of your time and attention each Week in Worship, etc.) remains a Mortal Sin.
CLASS IS NOT MASS: Unfortunately, in some cases, this seems to have developed as a common practice and misunderstanding. We are not here to compete with soccer, softball, dance, music, basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, or any other extra-curricular activities. Although these are all healthy and admirable social activities, the years particularly of preparation for the Sacraments must be a priority in your Family schedule. Just as you schedule the myriad of other things in your lives, having to make choices at times that you/your children can’t be available to do everything, you must search your heart and conscience, particularly in the years of preparation to receive the Sacraments, that other activities that conflict with Sacramental preparation have to be put aside for those months or that year of Religious Education, when your Children are preparing more proximately for First Communion and Confirmation. Our Catholic Faith has to mean more to us than ‘other choices.’
The Church has historically and consistently taught that Parents/Guardians are the first and primary teachers of their Children. In the Rite of Baptism for Children, the statement made to the Parents who bring their babies to Church asking for them to receive the Sacrament, is this: “You have asked to have your child Baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training them in the practice of the Faith. It will be your duty to bring them up to keep God’s Commandments, as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?” And, later on in the Ritual, while calling upon God’s Blessing of the Parents, the following is said of the Parents: “…they will be the first teachers of their children in the ways of Faith. May they be also the best of teachers, bearing witness to the Faith by what they say and do…”.
Please consider seriously the required commitments of the Program and register your Child/ren as soon as possible, in order that the appropriate amount of materials may be purchased and provided to you.
We are always looking to expand our corps of Catechists and Assistants to carry out the ‘in-classroom’ (virtual or otherwise) instruction for First Reconciliation, Communion, and Confirmation students. Those of you who can help, are asked to contact the Parish Office. It would be a wonderful way of involvement in the Life of the Parish, and another way of caring for the Children in passing on to them the treasures of our Catholic Faith.
Thank you for your and your Children’s participation in the Religious Education Program and other Parish activities thus far. As the Summer is upon us, we look forward to the upcoming new Cycle, even as we continue our prayers for all those affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, and a quick and complete end to it. Keep safe and healthy.