Parents' Faith Club

As a parish priest, you have to try various things out to teach people the faith and to encourage them to a deeper spiritual life. The best ideas are often those that arise spontaneously from parishioners. One such was the "Parents' Faith Club".

One of the mothers at my Junior School said "Father, you're always talking to young people about the Catholic faith but we didn't learn much about it when we were young. Can you do a group for us?" The only possible answer to that sort of request is, of course, "Yes!"

We arranged to meet in the Junior School chapel. This is half of a converted classroom and has an altar designed by the children (quite simple but rather better than some of the horrors exposed on The Cafeteria is Closed), some good pictures on the wall and some coloured glass decorations for the window. The Blessed Sacrament is not reserved and the chapel is used for the Rosary, for confessions and for classes to pray together sometimes.

We meet at 2.45pm, finishing just before 3.30pm when the parents go to collect their children to take them home. It is quite informal - we begin with a prayer from the Simple Prayer Book so that the parents can become familiar with some of the prayers they were not taught when they were young. Then I usually give some input which leads to discussion and questions about various issues. The sorts of things that have come up have included most of the important current moral issues relating to love and marriage, divorce, annulment, IVF ... We also look at some historical issues - usually in response to something that has been said on the telly. Today, we talked about relics following what seems to have been a quite good programme on SKY. We have also gone through an overview of some of the books of the Bible - this is our current fallback. Previously, we have gone through the Creed, the Sacraments, the Commandments and the order of Mass.

This sort of group is necessary because of the failure of catechetics for so many years to teach anything of the content of Catholic Doctrine.

The group is quite small but has had great fruits. Because of the almost infinite capacity of mothers of school-age children for networking, the impact of the group has been much greater than would be expected from the rather small number (not normally more than half a dozen.) Many of the mothers have joined the Union of Catholic Mothers, they have re-started the Lunch Club for the elderly and have become much more involved in many areas of parish life.

It is called the "Parents' Faith Club" (originally "Group" but that seemed to get changed). However, it is only Mothers who come. The next thing is - how do we get the Dads more involved? I look with admiration on the American Church where so many dioceses have Mens' Councils etc. and parishes all have their Mens' Group and retreats for Men. Here, we have feminised the Church so much with touchy-feely spirituality and aggressive feminism that the men are marginalised. One doctor in my parish put a good point to me. He said "If people think religion is only for women, tell them to go and visit their local mosque."

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