Parents as pupils
Twice a month when Sunday Mass ends, about 60 people follow Br. Al Mascia across the street from Our Lady of La Salette Church in Berkley, Mich., for even more worship. In an era when some folks bolt before the last "Thanks be to God", it’s a remarkable sight.
Parents are investing their time in a program called "Sunday Experience", which recognizes their role as a child’s first and foremost faith educator. "We work with the entire household," says Al, Director of Faith Formation for the parish. While kids from grades 1 to 8 are nearby enjoying snacks, arts and crafts and online tasks, "I’m with the parents, who are just as much in need of catechesis [as the kids] and need to be reminded of their role as leaders within the domestic Church."
Built around a new evangelization that encourages manifest, visible expressions of faith, the Sunday Experience began in September and winds down after Easter. "The season of Lent is really a closing opportunity for families to put into practice a lot of what we’ve been talking about," Al says. "Lent is like a laboratory for us." For six weeks, "Everything that’s part of the Experience, including arts and crafts, is focused toward themes of Lent. We’re trying to make the season more sacred."
An example: "I suggested that parents consider a blessing of their children on a daily basis for Lent, thinking it would permeate the household. I gave them a simple formula and said, ‘Just try it out.’ It’s an actual little ceremony that seemed to be well-received." In addition, "We’ve watched some videos getting ready for Lent. This has helped set the tone for parents to address the season in a different manner."
The parish gave him "a lot of leeway" to develop the program, says Al, who adds his own creative spin to the elements of care, encouragement and challenge. Although "it’s hard to get people to commit to something like this, attendance has been outstanding." If kids and parents didn’t enjoy it, "Trust me, they wouldn’t be continuing."