Building the competence and confidence of Christian parents to pass on the faith is the mission of everyone who ministers with families. In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis challenges ministers to improve our relationships with parents as co-missioners for passing on the faith: “We need to practice the art of listening, which is more than simply hearing. Listening...is an openness of heart which makes possible that closeness without which genuine spiritual encounter cannot occur. Listening helps us to find the right gesture and word which shows that we are more than simply bystanders” (EG 171).
Wise parish staffs and individual catechists will make parent meetings and consultations with parents so intelligent, so excellent, so sensible that the people will want to come. Make the experience comfortable and hospitable. Have beautiful music and prayer. Make it your goal to meet each person face to face, rather than just have them mail in registration. Invite members of other parish organizations to be on hand to meet and greet people. Provide a parish “sponsor” for new families. Announce and welcome newcomers.
Parents want to do what is right for their families. Guidelines cannot and should not be enforced as though they are rules, particularly concerning sacraments. Think of Pope Francis’ image of the Church as a field hospital: Care for peoples’ immediate needs. Rehab can begin later, once you form a relationship of trust and respect.
Recognize that parents have the most influence in forming faith. Include adults in planning; tap into the skills and talents they have. Partner with leader families: They will see their friends and neighbors in the workplace and on the soccer field, ant their homes must be places from which good news is communicated (EG 86).
Be considerate and gentle with people. Life is very full, and they have challenges you wouldn’t guess. “Everyone needs to be touched by the comfort and attraction of God’s saving love, which is mysteriously at work in each person, above and beyond their faults and failings” (EG 44). Along with Pope Francis, we dream of a Church with its arms wide open, like the father of the Prodigal son, where there is a place for others, with all their problems (EG 47). Kindness and patience you offer to parents today can radiate to others who have not yet experienced the joy of the Gospel, spreading what Pope Francis calls “a revolution of tenderness” (EG 88).