Back to School – By Lois DeFelice

back_to_schoolAs we begin the new academic year, it is worth our while to know what issues parents think are most problematic. According to Elisabeth Wilkins, editor of Empowering Parents, the top five concerns of parents as the school year approaches are: (1) Unmotivated children; (2) Paying attention and behaving in class; (3) How to get kids out of bed in the morning; (4) Homework problems – teaching kids to bring it home, do it, hand it in on time, and not hate it; (5) Bullying behavior – from both sides of the fence – as victim or bully.

Parents play an essential role in the development of their children’s faith and life. Looking for ways to collaborate with them to addressing their concerns provides an excellent way to begin the school year. As St. John Paul II taught in Familiaris Consortio (no.17), every “family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love.” One of the significant challenges every teacher and catechist has is encouraging and supporting families in their important role.

Here are a few suggestions you can use to assist families:

  • Invite families to pray together each day and eat meals together as often as possible. When they gather together for meals, suggest that each person bring their needs to the table to share in prayer. Create a special prayer box that can be placed on a table at home or in the classroom for specific prayer requests
  • Encourage parents to give positive messages to their children each day. The best times for these conversations are in the morning, when parents and children return home from school or work, at meal times, and in the evening at bedtime. Little messages of encouragement, especially text messages about the positive qualities shown during the day, are very effective ways to help children grow in character and faith
  • By specifically addressing parents’ concerns about bullying, teachers can provide the necessary skills parents and children need for dealing with the issue, including knowing when to get help from teachers and other trusted adults

The theme of Catechetical Sunday this year is “Safeguarding the Dignity of Every Human Person.” It is certainly a topic of interest that could spark many conversations on how we live the Gospel message in our daily lives, as well as what we can do to bring hope and joy to the world. Today’s students are frequently referred to as “Generation M” because they have never known a world without mobile devices. It would definitely be worth the time to discuss how to use these tools to live out the message in Matthew 25, for example.

Finally, Pope Francis’ letter, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, provides many ideas that you can use to engage students in caring for the earth. Introduce your students to the patron saint of ecology, St. Francis of Assisi, and encourage them to consider ways they can follow his love for the earth and all its creatures. Every small step taken in our classrooms can make its way into the family home to create better stewards of all.

Here’s to a wonderful academic year!

Lois DeFelice has served in the Archdiocese of Chicago for more than 40 years, primarily in liturgy and faith formation on the parish, diocesan, and national level. She is a wife, parent, and grandparent.

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“Parents for the Future” – Chapter 5 – by Lauri Przybysz, D.Min

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When our son was seven, I held his hand as we walked on a frozen road with his little brothers when he broke away from me and ran ahead. He was so quick, I could only watch in terror and call out, “Wait! Be careful!” By the grace of God he was safe, but it was a defining moment for me as a mother. I realized I wouldn’t be able to protect him forever.

Our children are plunging into a future where we cannot follow them. Before children let go of our hands and run off, their parents and everyone else who loves them, hope to equip them for the journey. We have so much to tell them, if they would only slow down and listen. We try to pass on the traditions of our faith, our holiday customs, our family stories, our favorite recipes, and all our hard-won lessons in life and love. Before they go, we want to give them a sense of security, yet also encourage them to wrestle with new challenges. We want to teach them to be kind, to be respectful of others, and to express themselves honestly. If it were not for the children, why would we care to make anything that lasts? Because of them, we want to build a better world, a cleaner environment, and a more welcoming Church. Before we are gone, we yearn for some assurance that they will carry our values into the next generation. It won’t be enough to just lecture them, though. We must leave them a legacy of faith, hope, and love that they have experienced in words as well as life.

More than what we say, it is how we live and the kind of people we are that makes a difference to our children. If they see that we ourselves are praying, loving, respecting, and learning, then they will be more likely to grow up that way, too.

Our son is now a father of twins, and they have given him many heart-stopping moments already, making their own mistakes, and running blithely into their own futures. I am smiling as I watch him try to keep up with them, and I know that our merciful God is also just.

Dr. Lauri Przybsyz is the Coordinator for Marriage and Family Life for the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

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Crea el futuro: siembra lo que quieras cosechar – Héctor Obregón-Luna

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Un domingo, en medio de los preparativos para la catequesis, unos padres de familia se acercaron y compartieron conmigo lo difícil que era llevar a sus hijos a la catequesis. Preguntaron: “¿Cómo podemos animarlos?”.

Por ser catequista y educador estoy atento a los detalles. En una de mis observaciones me di cuenta que frecuentemente los niños vestían atuendos deportivos de Chivas, las Águilas, los CUBS, los Blackhawks, etc. En uno de los retiros que tuve con los padres abordé este tema y les pregunté: ¿Cómo desarrollan los niños afinidad por los equipos deportivos? Unánimemente los padres respondieron: “Nosotros somos los que sembramos el ardor deportivo en nuestros hijos”. Insistí, ¿cómo consiguen que se inclinen por sus equipos favoritos? Ellos añadieron, “cuando nuestro equipo juega, todos nos reunimos, hacemos una convivencia y alentamos a nuestro equipo sin importar si van perdiendo o ganando”. Yo exclamé: ¡BOOM! y todos quedaron atónitos y en sus rostros se leía una pregunta: ¿Qué dijimos? Yo les dije, ESO, ustedes tienen la respuesta y saben exactamente como motivarlos no solamente para que asistan a la catequesis; sino, para que también desarrollen el ardor por el sacramento para el cual se preparan. Continué y les pregunté: ¿con qué frecuencia ustedes rezan, leen la Biblia, hablan de Dios o asisten a misa? Muchos respondieron: “Gracias por hacer que la asistencia a misa sea obligatoria porque de otro modo, casi nunca asistiríamos”. Yo afirmé, así es. ¿Cómo podemos pedir a los niños que participen en eventos y ritos que no son parte de nuestras vidas? Está psicológicamente comprobado que exigir a un niño que sea parte de una rutina de la cual los padres no participan podría resultar contraproducente y hasta traumatizante. Muchos se rebelan y se meten en conflictos inacabables con sus padres. Esto era y continúa siendo una realidad en nuestras comunidades y programas de catequesis.

San Juan Pablo II, en su Carta a las Familias, afirma: “Los padres son los primeros y principales educadores de sus propios hijos, y en este campo tienen incluso una competencia fundamental: son educadores por ser padres. Comparten su misión educativa con otras personas e instituciones, como la Iglesia y el Estado”. En este espíritu, el sentido fundamental del matrimonio es el de ser fértil y recibir con algarabía la vida nueva. Los principios y valores de la vida que los padres comparten el uno con el otro y transmiten a sus hijos dan forma al futuro. No podemos esperar un futuro fructífero si no hemos sembrado nada bueno en el presente. Los campesinos tienen bien clara esta visión, ellos no esperan cosechar donde no han sembrado. Si compartimos con nuestros hijos con ardor la belleza, riqueza y profundidad de la Eucaristía, dentro de nuestra iglesia doméstica, nuestros hijos también desarrollarán un acercamiento y sentido a los principios y valores de la Iglesia.

Héctor Obregón-Luna vive en el estado de Illinois y se ha desempeñado como educador religioso y en la pastoral juvenil por muchos años.

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