Choosing Life: Choosing Friends and Allies – by Lauri Przybysz, DMin

SupportingCatholicFamilies

When we were young parents, it would dismay us when our kids complained that we were the only family who didn’t go to that movie or buy that new game. What a relief it was when we discovered other parents at church who were just as uncool as we were. Everybody was not following the crowd. We made sure we saw more of those people.

Having a group of Christian friends was essential for us through our parenting years, both as a support for our marriage and as an example to our children. One of the best things parents can do to succeed as a Domestic Church is to choose good Christian friends.

When we feel like we are in the minority with our Christian values, choosing friends who share our values can give us allies in living our faith actively. Even though it sometimes seems we are “islands of Christian life,” we actually have lots of company in the Universal Church. If our partner families have diverse age ranges and life experiences, all’s the better. Together, people of faith can cooperate to do more good than one family alone could. Catholic families that experience the joy of the Gospel are the best evangelizers of other families, as well as their neighbors and coworkers.

Developing support networks does not mean circling the wagons and withdrawing from the world into isolated enclaves. Instead, families simply accompany one another on the formative journey of trying to live their faith authentically, welcome new friends, and serve others.

Reaching out to other families, especially those who are less connected to church, is a great way to evangelize one’s neighbors by introducing them to concrete, meaningful ways of living their faith. By working together, Christian families can provide support to those trying to raise a family in a society indifferent or hostile to Gospel values.

Because our family intentionally formed a community with like-minded neighbors, we learned from each other how to be Christian families. Over the years, our friends from church got us involved in many faith-building projects – helping a refugee family find housing, painting an old rectory, hosting missionaries, making a pilgrimage – which we would never have tried on our own. Our children worked beside us, watching and learning. We discovered strength in numbers, and we had fun doing it. This is one of the many ways our family chooses life.


Dr. Lauri Przybysz is a leader in the Christian Family Movement, a network of Catholic families in 42 countries that aims to improve society by building up the Domestic Church. She holds a Doctorate in Ministry from the Catholic University of America, and she has served as an archdiocesan coordinator of Marriage and Family Life, a Pastoral Associate, and middle school religion teacher. She and her husband, John, recently participated in consultations on the Synod for the Family at the Vatican. They have been married for 42 years and have 20 grandchildren.

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The Church – Mother, Teacher, Family – By Dr. Patricia Mann, Ph.D.

SupportingCatholicFamilies

The other day my stepmother visited and brought with her two boxes that had belonged to my deceased mother. One contained her college yearbooks, the other held a variety of sports trophies she had won.

The boxes, sitting now in my foyer, present me with a quandary. While they represent a wealth of memories, relationships, and achievements dear to my mother, they have limited meaning for me. I am one generation removed from the joys and struggles they represent. If I put them in my garage, they will have little or no personal meaning to my sons when they find the boxes on my demise. Yet, to dispose of them seems somehow sacrilegious. How fleeting is the mark we make here on earth!

One of the great blessings of the Catholic faith is the belief that our lives have infinite meaning. As part of the Communion of Saints, we continue to live on in the entire faith community, not just in the memories of our succeeding generations. We are blessed in the Catholic Church with a family that offers us the promise of eternal life in Christ and in the Communion of Saints.

As Mother, Teacher, and Family, the Church also strengthens our earthly families with ties of love, purpose, and meaning that are unbounded by space and time.

The Church is our Mother, a source of life. There is perhaps no other bond that matches that of a mother and child as to the depth of love and devotion. Through her role as the parent, she opens her arms to embrace us in good times and bad. She never abandons us, no matter how far we may go astray. She is the vehicle of our sanctification in Baptism. It is through the Sacraments that she nurtures our faith and keeps it vibrant and alive in Christ.

My best teachers were the ones who believed in me and my ability to succeed. The way they lived was equally as important as what they said. While the Church teaches our families about Christ, she also models for us what the Christian family can be by her characteristics of universality, holiness, and unity. She not only teaches, she is Teacher by her very nature.

The wonderful reality about the Church is that in her, we are members of the “Family of families.” Our earthly families are embraced by a truly extended family that is eternal. Through our membership in the Church and the Communion of Saints, our lives and their significance do not fade away like unrecognizable faces in a yearbook, but are destined to shine forever in the heavenly kingdom with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


Dr. Patricia Mann holds a Ph.D. in Religious Education from The Catholic University of America. She has more than 20 years of experience as a DRE, with a special emphasis on adult faith formation and initiation..

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A Home for the Wounded Heart – By Dobie Moser, D.Min

SupportingCatholicFamilies

When we enter into a home or church and feel warmly welcomed, we soon realize the love among those who are already there is what makes that welcome possible. Everyone longs to enter such a place, where all are welcome, where we can lay our burdens down, where we can heal the wounded heart.

This kind of welcoming community begins with an inviting hospitality, where the stranger feels safe to discover his or her own gifts. This invitation is more than an expression of love for the guest. It is a living sign of God’s friendship offered to all people. This powerful love of a Christian community conveys an authentic message: we love you, we need you, and we are incomplete without you.

As simple acts of trust and kindness build intimacy, there is an increasing openness to risk and vulnerability. We know the wounds in our own lives and in the lives of others. We know we are hurting. We deeply long to know in our hearts that we are loved by God and the Christian community as we are: hurt people. We want to break the cycle of hurting and personally know God’s gentleness, mercy, and forgiveness. And loving relationships are a direct sign of God’s healing grace.

Early in our marriage, my wife and I prayed that if God helped us to own a home, it would also be his home and we would share it with whoever came our way. We ended up in a 100-year-old house with many rooms and a large yard. For many years now, it has been a place for people to gather for food, song, and stories. It has been a safe haven for the weary traveler. It has been a place for friends, strangers, and several refugees to share love and life, laughter and tears, hopes and dreams fulfilled, and losses mourned. Visitors have gifted us with music, pumpkin carvings, Christmas stories, children, and pets.

Our home has been a place where God’s friendship has healed hearts through conversations and prayers, stories and songs, and breaking bread. In this holy space, we discovered that the walls of fear and indifference are broken down through listening, forgiveness, gratitude, prayer, and relationships. When gathered around the table with people of all races, religions, and cultures, we share in God’s amazing gift of the diverse human family. We discover the connection between the Lord’s table in our home and the Lord’s table in our parish community.

“The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts” Gaudium et Spes (On the Church in the Modern World).


Greg “Dobie” Moser, D.Min, is the Executive Director, Youth and Young Adult Ministry and CYO in the Diocese of Cleveland. He holds an MA in Family Systems Counseling, and his doctoral work focused on leadership development within the family. He and his wife, Lisa, are proud parents of seven children.

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Light in the Darkness – by Dobie Moser, D. Min

SupportingCatholicFamilies

We were that “Church family.” House decorated for liturgical seasons, seven children, family service projects, music lessons, chore charts, family meetings and retreats, on our third copy of Prayers for the Domestic Church.

We loved and celebrated the sacraments that nourished our family life. We imagined we could handle whatever came our way by transforming obstacles into achievements. We had the plan and followed it: Work and do our part. Hope for the best and share hope with others. Pray that God would guide and bless our efforts. Why did we think vulnerability and suffering would not be part of our life story?

We were slow to realize the extent of our son’s illness. Early-onset schizophrenia is rare. Yet the challenges presented by his escalating illness gradually took over our family life. We read books and sought help everywhere.

Despite all our efforts, our son’s condition worsened, and hospitalizations and medications were required. He was admitted to a juvenile residential facility for severe mental illness. We were happy for the respite but longed to have him home with us.

“He can’t come home,” stated his doctor. “You have to think of your other children and your little girl. She has grown up with this chaos.” At that moment, the contagious quality of his disease was laid bare. Indeed, three of our children have been diagnosed with PTSD as a result of their brother’s psychotic episodes and expressions of paranoid delusions and hallucinations.

The plan we had long been using, “Work – Hope – Pray,” was not working. We were in a new and unexpected place, unsure of where to turn. The words of Simon Peter became our anchor: “Lord, to whom shall we go?” (John 6:68).

The surprising answer was a change in the order of our plan.

Pray – Take our joys, gratitude, fears, and pain to God and trust that God is in control in ways we are not. We now make time to read Scripture, reflect, listen, and share the deepest yearnings of our hearts with the Lord.

Hope – Our prayer helped us to have the courage to hope for that which is unseen and invisible. Hope is an act of imagination and courage, allowing us to see beyond what is and to see with our inner eye what might and what ought to be. Christian hope guided us into that place where we had not yet been, and into becoming the persons we have not yet become.

Work – Our prayer and hope informs and directs our work in a way it had not before. Moral clarity requires that when you have the tools available to lessen the suffering of others that you must take action to do so.

There are still tremendous needs for our son and all who suffer from mental illness. Rooted in prayer and anchored in hope, we work together to do God’s work on behalf of all who suffer.

Greg “Dobie” Moser, D. Min, is the Executive Director, Youth and Young Adult Ministry and CYO in the Diocese of Cleveland. He holds an MA in Family Systems Counseling and his doctoral work focused on leadership development within the family. He and his wife, Lisa, are proud parents of seven children.

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