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


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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