I am involved with a committee for re-vamping Baptismal prep for parents in our city. This is part of a larger reconfiguring within in the Diocese of Steubenville, right now having most impact on the city of Steubenville itself.
Background for anyone who actually reads this blog... this is a small diocese, mostly rural, and the biggest Catholic population center is the city of Steubenville. It used to be a booming town but has gone bust with the dwindling steal industry over the last 30-40 years. We now have a population of 18,000 with eight Catholic parishes within the city limits. Not to mention probably 8 or 10 more within an easy 10-15 minute drive. So six are closing in the city, including the Cathedral, and all are being consolidated into this new Cathedral parish. (A new Cathedral is being constructed, which has drawn a huge amount of flap, sigh.)
So last night we had a meeting of this group who has created a Baptismal prep plan/presentation, which will be offered to prospective parents who come forward on the first Sunday of each month, if they want their child baptized in any of the Steubenville parishes.
But when we started, the current DRE of some of the parishes involved expressed her frustration with the level of "not-getting-it-ness" among parents. This woman is supposed to coordinate Sacramental prep for children, and she found almost two dozen kids who had not registered for Sacramental prep, even though they were of the designated age to do so. The presumption was the parents didn't realize what the timeline was, even though it has been set as it currently is for a decade.
That led to discussion of the need for deeper catechesis for parents. There was discussion of having classes coordinated with each year of their child's age. So, your child is birth to three, you go to these classes each year. Kindergarten and first grade, that class; First Holy Communion and Confirmation prep, that other class, and upwards. (Our diocese has recently decided to celebrate FHC and Confirmation together at the same Mass, at age 7/8, otherwise known as 2nd grade. Radical!)
But this doesn't sit well with me, primarly as one who has suffered infertility and an eternity-long adoption situation where my son was technically in foster care with us. If we tie in Adult Faith Formation strictly to childbearing and raising, where does that leave singles and marrieds with no children? Marrieds who, heaven forbid, lose their children? How does it work with single parents? Teens with kids?
So many variables.
But what it seems to come down to is this: If you want to effectively reach children, you cannot realistically expect children to experience conversion that their parents have not. At least, you cannot expect for the children to have an easy time of it if they are swimming upstream against their home culture to live their lives in the Lord.
Maybe even more basic than that is that every person is called to ongoing conversion in Christ, and this is the dire need among adult Catholics, even those in the pews, even those with kids in Catholic schools -- even those who are catechizing others.
So the question is: How do we bring others to conversion?
My, this sounds like a question that Lay Apostles are being raised up for. Why does everything in life seem to come back to that for me?!
We need serious prayer power going on. We can have programs up the wazoo and they won't be effective without the grace of God empowering them.
The priest on our committee returned to the question: How do you get people to show up? That is a very good question. Prayer. One on one. Maybe people don't need to show up to another gathering; they need to change things in their own lives. Empty them out of the constant running. Conversion.
Well, I'm not writing this to produce the answer, but to ponder it. Please, if you are out there reading, ponder with me. You can leave a comment as "anonymous" if you don't have a Blogger account.