Chandigarh, 5 March 2015: Bishop Ignatius Mascarenhas and 75 Priests and Religious of Simla-Chandigarh diocese deliberated on the “Importance of Family Catechesis” from 3rd to 4th March 2015 at the Diocesan Pastoral Centre. The seminar was moderated by Fr Laurence Culas, Executive Secretary, CCBI Commission for Catechetics. Delivering the key-note address, Bp Ignatius Mascarenhas insisted on the importance of Family Catechesis, saying, “Family is where we first take the risk of giving and receiving love. It is where one generation passes on its values to the next, ensuring the continuity of a civilization. For any society, the family is the crucible of its future, and for the sake of our children’s future, we must be its defenders.” Father Laurence Culas gave in-put sessions on the “Context and Challenges of Families Today,” “Irreplaceable Role of Families in the Faith Formation of Children,” “Problems and Prospects of Family Catechesis” and “Ways of Doing Family Catechesis.”
Contextualizing the theme, the participants of the seminar discussed and reported various challenges confronted by the families in the diocese. Mainly, the families lack the following: self esteem, faith, faith formation, role models, availability of parents for the children and for each other. The families also face the problems of illiteracy, poverty, unemployment, migration, abortion, female foeticide, cohabitation, extra-marital relationship, cultural barriers, local customs, child-marriage, discrimination based on caste, haves and have-nots. Ill effects of mass media, addiction to drugs and alcohol and domestic violence also have negative influence on our families. Moreover, religious fundamentalism, disparity of cult, mixed religion, non-availability of suitable partners, negligence and indifference of priests and religious are some of the other major challenges that our families face today.
To overcome the above challenges and problems the participants of the seminar propose the following:
- Regular family pastoral visits: Priests, Religious and the Parish Team (parish team comprising of model families) visit 20 families in a month and at the end of the month sit together to analyse the situation of the families and arrive at pastoral programmes in the light of the visit.
- Organize systematic catechism for all groups including adults by providing text books in Punjabi and Hindi languages and giving periodical training to the catechists.
- Provide on-going formation for families through retreats, seminars, recollections and renewal programmes.
- Make Marriage Preparation Course mandatory and provide service to the youngsters to find appropriate partners through marriage bureau, networking it with Regional and National level marriage bureaus.
- Strengthen SCC/BCC to make it a good means of Family Catechesis having Bible reflection, extracts from the documents of Vatican II, Catechism of the Catholic Church and Canon Law.
- Reaffirm the importance of Christian practices like enthronement, reading and praying the Holy Bible, family prayer, house blessing, and annual consecration of the family to the Sacred Heart, daily Rosary and prayer services on important family occasions and giving proper catechesis on their significance.
- Establish family counselling centres in the deanery level to help the families to overcome the challenges in their life and qualify personnel to run these centres.
- Give training to lay faithful on Bible, Theology and Documents of the Church.
- Eradicate poverty and illiteracy in the families, in collaboration with Education Ministry and Social Action Ministry by providing better education and skill training for drop outs.
- Organize chain Rosary, Way of the Cross and other pious religious practises in the parish level to impart the importance and impact of such prayers in the Christian life.
The seminar ended with the call to “work for the good of all, and especially for our families of faith” (Gal 6:10). The participants realized that the ministry to the families is all the more important because “as the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live” (St. John Paul II). Moreover, the participants emphasized that the family, being the ‘domestic church’ (LG 11), is the cradle of faith from womb to the tomb.
Father Laurence Culas
Executive Secretary, CCBI Commission for Catechetics