POLL: Family life in your local parish


Hello all,

I had been reading a few threads and I believe that I am not alone in thinking that the some of our local parishes do not meet the needs of today’s young people and families. I recently went to my parishes website and counted the programs and ministries offered by our parish and was surprised to see only PREP classes were offered to our children, but I saw no programs directed at families, small children, special needs children, woman (and mothers), etc… Ironically there was no shortage of men’s discussion groups, Knights of Columbus, men’s prayer group, ministries for the elderly, senior blood pressure screenings, senior field trips, etc…

With Catholic schools becoming less affordable and in the absence of Catholic child care services (like a daycare for working mothers), lacking programs that bring families together in the church is a big liability in my eyes.

My question is: What is going on? Surely, there is no shortage of families, kids and young mothers. Based on my observations at mass, families are in the majority, especially families with young children.

Are families just not interested in networking and socializing?

Perhaps, no one has perceived this as a “need”?

Aside from socializing, what other objectives need to be met?

Are there any programs / networking opportunities / ministries at your parish that are directed at small children, special needs children, families, young mothers, working families?? If so, what are they and are they successful? If there are no programs at your church, what would you like to see?


…i would suppose that there is always room for improvment, and the only consistent thing in life is change. that being said, i am always surprised to discover that in large percentage, the one’s that remark that they receive little from their parish seem to give the least as well. I attend mass to worship God and to receive his son in Eucharist. After mass is ended and leaving the church I do some socializing on the steps before I continue on life’s journey. I guess that I grow weary of some that feel church should be a source of entertainment… IMHO of course…:cool:


I do not consider the entertainment aspect.

I do consider that we live in a highly secularized world. While we do our best to shield our younger children from the “Gossip Girl” mentality, I think that exposure to others with the same mindset would, at the very least, show them that we are not alone in our values.

Consider also, that having a large family is no longer the norm. (and I mean 3 or more kids) As a matter of fact, there are reality TV shows about these large families now. Why is this entertaining enough to put on TV? Because, to some, it is unfathomable to raise a large family. The logistics of it alone are difficult (how to cook such a large dinner, where does everyone sleep, etc…) To others with moderate sized families, it is reassuring to know that there are larger families out there and they make it somehow. Why is this example coming from cable TV??? What is wrong with setting the example in our parish community? Why is having a large family a source of entertainment (or ridicule) anyway? --perhaps another thread??

Why is there Catholic-based hospice care and grieving support groups for the elderly, but I never see support groups for families with special needs children? Why are there so few community service groups for our preteens and teens to join? Why is there no outreach (that I know of–except possibly receiving communion) programs for the pregnant women confined to bed or moms suffering from postpartum depression?

I think that the questions need to be asked: Is there a need for this, or not? If so, what programs would be most helpful?


As a follow up to this comment: I think that this is an area that the parishes may need the most help with. Priests know a lot of things and see (PHYSICALLY SEE) a lot of needs in his parish.

For example: the elderly widow(er) who is lonely or deep in the grieving process. (start a grief group)

the elderly that cannot make it to regular doctor appts. for routine screening (set up of monthly blood pressure screening, etc… with a nurse in the back of church)

the sick who are dying (refer to a hospice program)

These are the things the parish priest sees and can do something about. He may not necessarily see a young mother struggling with postpartum depression or a family facing ridicule from others for having many kids, or fending off the influence of our secular culture etc… I believe that the priests are not aware of all of our needs, most especially the ones that are not acute problems or the ones that require him to administer sacraments.

We cannot show up on a rectory doorstep with a litany of complaints about what is wrong with the church. We need to identify a need, establish the audience and brainstorm some solutions and then discuss with the priests and parish councils.

So, it is not about doing the least. It is about doing the right thing (gathering info) at the right time (now, before involving the parish priests’ precious time).


Well, I can give you some insight from how it works in my parish. The pastor does not start the groups. This is not his job. When someone percieves a need or a gap to be filled, he/she goes to the pastor with a proposal including who will be responsible, where the volunteers will come from, what materials will be used, etc. As long as the proposal is well thought out, I have never known our pastor to say “no”. I was personally involved with a small group that put together the proposal for a Respect Life Committeee at our parish and with another individual in piloting a Bible Study.

Some activities flow out of others. For example, if you have a strong KoC, you are more likely to have a Men’s fellowship or Men’s Bible Study. Finding like-minded fellow parishioners to do things with can be contagious.

If your parish is small, some activities may be clustered with other parishes or even orchestrated by the diocese. Teen activities in our area are an example of the former, religious ed and activities for children with special needs are diocisan where I live. If you do not have the need yourself, you may not see this since it isn’t happening right in your parish.

So, it sounds to me like you may be called to fill one or more of these needs in your parish. Find some like-minded people to work with you and put a plan together.


This is how it works in our parish as well, if fact last year they started a moms group in our parish and it is a GREAT success, they also do activities with the other parishes in our town (there are at least 5).

I believe all of our parish groups have started this way. I remember way back when my grandmother was helping in starting the Alter Rosary Society for our local parish when I was younger.

I also believe that this is the responsibility of the Lay people in our parish.

My suggestion to the OP, talk to some other moms in your parish about starting a moms group and then talk to the priest about starting one.

I do think one of the major problems is that a lot of people say they want these things and then they never go. I felt really bad when 2 of our seminarians that are working in our parish this summer scheduled some classes for the parish and only 4 couples showed up (these were classes that people have been talking that we need/they would like) :confused:


That is what I am afraid of as well. People may say they want this or that, but when it is offered they might not participate. That is why I am polling the audience. If something really works well at your parish, then it is worth thinking about in ours.

I have no problem working out the details and I certainly do not expect a priest to run everything, but we will need to have his input if it is a parish organization. I am in a one-priest parish and his time is best spent attending to those in need of sacraments and the executive running of the parish. So, I had better do my research and formulate a plan first before taking up his time.

Any more ideas?? Please keep them coming!


When you want to start a new group, speak with your Pastor and volunteer to do it. Be prepared to do the Virtus training, arrange a time when the hall is free, make phone calls, advertise, set up and clean up after. It is alot of work, but, when you hear God calling - step up!


I think that many young families with children are so busy doing secular activities, especially sports and arts activities, that they really don’t want to squeeze in anything else.

And that’s OK. These activities often ARE family activities, and that’s a good thing. Our family spent a great deal of time at the ice skating rink and doing various activities connected with the sport of figure skating, e.g., driving to and from competitions and shows, staying in hotels, eating out, etc. We loved it!

I was evangelical Protestant for 47 years before converting to Catholicism. When I was growing up and until about twenty years ago, evangelicals spent virtually all their free time in their church or socializing (fellowshipping) with other evangelicals. Even today, there is a “fortress mentality” in many evangelical churches. By this, I mean that they stick together and they don’t mix with “the world.” With the increase in Protestant schools, it is entirely possible that a person can spend virtually all their family time time in the fellowship of other evangelicals and never or seldom go “outside” to the wicked world.

I for one am glad that this kind of “fortress mentality” seems to be crumbling, and that Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, are “mixing with the world.” Yes, I loved spending so much time with other Christians, but I often thought the name “evangelical” seemed incongruous, since we so seldom associated with anyone who wasn’t already a Christian!


I would imagine that the types of groups you’re hoping for would grow from the religious education programs at any given parish. Yet I read stories all the time that show that religious ed programs seem to struggle with finding teachers, controlling students, convincing parents of their importance, and providing a solid Catholic education. I know our parish has this problem as do almost all of the programs in our area.

Where is the misfire?


I don’t see anything for young families in our parish. For that matter the only thing I see is a woman’s group determined to raise money to get us out of the red. Everything is about money.

That said, young families are stretched so thin in the time department that the only time the leaders have found to rehearse the youth choir is for 30 minutes after the 10 am Sunday Mass. Every other evening is taken up by guides, scouts, cadets, dance, sports, etc. It was even difficult to schedule First Communion preparation during the winter due to hockey since the kids were often travelling to tournaments.


When I was a kid, Christian families put Church first. Public schools or little league did not schedule practice or games on Wed or Sunday, those were for Church activities.

Today, our families have replaced Christian fellowship with secular activities scheduled every day - and if it is a choice between soccer practice or RE, the kid is at soccer practice.

We are losing our kids. They do not see the Church as the family, they date and marry non-Catholics and leave the Faith. Why do they do that? Because they never socialized with other Catholics.

Will do a search for an article that speaks to this… (on dial up, one thing at a time)


I first heard this on Teresa Tomeo’s morning program:

Some Advice from a Parishioner

For the last few years I (Fr. Bugarin) have published an anonymous letter I received from a parishioner during Lent in 2005. Usually I toss anonymous letters right away but this one escaped that fatal ending.

“Fr. Bugarin, I was very moved by your homily on Sunday, February 13, 2005, regarding Hell, Satan, and the response of faithful people to temptation. I am the father of an adult son and daughter, and it pains me to think of the mistakes my wife and I made in raising our children. We thought we had a clever, well thought out solution to the dangers and evils of the world, but instead we were victims of our over estimation of our own perceived abilities and power. In so doing we neglected the saving power and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the intercessory power of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“Knowing the evils and temptations of our world, my wife and I sought to shield our children through endless activity. Like many other parents, we got our son involved in hockey and our daughter in dance; our goal was to keep our children busy and thus not give them a chance to get in trouble. However, I now realize that in engaging in a futile attempt to shield our children from battle with the Devil we were instead merely failing to equip our children for their inevitable battles with Satan. We attempted a human solution to a spiritual problem, and our human limitations and inadequacies resulted in failure. We failed to fill our children with Christ, and instead left a vacuum too easily exploited by Satan.

“In focusing our children on endless activity we created selfish, self-centered children. By failing to involve them in Catholic charitable works we taught them to believe they were the centers of their own universes. We replaced rosaries, adoration and bible study with ice time, games and recitals. We missed Sunday masses for tournaments and catechism for performances, and we rationalized it by asserting that it was ‘for the best.’ How wrong we were.

“Today, both of our children have left the Church. Our daughter is living with a man and has had an abortion; our son has experimented with drugs and regards the Church with contempt and cynicism. Our first priority should have been to pass on the faith and to teach trust in the Lord; instead, we relied on our human intellect and put our faith in schemes of this world.

“If I could only go back in time I’d make every Sunday mass as a family, lead my family in a weekly rosary, take my children to pray in front of an abortion clinic, lead them in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, and help them volunteer at a soup kitchen. For despite our best efforts and intentions there still were times my children were alone and lonely, tired and weak, hungry and desirous. I failed to anticipate and prepare my children for those inevitable times of temptation, and the Devil had been patiently waiting.

“Father, please print my letter in the church paper. If it will serve as a warning to at least one family it may help them to avoid the pain and regret my wife and I have experienced.

An Anonymous St. Joan of Arc Parishioner.”


Church never came second to anything in our family and our kids still left the church – our youngest was engaged and his fiancée didn’t even know he was Catholic although we knew she was Lutheran.


I don’t think most Catholics want an full schedule of activities. That being said, I would love just a moms group or bible study with child care. I guess thankfully I’m military and our bible studies have child care providers but our local parish where our kids go to school has nothing.


I’m sorry that this family turned out so badly. But we were a very busy family, and our children didn’t “leave the Church.” Actually, we were kicked out of our Protestant church, and the kids didn’t trust church for many years. We, their parents, were the main “church” that our kids knew.

When we were travelling to skating competitions, we talked about God, and made sure that our children realized that God was the Creator of ice, strong bodies, talent, etc. Our older daughter actually wrote a “skating testimony” for a Christian magazine, which was published.

Both of our daughters skated Spotlight numbers (exhibitions) to Christian music. Our older daughter did “Via Dolorosa” (Sandi Patty version), and the young daughter did The Lord is My Shepherd (Keith Green version). They performed these numbers many times at different competitions, and always received awards from the judges and accolades from the audience.

We were very involved with charitable outreach through the skating. I organized a Nutcracker On Ice that lasted for 7 years, and involved oever 10,000 area schoolchildren giving canned goods to the local pantry. During the best year, we collected two full trucks of canned goods. Now my younger daughter does the same show at the rink where she coaches, and many thousands of canned goods have been collected for the hungry.

I could go on, but the point is, a parents are the religious teachers, and any activity can bring honor to God and help a child to grow up well. I would say that for building character, no sport beats figure skating.


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