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One of the roles in my job as a Pastoral Associate is teaching the Baptism Preparation class to new parents. I reiterate their important role as the first teachers of the faith to their child, as well as the role of strong Catholic godparents. We laugh, I try to make them feel comfortable and I look for engaging stories to share with them.

I love breaking open the concept of how families are the domestic church—the primary place where a child experiences and lives their life in Christ. Supporting families as the domestic church is critical to helping parents raise happy, holy and healthy children. From the very beginning of our Archdiocesan efforts to unleash the Gospel, families have been at the very heart of this mission. I hope for many families that this knowledge empowers them in new ways.

It is so important to the heart of the mission, that Archbishop Vigneron had a whole guidepost on the family: ministry to families, evangelization within families and the witness of families. In the Letter he says, “For the members of a Christian family, discipleship is lived out concretely in the rhythms of their day-to-day interaction. Family life is a daily ‘liturgy’ of prayers, sacrifices, acts of love, service, forbearance, and forgiveness – all nourished and transformed by participation in the sacraments.”

The Archbishop goes on further to recognize the crisis the family is in today: “We live in a society that devalues human life, rejects the plan of God for marriage, and redefines the family according to human ideas. Families today face unprecedented challenges, and for this reason our local Church must commit a major portion of her resources to supporting families and helping them live out their call to holiness.”

Perhaps you have walked with families navigating things like divorce, addiction or a sudden death. Maybe your own family structure has undergone great suffering and struggle. The reality is that all of us have personally experienced this in family life or witnessed it in the lives of other families. 

As we look around at a wounded, hurting world, how can we better advocate for the unique needs that face Catholic families today? How can we as disciples in southeastern Michigan better support families on a diocesan, parish and individual level?

How do we do this with pastoral sensitivity, care, and the compassion of Jesus?

Looks like …

  • Free childcare at events
  • Inclusive support groups 
  • Celebrating Grandparents Day
  • Including step-parents, godparents, etc. on Mother’s and Father’s Day.
  • Religious education resources for special needs families

Feels Like…

  • Warm, inclusive language (All kinds of families are welcome)
  • Getting a big hug from the Church community
  • Tender, loving care of Jesus
  • Acceptance
  • Supported
  • Concerns and needs are heard and important

We can look to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph to reflect upon the unique ways their own family struggled. They dealt with a surprise pregnancy. Fleeing for their lives, they experienced life as refugees in a foreign land. Building a new life in a different culture and language. Sorrow, loss of family and community, the family of Jesus was not untouched from suffering and struggle. What a comforting thought to families right now who are experiencing struggle or heartache.

As we recommit ourselves in this year of the family to meeting the unique needs of families in our communities, may we look to the Holy Family as our guide and prayerful inspiration.  

How have people walked with your own family through difficult times? How can we as a Church accompany families better in the struggles they face?

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, inspire the work of our hands and hearts as we love and serve the families whom we encounter.