by Marlene Sweeney
I have a
friend who is a realtor. In spite of the recent lull in the housing market, she
loves her job and devotes her energies to helping people find the right space
to call home.
says that her days are filled with listening to other’s expectations,
evaluating their resources, and finding the home that seems most appropriate
for their needs. Judging by the number of years she has devoted to this
match-making, and the many successful stories she has shared, I sense that her
skills are similar to those that DREs exercise in Sacrament preparation
Home for the Sacraments
the conversation of Sacrament preparation arises among my colleagues, I often
hear them express their hopes and aspirations to connect in a profound and
meaningful way with the families in their programs. That’s because, as DREs, we
experience this short time of sacramental formation as a key moment in which we
can engage people in a deeper and more intimate relationship with God and
community. We realize that parents often come to our doors asking for a Sacrament
for their child, thinking they need only a small learning space—a room—for a
short period of time for this to happen. In reality, we know that this family
needs a home!
preparation is one of the best opportunities the Church has to welcome families
and convince them they are in need of a permanent residence. Offering them a
listening presence, moments of renewal and growth, and opportunities to
discover their own needs for a more spacious place to live may result in a new
spiritual home for them.
the sad story a parent shared with me about approaching her parish concerning
her older children’s sacramental needs. She offered the story with the same
painful tone she might have used in talking about a root canal. She spoke of
the great courage it took for her to go to the parish office to discuss her
situation. Once there, she was given a list of things to do and phone numbers
to call—and then was sent on her way.
foremost, this parent wanted someone to listen to why it was that her children
had reached the age they had without being catechized. Instead of a listening
presence, she was handed some information (which she didn’t understand) and was
sent on her way.
pamphlets, websites, and newsletters will never take the place of meeting with
people one on one whenever opportunities arise. Many DREs schedule conversations
with parents at the beginning of a Sacrament preparation program. These
exchanges are ways for families to feel known and give parents a chance to bring
up concerns they may have about their own situations.
keep brief summaries of these conversations and follow up with short personal
notes to the parents. DREs who find that time for this personal outreach is
limited might ask members of the pastoral staff to participate in the
conversations and follow up with the parents shortly thereafter. The goal is to
have families feel that they are welcome, they matter, and they are known by others
in their parish family.
family, whose child was preparing to celebrate First Communion, wrote that
their year of preparation made their whole family recognize the God-moments in
their daily lives, I knew that parish leadership would consider this family’s
evaluation a five-star rating.
what families need to know to adequately prepare their children to celebrate Sacraments
is a voluminous task. DREs and catechists can become weighed down with
doctrines and protocols. Although good texts and parent supplements provide
families with sufficient information and learning, we need to offer more. We
need to provide opportunities for inspiring prayer, heartfelt reflection, and
engaging activities—at church and for the home. This, however, can be difficult
lean on the RCIA model for family or parent formation. Their gatherings are
marked by social time, Scripture sharing, a themed lesson, small group discussion,
applications of the learning, and communal prayer. The prayer experiences often
involve rituals that invite further participation.
community-centered gatherings allow participants to experience a fuller sense
of the parish family than they would realize by attending a 45-minute lecture.
and schedules allow, invite people to stay beyond the formal gathering for
refreshments or informal questions and answers; this always is a hospitable
initiative. One parish I know invites last year’s participants to host the
social time. This allows for families—those in Sacrament preparation programs
and those who have been through them—to share unstructured time that can deepen
their experience of the parish family.
initially come to the parish in search of Sacraments for their children but
find, instead, a new home. Family gatherings, learning together, and greeting
others at Sunday Mass lead people who are new to the parish into new friendships.
Parents enjoy getting to know other families with similar values. With time, they
begin to look forward to coming together as a community.
friend may know how to sell houses, but her skills can’t match the excitement
that DREs know when they accompany a family on its journey of conversion and
find them the best home possible!
Sweeney, MEd, MA, is a Certified Pastoral Associate in the Archdiocese of
Chicago. Marlene is a writer and poet whose works have appeared in numerous books
and periodicals. Email Marlene email@example.com.
Copyright 2013, Bayard, Inc. All rights reserved. This article is protected by United States copyright and other intellectual property laws and may not be reproduced, rewritten, distributed, redisseminated, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast, directly or indirectly, in any medium without the prior written permission of Bayard, Inc.
This article was written by the Catechist Staff and appeared in Catechist magazine, December 2012.
Image Credit: Shutter Stock 209697955