The Inestimable Importance of Christian Families

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An urgent and compelling catechetical mission


I find myself thinking of Jesus’ birth, for nowhere else do I see the sublime place of families in our catechetical mission than in the revelation that God’s own beloved Son was born into a human family. Jesus Christ came as a human baby, born into the family of Mary and Joseph. God destined human families as places of nurture for the very family of God. Yet today’s families are under threat.

St. John Paul II summed it up:

[The] family is the object of numerous forces that seek to destroy it or in some way to deform it … [A]ware that the well-being of society and her own good are intimately tied to the good of the family, the Church perceives in a more urgent and compelling way her mission of proclaiming to all people the plan of God for marriage and the family, ensuring their full vitality and human and Christian development, and thus contributing to the renewal of society and of the People of God. (Familiaris Consortio, 3)

Hopeful signs in these difficult times include the many ways parishes support parents as the primary educators of their children. Growing numbers of parishes intentionally offer family-based catechesis (catechesis for the whole family as a unit) as well as intergenerational catechesis.

A 2017 survey and subsequent report by the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership’s Committee on Evangelization offered a much-needed window into how parishes in the United States are caring for the evangelization and faith-formation needs of families.

The report’s top recommendations for action are:

  1. Strengthen whole-family programming.
  2. Maximize sacramental preparation, celebration, and mystagogy — but especially mystagogy.
  3. Focus on parents. Equip parents with the knowledge and skills for effective parenting and forming faith in young people, helping them develop the practices for healthy family life.
  4. Engage families with the Bible.
  5. Reach families at home with faith-forming activities.
  6. Use digital tools.
    ◗ Websites for families with curated content
    ◗ Webinars to reach parents
    ◗ Apps and digital media for home use
  7. Engage parents who are uninvolved or not affiliated with a church.

Read the entire report at

Echoes of these recommendations can be found throughout our website. Read Daria Sockey’s review of what’s working in parish-based models in “Family-Centered Religious Education.”

John Roberto’s strategies help build up Catholic families in “Nurturing Family Faith at Home.” And Bob Alexander shares ideas for “Involving Families in Sacramental Preparation.”


PAT GOHN, MA, is editor of Catechist magazine and

This article was originally published in Catechist magazine, March 2019

PHOTO: John Mark Smith, Unsplash

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