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Friday, 09 June 2017 12:07

Sacrament preparation for today's families

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Sr Jenny Seal olsh and Carmen BalalesThe Pastoral Framework for the Sacramental Catechesis of Children is helping to bring families, schools and parishes closer together, according to those who oversee work in this area.

Carmen Balales and Sr Jenny Seal [a member of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart], who coordinate family and parish- based catechesis on behalf of the [Adelaide] Archdiocese, say the response to the new framework has been “fantastic” and those involved are appreciative that the preparation process is more accommodating of the realities of families today.

“We start where people are at in their lives,” said Carmen, adding that in today’s busy times there needed to be a flexible approach in the way children – and often their accompanying parents – participated in the nine to 15-month preparation process.

“We have people coming from different viewpoints, different life experiences, churched, unchurched, hurt people, grandparents, and family dynamics today are very different – blended families, single parent families, one parent who is a Catholic and one who isn’t – so we need to be hospitable, inclusive and welcoming to families who choose to be part of the Sacraments of Initiation preparation process within our parishes.

“There are parents who don’t attend church themselves but are committed to what they want for their child. They’ve presented their child for baptism and are back again seeking Confirmation and First Holy Communion. There is definitely a seed there that has been planted and slowly watered over the years.”

Partnerships in Sacramental Catechesis was released in 2014 by the Adelaide Archdiocese and is a document which provides a framework to support children and young people to grow in their relationship with Jesus and the Church through the Sacraments of Initiation preparation process.

While the document provides a uniform approach for the Archdiocese it offers several different ways in which the sacramental catechesis can be undertaken by families. For example, some may prefer to attend workshops, while others may choose to participate with other families in smaller home groups.

Under the framework there are five models – workshop focused, home groups, weekly sessions, Sunday liturgy or a parish cluster model – and parishes can tailor the model that best suits their context to cater for those in the preparation process, as long as essential elements are met.

“It is a family-centred, parish- based and school-supported approach,” explained Sr Jenny.

“We find that the children really do want to do this – there is a great desire by the children in preparing for the sacraments. And a trend that is happening more and more is that children who are attending Catholic schools want to become Catholic, even if their parents aren’t.”

To support catechists and further fine-tune the Sacraments of Initiation preparation process, Sr Jenny and Carmen are visiting every parish this year to discuss what is working well and areas for improvement.

“The feedback has been fantastic and they appreciate being able to tell someone about what they are doing and getting some affirmation for their work,” Sr Jenny said.

Photo: Sr Jenny Seal olsh, left and Carmen Balales, right.

This article by Lindy McNamara was first published in the May 2017 edition of The Southern Cross, the award-winning publication of the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide.

Find out more about the life and work of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Australia.