This past week my husband and I attended a meeting with our bishop and other couples in the diocese who are somehow involved with marriage ministry to talk about the issues regarding the challenges to marriage and family that the bishops will discuss during this fall’s synod.
The bleak state of marriage in our country took center stage. Those involved in marriage prep revealed that the number of couples coming to them was trending downward sharply. Others from areas like adult faith formation, sacramental prep, and the marriage tribunal nodded in agreement. The obvious dangers to a society where marriage is no longer considered important were discussed, and the ultimate catch-22 was brought up: how can we educate and equip our children to form strong marriages when we ourselves are often poorly catechized?
After some discussion, two programs that had been overwhelmingly successful in helping parents educate and prepare their kids to lead a truly Christian life stood out:
Theology of the Body for Teens: This program is still yielding great fruit. A former catechist spoke about her experience of successfully running middle school and high school sessions for teens and their parents at her parish. As a parent, the idea of attending a Theology of the Body workshop struck me as a great solution for how to effectively teach my children about the extraordinary beauty of the body and marriage without having to do all the heavy lifting by myself. The parish setting also would be a great chance to meet other families and share ideas about how to navigate the difficult teenage years.
Catholic youth service programs: In particular, our diocese is extraordinarily blessed to have a vibrant youth service program called Love Begins Here. Several of the people at the meeting had kids who really loved serving others around the diocese with fellow high school students led by on-fire young adults. The program has been extremely successful in encouraging young people to hang on to the faith that they’ve been given through prayer, service, education, and fun. Programs like these make the important connection between our faith and love of neighbor, helping our kids see that they need to truly give of themselves in order to really love those around them. This is a critical lesson that hopefully they can then carry into their own marriages.
Leaving the meeting the tremendous challenges to the Church still lay heavy on my heart. But as a parent these two types of programs in particular gave me real hope for support in handing on our faith to my kids, especially when it comes to preparing them to be a truly Christian spouse should God call them to that vocation.
How about your diocese? Have any programs been particularly successful in educating the youth about our faith and marriage in particular?
[Featured Image: “Wedding rings” by Jeff Belmonte from Cuiabá, Brazil – Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – Source]