Symposium: Raising Catholic Kids

The Challenge of Rooting Family in Faith

What are Catholic parents doing to raise their children Catholic, and what are some of the issues they're facing? Commonweal asked seven parents to contribute their reflections and recollections in this special series on rooting family in faith. From helping children discern their vocations to finding grace in small moments, from worrying about the church their children will inherit to learning humility through parental failure, our contributors recall the challenges they encountered, as well as what they achieved, in their efforts to give their children roots in the Catholic tradition.

Symposium Parts 1, 2, and 3

In the first three installments of our series, J. Peter Nixon, Liam Callanan, and Christopher C. Roberts offer their accounts of raising their children as Catholics. Nixon writes on what it was like to trying to give his children deep roots in the Catholic tradtion after growing up in a "decidedly ambivalent" family. Callanan comments on his worries about the kind of church his daughters will inherit. And Roberts talks about "our vocation to help our childen discern their vocation." The full stories appear below.

'Now and Then I Feel It's Working'

J. Peter Nixon in the first in our series: "I have tried to live my faith in a way that would make it attractive to my children. Now and then I feel it’s working."

'Grace Helps Them Through'

We are that family, the one with the very young, very active children who decided to come to your quiet, even somnolent Mass. We did not sit in the crying room.

'The Habit of Gratitude and Hopefulness'

To put it in Vatican II terms, our vocation is to help our children discern their vocation.
Symposium Parts 4, 5, and 6

In the other three installments, Sidney Callahan, Peter Liebold and Liz McCloskey, and Eleanor Sauer reflect on their experiences raising Catholic children. Callahan writes on being "the designated believer in the family." Liebold and McCloskey talk about the need to explain the tough doctrinal issues and, when necessary, admitting to doubt. And Eleanor Sauers writes on the effectiveness of modeling as a teaching strategy.

'Learning Humility, Learning Patience'

Every poll shows the nonreligiously affiliated—now called “nones”—increasing in number. That number includes all my grown children. But it wasn’t always this way.

'Be Who You Are and Be That Well'

Our backgrounds were different, but our Catholic identity ran deep, with Irish-Catholic roots spreading in almost every direction.

'Not All Religious Learning Happens Explicitly'

The spirituality at the heart of each child cries out to be nourished; helping children develop their sense of wonder through play will go far in this regard.
Kids, Raised Catholic

We also asked some of our younger readers to respond to the stories featured in our symposium and to describe their experiences being raised Catholic. You can read their reflections here.



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These stories are a great addition to the magazine. Thank you for bringing them to us, and thanks to the parents for writing them. I hope they make not only parents, but CCD teachers, priests, and parish councils consider: To what extent does Catholic instruction--at home and in the parish--emphasize God's love for the child? Does it shine through the "you must memorize ..." "you must not do ..." and "Catholics must believe" admonitions? If not church becomes merely a burdensome and pointless obligation, to be shed as quickly as possible.

I'm a doctoral student at USF's Institute for Catholic Educational Leadership pursuing this topic of parents passing on the faith to their children and the extent to which Catholic schools and parishes assist them in that task for my dissertation, so this series is of great interest to me. I do hope we'll be hearing from some mothers as well.


The Diocese of Oakland put up a link to  the Vatican survey on Marriage and Family life.  I have not heard a lot about this.  Thanks, Bishop Barber :)

Great idea, great execution.

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