Helping to bring spirituality home
Consultant focuses on family life in diocese
Last in a Bishop's Appeal series
By Patricia Kasten
Compass Associate Editor
|FAMILY BUSINESS: Nancy Schmoll of St. John Parish, Little Chute, talks with Patti Christensen, the diocesan consultant for family ministry, at a recent diocesan conference. (Rick Evans photo)
"Families are looking for more ways to bring spirituality into their family life."
That's the observation of Patti Christensen, director of family ministry and infant baptism for the diocese of Green Bay.
Traits of a Functional
(not perfect!) Family
By Patti Christensen
Consultant for Family Ministry
They care and are interested in each other.
In the functional family, everyone puts their best efforts into teaching, loving, sharing, helping and guiding each other.
They teach each other.
In the functional family, each member has an impact on each other. What message do you want to send to your child? What actions do you enjoy together? (Remember, learning comes from doing.)
They place relationships as the top priority.
We all need to feel significant and important, loved, and capable and competent. Members of functional families feel important, loved and competent. Pay attention to your relationships by talking, playing together, one-on-one time, or giving cards, notes, compliments.
They agree upon clearly defined roles and responsibilities.
Make the well-being of your family your highest priority. Sit down together and decide who handles what. Regularly assess how you are doing.
They have a shared vision.
Children want to follow their parents. Show your children how they should live through your daily actions and choices. Show them how your faith guides your daily actions. Sit and read the Bible to them. Enjoy life and they will too.
They learn and practice their faith together.
Having faith in God and in God's teachings and commandments is important to living a full and complete life.
They realize they are not perfect.
Mistakes are OK. We love one another and support each other as family.
Adapted from an article by James D. MacArthur.
She's reached it, both from her experience out in the diocese at speaking engagements and workshops, as well as the phone calls she receives in her office. She said most of the requests she receives deal with prayer and spiritual life: from family prayers and prayer spaces, to tips on talking with teens, to leads on which family Bibles to buy.
"Parents want to know how to raise their kids to be Catholic," said Christensen, who is part of the team at the diocesan department of Evangelization and Worship. Its work is funded, in part, by contributions to the annual Bishop's Appeal.
The biggest challenge to families' desire to explore their faith life, said Christensen, is time. She noted that modern American life places so many demands on people's time that they don't even have time to gather around the dinner table to connect with each other.
"Everything conflicts," she said, referring to the many after-school and weekend activities in which families take part. "Families are torn apart and they can't even be there to support each other at activities, because they're juggling their schedules."
So if families can't catch up with each other at home, Christensen recommends they do it in the car - as they commute to those many activities.
"You can't sit down around the family table and have a meeting," she said, "but you can sit in your car and talk about issues. So work with what you have."
Christensen, herself a mother of three adult children, advises parishes to realize that families are rushed. She doesn't recommend holding parish workshops as much as she recommends that parishes offer resources in the forms of handouts, mailings, brochures, and even parish web sites. And parishes are.
"Parishes," Christensen said, "are looking for resources to hand out to families, to stuff into bulletins and to send home. People don't come to programs anymore; they just grab up the things they can take home."
Christensen herself uses a variety of resources, including regular appearances on Relevant 2U, a local radio broadcast at 9 a.m. each Friday morning on Relevant Radio (rebroadcast at
noon on Saturdays) at 1050 AM and 91.1 FM (Appleton). She offers family tips and prayer suggestions with host Jeannie Hannemann, who is herself a former parish family life director.
Christensen also recommends that parishes invest a couple hundred dollars and buy paperback books and booklets on family issues from Christian book stores to sell or give out at the back of church. It is, she said, a fine way to get good reading material into people's hands.
Another trend Christensen, who has been in her diocesan position since 2004, sees is how family ministry - and the related marriage ministry - is becoming a role addressed by everyone on the parish team: from the pastor to the pastoral associates, deacons, religious education department and social concerns ministry.
"Family ministry," she said, "has grown to cover a very large spectrum of people."