Year of Catholic family wraps up, new effort begins

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Archdiocese of Chicago wrapped up its Year of Strong Catholic Parents with Catholic Family Day June 22 at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, but its efforts to support parents as they pass on the faith are far from over.

Parishes across the archdiocese have designated “family advocates” to receive the resources the office has provided for the Year of Strong Catholic Parents, the third year of the archdiocese’s Strategic Pastoral Plan, and parishes are being asked if they will maintain designated family advocates.

“Because we have these family advocates in place, we feel that we have made a big structural change,” said Nancy Polacek, the Strategic Pastoral Plan coordinator.

Some parishes actually named family advocates toward the end of the year to serve as point people for the World Meeting of Families scheduled for September 2015 in Philadelphia, Polacek said. Pope Francis has been invited to the meeting, and dioceses across the United States have been asked to consider holding family activities at the same time in solidarity with those at the meeting.

Mary DeMars, an intern in the Strategic Pastoral Plan office, said 52 percent of the first 143 parish websites she had looked at had some mention of the Year of Strong Catholic Parents, whether it was a Facebook link or an article or advertisement.

DeMars said she plans to look at every parish website she can find. The office will also contact parishes directly to find out what they did in support of the year before writing its final report.

So far, Polacek said, the One Word at a Time initiative, in which the office distributes a short weekly article based on one word, has been very popular.

DeMars said that her parish, St. John of the Cross in Western Springs, has all of the One Word articles posted together on a wall.

Other parishes have taken events that they usually do and made them more family-friendly. For example, De- Mars said, St. Norbert Parish in Northbrook offers a parish mission every year during Lent. This year, they made it a multi-generational mission, intentionally welcoming parents with children.

Infant Jesus of Prague Parish in Flossmoor sent an email survey to parents asking what the parish could do to support them, but also asking parents what they could do to support the parish.

“It was really creating a partnership,” Polacek said.

As the Year of Strong Catholic Parents ends, Polacek said much of the responsibility for maintaining contact with parishes will move to Amanda Thompson, who coordinates the Strong Catholic Families, Strong Catholic Youth program for the archdiocese’s Family Ministries Office.

“We’re hoping this year will be like the others, in that it will launch things that will continue,” Polacek said.

The previous years were the Year of Teens and Young Adults and the Year of Sunday Mass.

On July 1, the archdiocese will start the fourth year of the Strategic Pastoral Plan, the Year of the Sacraments: Pope Francis’ Vision of Healing and Communion.

During the year, the Strategic Pastoral Plan Office will continue the popular “One Word at a Time” initiative. For the Year of the Sacraments, Father Louis Cameli will offer 52 weekly articles suitable for parish websites or bulletins, exploring the meaning of the sacraments one word at a time.

There also will be a month-by-month series of resources highlighting a particular sacrament each month. Resources include rituals for the commissioning and blessing of ministers, homily notes and opportunities for renewal.

The monthly schedule begins in September with the Eucharist, followed by anointing of the sick in October; dying, grieving and celebrating funerals in November; baptism in January; penance in February; marriage in March; confirmation in April; the Eucharist again in the first half of May, when many parishes schedule First Communion; and Holy Orders in the second half of May and into June.

One expected highlight will come with the beginning of Lent in February, when the archdiocese plans to participate in Pope Francis’ “Festival of Forgiveness” by offering increased opportunities for the sacrament of reconciliation during a concentrated period, Polacek said.

As in previous years, the office will send monthly e-newsletters to parishes with information and resources for the Year of the Sacraments and hold a video contest for young people, Polacek said.

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