Parents whose young children are enrolling in their first formal Catholic educational experiences may find preparing for success a daunting prospect, mostly due to the gravity of the task.
If children aren’t attending Catholic schools, they are expected to enroll in a religious education program through their parish. Such programs once were known as CCD classes.
CCD – the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine – is an association established in Rome in 1562 for the purpose of religious education. We know it as the religious education program of the Roman Catholic Church, normally designed for children.
Today, even the language and definitions of Catholic education have changed, notes Diocese of Orange Director of Faith Formation Katie Dawson. “We don’t talk about CCD,” Dawson explains. “Many of us knew CCD as kids, but religious training for children is now commonly referred to as faith formation.”
The concept of faith formation, she says, “reflects the idea that we’re doing more than communicate information. We’re in the transformation business.”
As those jointly responsible for growing children’s faith, Dawson says, parents and teachers support the development of the life of faith not only in their children but in their entire families as well.
“When it comes to what to expect, my hope is that parents will register their child for faith formation with an attitude of partnership,” she states. “Parents need to forge strong partnerships with the educators providing the classes.”
After all, the formation of faith in children – as in adults – depends on daily prayer, frequent reflection, and ongoing education.
Parishes sometimes publish handbooks for parents and children enrolled in faith formation programs. Some of the tips offered for parents:
- Keep feast days and religious traditions as well attending Sunday Mass.
- Consider holding a family night to discuss scripture and read the Bible.
- Review each week’s lessons. Ensure children complete required homework.
- Become involved in your parish individually and as a family by volunteering your services, assisting with fundraising efforts, and attending special events.
- Share your faith. Talk to your children about the decisions you make and how you live and act because of your religious beliefs.
- Discuss timely social questions and issues with the teachings of Christ in mind.
“The successful formation of faith in children emanates from a family engaged in their journey of faith,” Dawson continues. “This is why the parents’ own faith journey is important in creating an atmosphere of learning and growing for the child.
“In other words, the ways parents pray, attend Mass, and generally turn to God for their own needs and concerns are models for the child.”
With that in mind, “there are no perfect models, and that’s kind of the point,” Dawson notes. “I would hope parents would approach faith formation as common journey with their child.” Each parish’s faith formation classes instruct children on the Catholic Church’s doctrine, language, and rituals, but the family’s day-to-day exploration of their Catholic faith is equally as important.
“A warm and open and supportive relationship with your child is best single predictor of the child embracing the religious proposal offered by the parents.”