Friday, October 26, 2018 - Updated: 8:58 am
Sarah Vignere knows the Catholic faith, but she hadn’t been very involved in teaching it to her two children. Thanks to a new partnership among four parishes and with support from her husband, Timothy, she is taking on a larger role.
The Vigneres and hundreds of other families are participating in an innovative classroom-home catechesis program developed jointly by SS. John and Paul Parish in Franklin Park/Marshall Township, Our Lady of Peace Parish in Conway, Good Samaritan Parish in Ambridge and St. John the Baptist Parish in Baden.
The parishes are sharing resources and collaborating on ministries as part of the On Mission for The Church Alive! revitalization initiative. Students in kindergarten through fifth grade are taught by catechists in the classroom one week, and the next week parents teach their children at home, using lesson plans, short videos and discussion guides provided by the parishes.
“I’m more involved now teaching them our faith,” said Sarah, whose daughter, Emily, 9, and son, Owen, 6, recently learned about the Holy Trinity and the story of Noah and the Ark.
“The entire family learns Bible stories together,” said Cindy Deschaine, director of faith formation at Our Lady of Peace. “Parents are becoming the primary teachers of the faith.”
The curriculum initially was created by Jason Gawaldo, director of faith formation at SS. John and Paul. He’s pleased with the collaboration.
“All four parishes have something to bring to the conversation,” he said. “We’re learning about each other’s parishes and building relationships.”
A similar partnership is underway between St. Benedict the Abbot Parish in Peters Township, St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Finleyville and St. Isaac Jogues Parish in Jefferson Hills. St. Benedict the Abbot’s family catechesis program is now offered at all three parishes, and they train catechists and attend retreats together.
“The St. Francis parents are wonderful,” said Beth Jesserer, director of faith formation at St. Benedict the Abbot. “Sharing resources helps us to appreciate each other’s perspectives and expands our possibilities.”
“It’s been really good for us,” said Carol Cicci, director of faith formation at St. Francis of Assisi. “There’s lots of energy at St. Benedict.”
Their RCIA leaders are also working together. At SS. John and Paul, a ChristLife evangelization program was held last Lent with the other parishes in the grouping, and they’re jointly training Mass greeters.
“We need to share and mobilize our resources to draw people deeper into the faith,” Bishop David Zubik wrote in May, announcing the On Mission changes designed to promote vibrant faith and healthy growth in parishes across the diocese.
The purpose of a parish is to help its people become true disciples of Jesus and prepare them for the mission of making the world a holier place.
“We can help parents plant the seeds of faith that will grow in their children, so that they fall in love with Jesus and want to follow him,” Bishop Zubik said.
“It’s going very well here at Our Lady of Peace,” Sarah Vignere said. “This approach makes us think about the faith more.”