Family ministry

Our parish has been engaged in a stewardship initiative, in which we are trying to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit for various areas of parish pastoral life. We are doing this through a series of “town hall meetings,” each with a theme derived from our Parish Pastoral Action Plan. The most recent was family ministry.

I must confess, I have a hard time getting a handle on what family ministry actually is (or should be). When you look up what family ministry activities exist out there that are specifically Catholic, it often boils down to marriage prep courses and Natural Family Planning sessions. These are very useful things in themselves, of course, but surely the pastoral care of the family has to cover more than this.

That being said, though, when you bring up the topic with people the ideas that get floated are things that anybody could do, like “a parish family picnic”. Now I have no problem with having a parish family picnic, in fact I think it is a great idea, but quite frankly any group can organize a family picnic — why do we need the parish to do this? Is this really part of the specific “genius” of the parish? But then again perhaps it is, especially if anybody *could* be doing it but nobody actually *does*. The specific contribution of the parish is not so much the picnic as the fact that we are the only ones who are doing more than talking about it.

Still, I think the family, especially the Christian family, is called to a special mission in the world. In Catholic theology the family is a more than a sociological unit, it is a theological reality as well — it is a “domestic church”. If you ask me, a family that would recognize and embrace this element of its existence would be transformed as a family to attain a kind of excellence that would transcend what “ordinary” families would have. But how to help families become, in essence, holy families?

P.S. The National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers is having their annual conference September 30 – October 3, 2004, in Providence, Rhode Island. I’m hoping to be able to go, just to get exposed to this topic a bit more. I know some parishioners who have expressed interest in going….anybody else out there interested in forming a group, either to go together or meet up once we get there? And, very importantly, can anybody suggest a place to stay? I have no idea what kind of retreat centres or other such places might be nearby.