Sally Backer, left, a facilitator for the Faith Alive in the Home Program for Mary the Mother of the Church Parish, visited the Schlechte family Sept. 7 in their backyard in south St. Louis County. Backer prayed with the family and read the children’s book “The Good Samaritan” to the girls Violet, 3, and Nora, 1, as their parents, Justin and Colleen, listened.
Sally Backer, left, a facilitator for the Faith Alive in the Home Program for Mary the Mother of the Church Parish, visited the Schlechte family Sept. 7 in their backyard in south St. Louis County. Backer prayed with the family and read the children’s book “The Good Samaritan” to the girls Violet, 3, and Nora, 1, as their parents, Justin and Colleen, listened.
Photo Credit: Jerry Naunheim Jr.

Faith Alive in the Home works with families to help parents be first teachers of the faith

Program expands to several parishes; started as pilot with Beyond Sunday grant

When Christina Kuntzman read about the Faith Alive in the Home Program in her parish bulletin, she saw it as a way to gain tools to teach her children about their Catholic faith.

“Sometimes it’s hard to be a good Catholic,” said Kuntzman, who has a 4-year-old and 4-month-old. “It’s been nice to have somebody else help me help them, so when they start going to PSR (Parish School of Religion) they have some background.”

Offered through the archdiocesan Department of Evangelization and Parish Ministry Support, Faith Alive in the Home is a parish-based program that accompanies parents of young children, from about 18 months to 4 years old, to encourage parents in their role as first teachers of the faith. A new element of the program will work with families immediately after baptism.

The program is modeled on research-based early intervention practices, such as the Parents as Teachers program found in public school districts, and includes home visitors who bring catechesis, materials and other resources into homes to help encourage parents in teaching their children the faith. The program has been adapted during the pandemic to offer virtual visits.

The curriculum is based on the tenets of the Apostles Creed, and incorporates Scripture, liturgical life and moral teachings, as well as hands-on learning experiences, many of which are modeled after Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. Families set goals for faith learning,

Violet Schlechte, 3, held her hands in prayer at the end of a session Sept. 7 where Sally Backer, a facilitator for the Faith Alive in the Home Program for Mary the Mother of the Church Parish, visited the Schlechte family.
Photo Credits: Jerry Naunheim Jr.
with visits tailored to their specific needs. Young families also are connected with others in the parish.

The program was piloted in 2018 at St. Ann in Normandy and Holy Trinity in St. Ann, which closed in June. It was funded by an $80,000 grant from the Roman Catholic Foundation of Eastern Missouri — a result of the successful Beyond Sunday campaign. It has since expanded to three parishes, with about a dozen considering joining, said program director Sister Maureen Martin, ASCJ.

“We want to enhance the role of the parents in the family to be the first teachers of the faith, and to support the parents in their own faith formation, but also to work with their children,” Sister Maureen said. “We mostly focus on the faith — do they know God as a loving parent and who Jesus is?”

The curriculum also is influenced by virtue-based discipline and restorative practices, which she said involves “respectful listening that helps create a calm and respectful tone in the home. It’s shown to help in decreasing stress, childhood tantrums and identifying potential developmental disabilities.” Facilitators are trained to refer families to additional resources related to child development, if needed.

Just as Parents As Teachers looks at a child’s developmental growth, Faith Alive in the Home assists with a child’s spiritual development, said Beth Gutzler, a faith facilitator who has worked with families from several parishes.

Parents As Teachers has “set milestones to better define what that growth looks like,” said Gutzler, a member of Sts. Joachim and Ann Parish in St. Charles. “We ask the parents to look for the spiritual growth in a child. It could be their vocabulary or behavior … there’s a lot of goal-setting in parents where they do intentional activities and participation. They are intentionally thinking of preparing the child for Catholic preschool or PSR. There’s a lot of intentional thinking and practices.”

The program also offers ongoing training for facilitators, which Gutzler said includes leadership development that helps with the long-term sustainability of the program. “We want to look at how are we going to sustain this? Making it strong enough is the first step, but it’s also about making it into something that can grow and expand and serve a purpose — and ultimately bringing people closer to the faith.”


Faith Alive in the Home

A three-part training for faith facilitators will be held this fall. The first session will be offered Oct. 10 or Oct. 17; the second session Oct. 24 or Oct. 31; and third session Nov. 14. Additional training for the post-baptism program will be offered tentatively in January of 2021.

For more information on the program, either as a family participant or as a facilitator, contact Sister Maureen Martin, ASCJ, at (314) 792-7612 or email [email protected]

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