Stephanie and Mark Hampton used to wait until after their children went to bed to pray the Rosary together.
They assumed their girls, Julia, now 4, and Holly, 2, wouldn’t sit through the prayers. But then Stephanie thought more about their approach.
“We realized, our kids absorb everything,” she said. “Even if they’re not sitting still, they’re still soaking it up. Julia would say, ‘Daddy what are you doing?’” They began praying a decade of the Rosary with their girls, and increased the number of decades over time as they established a routine.
The Hamptons, of St. Monica Parish in Creve Coeur, have found support as they raise their daughters — with another baby due in June — in the faith. They turned to the archdiocese’s Faith Alive in the Home program, which accompanies parents of young children, from about 18 months to 4 years old, to encourage them in their role as first teachers of the faith. The program, offered through the archdiocesan Department of Evangelization and Parish Ministry Support, is supported by the Annual Catholic Appeal.
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, and there are plans to expand to families immediately after baptism. About 20 parishes participate, and nearly 50 facilitators have been trained.
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, with visits tailored to their specific needs. Young families also are connected with others in the parish.
“The parents who have responded really appreciate the additional support and suggestions and from someone who has experience with raising a child and being active in their faith,” said program director Sister Sister Maureen Martin, ASCJ.
The program was piloted in 2018, 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 20 parishes and almost 50 trained facilitators. The program is now funded by the archdiocese; another grant from the Knights of Columbus has provided Bibles for families.
Alfreda Pulley of St. Elizabeth Mother of John the Baptist Parish in St. Louis has been working with a family in her parish with 2-year-old triplets. Pulley, who has mostly met virtually with the family because of the pandemic, has given the parents suggestions such setting up a small prayer table with religious items and singing songs together.
“She told them that this is a quiet place you can go and talk to Jesus,” Pulley said. “When we sing the song, this is what we’re talking about. (The mom) is very involved and wanting her children to grow in the faith.”
A mom of three daughters who are now adults, Pulley said she remembers being in the trenches with young children. “All three of my children were under 5 at one point,” she said. “I understand that feeling of having several kids and keeping everything going. I talk (with the family) a lot about what I did and what I would have done differently. Having someone like me to talk to helps her to continue to do these things” with her children.
“As you live and things happen in life, you know you need to depend on God more, and calling on Jesus more, it’s not as hard,” Pulley said. “She’s now in a position where she has gotten to where I am now much quicker and that’s a good thing. She sees more deeply how important faith is.”