Family Life Ministry Parenting Project celebration also marks the unofficial dedication of the Chapel at Hinsley Hall to the Holy Family.
On Saturday 2nd December Bishop Marcus led a celebration liturgy in the chapel at Hinsley Hall to mark the formal ending of the first 2 years of the Diocesan Parenting Project.
Parenting facilitators from Bradford, Ilkley, Keighley, Wakefield and Wetherby attended with their families and friends, and were commissioned by Bishop Marcus in their Family Life Ministry with parents. Carmen Pearce, Chaplain at St Wilfrid's Catholic High School and 6th Form College, Featherstone, who has recently completed the Family Caring Trust training to become a parenting facilitator trainer also received her certificate and FCT trainer's card. (In the group photo of parenting facilitators, Carmen is in a blue scarf standing to Bishop Marcus' right.)
Bishop Marcus took the opportunity of this, the first family event held in the chapel since the new Aiden Hart icon of the Holy Family was installed on the back wall behind the altar, to announce his desire that the chapel be dedicated to the Holy Family. He explained the importance of the different elements of the chapel including showing how the icon of a ‘teen' Jesus, seated at table with Mary and Joseph, seems to make a complete table with the altar at which Mass is said every day. Over the altar is a crucifix, lovingly restored by Bishop Marcus himself. On one side is the pulpit from which the Gospels are read every day and on the other a statue of the infant Jesus with his mother Mary, Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
So all in this one small space we now celebrate Jesus' whole life from his infancy and home life with the Holy Family through his ministry and death and resurrection. Bishop Marcus emphasised the importance to Jesus' life and ministry of his early family life. The Holy Family was not just a convenient context, it was an essential element in Jesus' whole ministry and ultimate sacrifice.
The Diocesan Parenting Project, funded by the Celebrating Family Fund from the Catholic Bishops' Conference, is designed in recognition of the essential role of family life for each and every one of us.
The catechism tells us that parents have the ‘first responsibility for the education of their children' (CCC 2223). Catholic schools are an important and valuable aid to parents in this responsibility but parents are the ones who form their children in their earliest days, weeks, months and years.
As the Parenting Coordinator and Parenting Project Worker I took the opportunity of my welcome to remind us all that while teachers (and priests) have several years of education and training to prepare them for their role of educating us in the faith, on the whole most people become parents with little or no preparation. Yet neuro-science tells us more and more about how important and irreplaceable is the impact of these early years on an infant's brain and on their physical, social, psychological and spiritual development.
Read what I would have said if there had been more time here.
How parents do this work as the first educators is again outlined in the Catechism: ‘by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity and disinterested service are the rule.' (CCC 2223)
It is exactly this task that the Parenting Project is designed to help parents with.
The project was designed to train parenting facilitators in areas of the diocese that had not benefitted from the last project, in order to facilitate the local delivery of community based relationship education programmes (from the Family Caring Trust).
Through attending these programmes, either at their children's school or their local parish, parents get several key advantages: They meet each other in a safe, comfortable and welcoming space where they are able to talk about how they manage their own relationships with their children, and the other adults in their children's lives. All parents want to help their children to grow into responsible and caring adults so having a place where they can talk about this, about their hopes, their fears, their successes, their failures, and learn new ideas from the programme handbook and the DVD that goes with each session, is a huge benefit to parents. Mostly they really enjoy meeting each other. They might turn up feeling unsure of themselves but they go away feeling reassured because invariably they discover that we are all in the same boat with the same hopes and fears and some of the same struggles to relate.
They also go away more confident in the two key parenting skills of listening and encouraging, and can attend the courses any number of times, because human relationships are fluid and we always have new opportunities to try again and heal rifts and just come to a better understanding of each other.
After the liturgy there was an opportunity to have family photos taken with Bishop Marcus and then a light lunch and refreshments in Hinsley Hall before leaving for home.
We are indebted not only to the funders for supporting this project but to Bishop Marcus and Canon Tim Swinglehurst and the project Task Force for help and guidance through the two years of the project.
We are very grateful to all parenting facilitators for their time, skills and commitment and to their local sponsors, head teachers, parish priests and line managers, who support them to run parenting programmes where they are. On Saturday 2nd December we were also indebted to the people of the Good Shepherd Centre, Keighley who came in a minibus and led us in warm up singing before the service and in joyful singing and praise after the service.
Many thanks to everyone who was there and to everyone who could not join us but who sent their good wishes. And thank you Thomas Theakston for all the photographs.
This phase of the project is over now but if extension funding is granted (pending an approved end of project report to funders) 2018 will be devoted to helping new parenting facilitators get established, and ongoing support and further development for existing parenting facilitators. Watch this space!