Family Life Ministry
Catholic education is recognised as beginning in the home. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that ‘parents are the primary educators’ and nothing can replace the role of parents in their children’s education.
Before he became a bishop, when he was a priest in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, Bishop Marcus wrote a seminal document on education called Christ at the Centre. Now, this work is being developed in our diocese into Catholic Character Education as schools learn how to translate gospel values into everyday virtues: actions and attitudes that we need to live and to model for the children in our homes and our schools.
Family is the basic ‘school of humanity’. It in family life that we learn to say ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’, those three small words that Pope Francis repeats time and again in his catecheses on family life.
‘The future of humanity passes by way of the family’
Pope St John Paul II
It is a truism to say that families are the basic ‘cell’ of society. Families are the cornerstone of all of life; we are all born in relationship and most of us stay in our birth families until we are able to move on and start our own families.
We have always taught the importance of family life but it was not until Pope John Paul II called the first synod on the family in 1980 and then produced the document summing up the learning from that synod called ‘The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World’ (Familiaris Consortio) that we began to develop a sense of positive and proactive ministry for families.
Family Life Ministry is, as a consequence, a relatively new concept within our faith. Nevertheless the Diocese of Leeds was an early leader in this field and appointed one of the first ever full time Family Life Ministry Coordinators in the England and Wales.
Family Life Ministry works with all families, whatever their circumstances, to help them to grow in love and to do this in practical ways like communication skills, or understanding what children need, why attachment matters and how to manage our relationships within the family. Family ministry seeks to equip families to be even more fully, the families of life and love which they already are.
As Catholics we believe that family is founded on the sacrament of love we celebrate in marriage. Our commitment to marriage as a sacrament is one of the key ways we aim to support life and love.
Family life is central to God’s plan for us. God chose the family to be the place where he would be born and live most of his earthly life. The family is a central part of God’s plan for all of humanity.
More than this, in the Catholic tradition the family is sometimes called the ‘domestic church’. This can sound a little staid, formal or off-putting! In fact when we try to ‘unpack’ what church is: ‘one, holy, catholic and apostolic’ we very quickly see that actually all families exhibit these attributes and in ways that are unique to what we might call the ‘charism’ or the unique gift of family life. Family is church but not as we normally understand the word church:
The family founded on a man and a woman who join their lives into one unit is the basis for all human life. A husband and wife become ‘one’. This unity strengthens them for all the joys and sorrow they will endure in their lives together as one family, which will, if they are so blessed branch into children who grow up to make their own families, new unities, independent but deeply connected to their families of origin just as we are deeply connected to God our creator.
All life is holy and family life is holy because God is present in each family as love and as life.
Family life is inherently catholic in its meaning of ‘universal’. Male and female bonding and caring for children and for other vulnerable people is our human design. Families say yes to life; we say yes not knowing who it is or what that life will bring. Family life is truly open to life and catholic in its unconditional acceptance of every member.
All family life is rooted in God’s plan for human beings. No baby can be born and live in isolation and families are a living example of how God’s creative life and love is at work in the world. Families which live in love are inherently apostolic and families which pray and practise the faith are living witnesses of that apostolic tradition we get from the early church.
The Diocese of Leeds Family Life Co-ordinator is Mrs Breda Theakston firstname.lastname@example.org
To find out more visit https://www.dioceseofleeds.org.uk/education/our-faith/faith-families/