Formation for the Next Generation – Grant allows six parishes to embark on faith formation journey

Barb Arland-Fye
Facilitator Veronica Rayas of the Diocese of El Paso, Texas, guides participants in a listening session March 19 at St. Joseph Parish in Columbus Junction. The parish is one of six diocesan parishes participating in an initiative on passing on the faith to the next generation.

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

Fueled with pizza, tacos and a desire to pass on their Catholic faith to the next generation, parishioners in six parishes in the Diocese of Davenport brainstormed recently to map out a dream plan for their specific faith community.

Members of St. Joseph parishes in Columbus Junction and West Liberty, St. Patrick and St. Mary of the Visitation parishes in Ottumwa, St. Alphonsus Parish in Mount Pleasant, and Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport participated in listening sessions March 17-22, the first step in dreaming.

Each parish could receive up to $15,000 to implement their dream plan through the Catholic Extension Christian Parenting and Caregiving Initiative — Formation for the Next Generation. Facilitator Veronica Rayas of the Diocese of El Paso, Texas, guided each parish’s efforts to identify their most pressing needs. The listening sessions were the first step in a collaborative effort involving the parishes and the offices of Faith Formation, Multicultural Ministry, and Stewardship.


The initiative “puts Christian parents and caregivers in direct dialogue with catechetical and parish leaders, helping both sides move toward a plan of action in your community,” according to Catholic Extension Society, which is funding the initiative. Through the gatherings, “Catholic Extension seeks to help parish leaders engage culturally diverse parents and caregivers in the formation of their children.”

In a relaxed atmosphere of fellowship and food, parents and other caregivers sat in groups in their parish halls during their designated listening session. A large sheet of paper at each table would symbolize the centerpiece of their work, responses to five questions contained in a handout printed in English, Spanish or Vietnamese:

  • What are your challenges when it comes down to passing on the Catholic faith to your children?
  • What are your strengths? What are things you enjoy doing with your children?
  • What are the unique cultural practices and traditions that speak to your faith at home? What wisdom of the culture do you feel needs to be passed on?
  • How would you like to be more involved as a parent in the teaching of your children’s faith?
  • Dream of a program that would bridge families and the parish in faith formation.

Challenges and strengths

During the session at St. Joseph Parish in Columbus Junction, parents lamented that kids are absorbed in their electronic devices — cell phones, social media and video games. Transportation also is a challenge, they said. “If you don’t have a car, you can’t get to Mass,” one participant said. Other challenges included children’s resistance to attending Mass when they become teenagers and thinking that they know more than their parents do, and parents not knowing how to respond to their children’s mental health issues.

Language and culture barriers within their own families and the community at large is one challenge parents at Sacred Heart Cathedral identified. Other challenges included families trying to juggle competing demands and activities and youths being ridiculed for standing up for their faith.

Lack of childcare during Mass or formation events was among the challenges parents identified at St. Joseph Parish in West Liberty. Parents at St. Alphonsus Parish feel like they are competing with their children’s attachment to technology and cell phones.

Participants at St. Mary of the Visitation and St. Patrick parishes in Ottumwa identified secularization, lack of a moral compass, lack of communication and ignorance of Catholic teaching among the challenges they face. All of the parishes identified social media as a challenge.

Strengths include activities that families do together (including vacations, mealtime and watching movies), the parents’ commitment to the Catholic faith, enjoyment of cross-cultural practices and prayer. Some common threads emerged among the parishes regarding each of the five questions but also some unique differences, such as faith-based traditions and cultural practices.  “We have Jesus in our hearts and that’s what we want to share,” a participant said during the gathering in Columbus Junction.

The parishes appreciated the opportunity to share their thoughts and concerns and look forward to the next step: choosing from one of numerous plans Rayas has developed based on the listening sessions, said Jennifer Praet, diocesan director of Stewardship.

Barb Arland-Fye
Sisters Marielos, Mara and Veronica pray before a gathering of participants at a listening session on passing on the Catholic faith to the next generation March 19 at St. Joseph Parish in Columbus Junction.

Valuable insights

Fr. Trevino

“It is a great opportunity for less affluent parishes in rural Iowa like mine to have an opportunity to help families in ways we couldn’t before,” said Father Guill­ermo Tre­vino, pastor of the Columbus Junction and West Liberty parishes.

Fr. Sia

“Family formation is a good way to move forward,” said Father Joseph Sia, pastor of the Ottumwa parishes and also St. Mary Magdalen in Bloomfield. His parishes in­clude Hispan­ics, Micro­nesians, Filip­inos and Africans, for whom the family unit is especially strong, he said. “I am grateful that we had this conversation. Since I’m relatively new to the parishes, this allowed me to hear various perspectives and ideas, which I hope can guide me in being a more compassionate and effective pastor.”


Trevor Pullinger, diocesan director of Faith Formation and coordinator of Catechesis, attended all five listening sessions and came away energized by making connections with the six parishes in a new way. “Meeting the families in their parishes was important to me and also the collaboration with the Multicultural Ministry Office,” he said. “In a number of the parishes the cross-cultural exchange be­tween the people was incredible.” They realize that many of their concerns are similar — and universal. At the same time, “each culture has its own unique gifts to share with each other.”

Selection for grant participation

All parishes in the Diocese of Davenport were invited to submit applications to participate in the Catholic Extension Christian Parenting and Caregiving Initiative — Formation for the Next Generation. Six parishes were chosen from among those who applied, said Jennifer Praet, diocesan director of Stewardship. “This cohort in the Diocese of Davenport is both the first and the largest in this initiative.”

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