National grants fund ‘dreams’ for faith formation in six parishes

Trevor Pullinger
Facilitator Veronica Rayas of the Diocese of El Paso, Texas, right, guides participants in a listening session at St. Joseph Parish in West Liberty. The parish is one of six diocesan parishes that received a grant to pass on the faith to the next generation.

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

Fr. Trevino

Father Guillermo Trevino quotes an adage in Spanish to convey the importance of parents’ roles as faith formation leaders in their families: “Las padres son los primeros y mejores maestros.” In English: “The parents are the first and best teachers!”

Catholic Extension Society, affirming that message, is providing grants to six parishes (two of them as a single parish cluster) in the Diocese of Davenport, including those that Father Trevino leads, St. Joseph parishes in Columbus Junction and West Liberty. The other parishes receiving grants, in the range of $15,000 each, are Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport, St. Alphonsus in Mount Pleasant, and the Ottumwa cluster of St. Mary and St. Patrick.

Diocesan Stewardship Director Jennifer Praet described announcement of the grants this month as joyful news. “All of the parishes that participated in the listening sessions in March with Catholic Extension for the Christ­ian Parenting and Care­giving Initiative — Formation for the Next Generation program received their full ask. The grant provides for family faith formation in their parishes.”


Their “dream projects” connect multicultural communities within each parish and bring families together for food and faith-learning activities, buttressed by faith-building activities in their homes. Catholic Extension assists faith communities located in poor Extension dioceses to help them support themselves. The Davenport Diocese qualifies because it needs additional resources to serve its growing multicultural communities. The diocesan offices of Faith Formation, Multicultural Ministry, and Stewardship collaborate on this faith formation initiative.

St. Joseph Parish, Columbus Junction

“I feel fortunate that both of my parishes received grants,” Father Trevino said. The Columbus Junction and West Liberty parishes have decided to hold their “dream projects” on Wednesday evenings, already set aside for faith formation. “The emphasis in both parishes is to help parents educate their children in the faith and to provide a support system. It’s an opportunity we wouldn’t have otherwise because we have limited income,” Father Trevino said.

The Columbus Junction Parish will begin its project as early as next month with the “Teach Me to Pray” series, which aims to guide parents in serving as the family’s primary catechist. The series will show parents the foundational principles of prayer, including the importance of being present, understanding the four forms of prayer (please, thanks, oops, and wow), and recognizing God’s presence in everyday life (lo cotidiano). Instructors will provide activities in English and Spanish “so we can all learn the forms of prayer and grow from there,” according to the parish’s plan.

St. Joseph Parish, West Liberty

“Family Faith Club,” the West Liberty parish’s dream project, aims to provide monthly gatherings for families with children in grades 1-5, centered around Scripture-based learning, prayer, fellowship and activities that strengthen family faith formation. “We recognized a need for increasing the comfort and ability of family leaders to speak with their children about the faith in an age-appropriate level,” the parish said in its grant application. “Furthermore, by offering these gatherings as bilingual events, we will help bridge the gap between the Hispanic and Anglo communities of our church.”

Sacred Heart Cathedral, Davenport

Sacred Heart Cathedral’s dream project focuses on “Practicing the Catholic Faith at Home and within the Community: Living the Liturgical Year.” The goals are to increase families’ confidence in teaching the faith at home, to raise awareness about liturgical calendar celebrations and for families to grow in their faith with other families and to bring them together to prepare and eat meals together.

This project “will bring about a creation of ongoing fellowship between the Anglo, Hispanic, and Vietnamese communities,” said Susan Stanforth, the cathedral’s faith formation director. “I am looking forward to helping equip families with the tools needed to practice their Catholic faith at home!” The parish is planning 13 events over the next two years “to help families grow in their faith within the community and at home.”

Fr. Hennen

Pastor Thom Hennen said the grant will “continue some good momentum. It’s an opportunity to build on some of the things that we’ve been doing over the past three years and have seen work.”  Providing a simple meal before each Wednesday night faith formation session is an important component. “So if the kids are “walking in with their soccer cleats that’s OK. It may be one of the few nights when families have dinner together that week,” he said.

St. Alphonsus Parish, Mount Pleasant

Celebrating their cultural traditions, building social community, and encouraging talents in their young people (such as art and music) are key ingredients in St. Alphonsus Parish’s dream project. The objective is to develop parish and family-based celebrations of popular Hispanic and Vietnamese cultural religious practices to serve as opportunities for parishioners and families to deepen their understanding of Catholic theological principles and traditions while fostering community and spiritual growth.


“I am thrilled to begin this journey with our committee,” said Kelley Tansey, the parish’s faith formation director. “This process has already inspired some individuals to take a more active role in our parish. I am eager to work with them to create experiences that will encourage parishioners to celebrate their cultural faith traditions and share those traditions with others.”

“We aim to educate our English-speaking parishioners about these diverse traditions and promote greater interaction among all members of the parish,” Tansey said. “Over the next two years, we have planned several events, including Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Dia de Reyes (Three Kings Day). We will also use the grant money to obtain bilingual resources for Mass, praying the rosary, and the Stations of the Cross.”

St. Mary of the Visitation and St. Patrick Ottumwa Cluster

The Ottumwa parish cluster “Family Formation” program will engage families — parents, children, grandparents, etc. — in working toward learning various aspects of Catholic culture and tradition. These aspects include prayer, seasonal devotions, cultural celebrations and more. The program will also provide families with tools to use at home to “bring that tradition into their family,” the parish cluster’s grant application stated.

Six sessions all together — three in the fall and three in the spring — will take place during the regularly scheduled faith formation class on Wednesday nights to accommodate busy families. As with the other parishes, prayer, food and refreshments are important components.

Fr. Sia

“I’m looking forward to families participating and especially for parents to be equipped to be able to pass on the faith to their children. This program will give them tools to use at home,” said Father Joseph Sia, pastor of the Ottumwa parishes and St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Bloomfield. “We also will be inviting Seton Catholic School (Ottumwa) families to come.”

While the target audience is parents, their children will be present to soak in the details — that’s the difference, parents and children (English-speaking, Spanish-speaking, Micronesians and Africans) all learning together. “This is the first time bringing all the groups together in an intentional, family faith formation way,” Father Sia said.

Nurturing parish life


“In many ways, good Christ-centered hospitality is at the core of intergenerational catechesis. Min­is­tering to the people of God means meeting them where they are at,” said Diocesan Faith For­mation Director Trevor Pullinger, who also serves as Catechesis coordinator. “Food and fellowship are exactly what families need today with an epidemic of loneliness and declining involvement in public life nationally, not to mention the duty that the Gospel calls us to in evangelizing and catechizing.”

“My hope is that the Catholic Extension parishes look at this experience as an opportunity to bless the families in their parishes and encourage them in the faith.  As well as to continue exploring intergenerational catechesis in a day and age when it is countercultural for families and households to simply be involved in parish life.”

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