Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 18, 2005
Tenth Family Life Conference embraces kids
Organizers, volunteers make sure children are happy and active as their parents take part in seminars, talks
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Lac Ste. Anne
What to do with some 1,000 children when their parents are away and there is not a television in sight?
Why not read to them, have them make crafts or fly down a slide? Maybe they could sway on a rocking horse or try their hands at juggling tennis balls? Perhaps they can sing and clap along to spirited music?
While the adults sauntered over to the Lac Ste. Anne shrine to hear guest speakers during the Family Life Conference June 31 to July 3, their children - from toddlers to teens - were kept busy with an abundance of activities led by an army of volunteers, some as young as nine years old.
It was a delightful atmosphere provided by Catholic Family Ministries and board member Charles Marple said having something for every member of the family goes a long way to keep it strong and faith centred.
"Christ prayed that we be one with the Father," Marple said. "I think when children grow up in the faith, the unity of their lives cannot help but strengthen the family. It is maintained for generations if we continue to teach our children to love God and their neighbour."
The area near the shrine was divided into age-specific areas. The toddler park was a fenced area for three to five year olds, while several tents were raised for groups up to 17 years old.
"Each year, we try to have more faith stories and play activities," Marple said. "Because we have a lot of returning families as the years have gone on, we try to give more catechesis and more challenges to living the faith.
"It's doing so in a gradual sense and not just living the faith once a week on Sunday. It's about having faith in everything you do in all areas of your life."
Vincent and MaryAnne Artymko were coordinators of the toddler care area. They travelled five hours from their home in Oyen.
"There is a need for the parents attending the conference to drop off their children so they can listen to the guest speakers," Vincent said. "MaryAnne and I want to give them that opportunity because it is important learning for them. We like to serve in this capacity."
Toddler volunteers were called Guardian Angels, who helped the children in the activity areas with crafts, playing with dolls and making colourful figures out of dough.
"They comfort the children if they begin to cry. They do all the work and nobody gives them credit," Vincent said. "We are here for the kids, but it is a great chance for those who serve to learn to give their time to help younger children."
Lorraine Williams and her seven children have not missed a conference.
"By the grace of God, we have been able to come all 10 years. We have seen it grow with what Catholic Family Ministries has done. We see how families have been blessed," she said.
Williams says first timers are always excited. Adults blend together and children have little trouble making new friends.
"Families need this because many times in their own parish, they might feel isolated when they want to live their Catholic life," Williams said.
"Many of them have large families and they are open to life. When they come here, they hear how good it is to be Catholic. I think the parents go through a lot of hardship to drive the many hours to get here. We took about 10 hours. We bring our children here because of the youth ministries.
"Teens network with other Catholics and they become friends. They can wear crucifixes and pray the rosary together. All of the families experience a common bond adoring our Lord."
Marple pointed out that John Paul II Bible School students volunteer as part of their outreach program. He wondered how CFM would host the annual event without them.
"Some people have volunteered all 10 years and have never heard the guest speakers. It is just part of their ministry. It has been a gift because it is a lot of work from a lot of people," he said.
"I come to the conference because of the common family beliefs," said Simone Lefebvre, from Mallaig, near St. Paul. "There is tremendous support, especially for the teenagers who learn it is okay to believe in their faith."
It was a new experience for Steve Hohmann, from Quesnell, B.C. His sister told him he should go. "My wife and I have three kids and they came last year. This is great. There were some terrific talks and a lot of fun for the kids and the whole family."
"It's for the children," Williams said. "They get the joy of being Catholic. Our teens, and many others here, have been to World Youth Day. They always experience the joy.
"There is not so much self, because the focus is always on Jesus. They learn Jesus loves them and that they are precious."
"Teens network with other Catholics and they become friends."
- Lorraine Williams
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.