Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
September 6, 2010
Parents be part of child's faith formation
Bishops of Alberta issue letter to Catholic parents about their child's faith life and their responsibilities
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - As the first faith educators of their children, Catholic parents must get involved in the faith formation of their children, says the archbishop of Edmonton.
"Families need to pray together because growth in the faith is not simply a question of having religious knowledge," Archbishop Richard Smith said in an interview.
"Growth in the faith is a question of having a living vital relationship with Jesus Christ. That encounter with the Lord and the deepening of the encounter with the Lord is fostered precisely in prayer, in and through prayer."
Smith made his comments Aug. 26 in connection with a letter on the role of parents and the Catholic school the Bishops of Alberta released in June.
Titled The Parent and the Catholic School, the letter outlines five principles regarding the role of the Catholic parent in the faith life of the child. It also outlines the relationship parents should foster with Catholic schools.
Smith said the Alberta bishops reissued the letter, first released several years ago, because its message remains "timely."
According to the letter, Catholic parents are the primary faith educators of their children and nobody can take their place.
"The Church is very clear; the first teacher is the parent," Smith said.
"We get the faith as we sit on the knees of our parents as infants; we get the faith from what they say; we get the faith from their personal witness above all, their example of knowing the Lord, their example of knowing the Church; their example of creating a prayerful environment in the home."
The role of the Catholic school, he continued, is to support parents in fulfilling their role as the first educators of the child.
"But the school is not there to take away the parent's role," he said. "The parent has that responsibility before God and before the Church to hand on the faith to their son or daughter."
The archbishop said the family, as the first Church of children, must be prayerful and must make it a priority to go to Mass together.
"If they really learn to pray and make the home a school of prayer, then all else that needs to happen in faith formation will have its proper foundation."
In their letter, the Alberta bishops say all Catholic parents have a right to Catholic education for their children and urge Catholic parents to be vigilant in protecting their constitutional right to it.
They also say it is a duty of Catholic parents to entrust the education of their children to Catholic schools whenever possible.
In the interview, Smith said sending their children to Catholic schools "really flows from the promises parents made when their child was baptized."
"Parents are the first teachers of the faith and it's up to them in the first instance to hand on the faith but the Church offers them a variety of tools to help them. In this province we happen to have this particular blessing of Catholic schools," he said.
"So we (the Alberta bishops) just wanted to highlight to the parents a reminder of the irreplaceable role that they have and remind them as well that Catholic schools stand ready to support them in this endeavour."
WORK WITH THE SCHOOLS
The bishops also urge parents to work with schools "to ensure that their children are receiving ample catechetical instruction" and say parents must be actively involved in the school life of their children.
"I think it's important for parents, precisely because they are the first educators of their children, to get involved to the degree they can in everything that's happening in the school," Smith said.
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