Ministry of Family Life
“Not only would I say that the family is important for the evangelization of the new world. The family is important, and it is necessary for the survival of humanity. Without the family, the cultural survival of the human race would be at risk.
The family, whether we like it or not, is the foundation.”
Radio Catedral Interview, July 27, 2013
The Christian vision of family life speaks about the family as a community of life and love. It proclaims that family life is sacred and that family activities are holy, that God's love is revealed and communicated in new ways each and every day through Christian families.
Families work to build a community based on love, compassion, respect, forgiveness, and service to others. In family, we learn how to give and to receive love. Families share in the life and mission of the Church when the Gospel vision and values are communicated and applied in daily life, when faith is celebrated through rituals in the home or through participation in the sacramental life of the Church, when we gather as a parish family to pray, and when people reach out in loving service to others.
The United States Bishop’s document, A Family Perspective in Church and Society, describes family life as “the basic community of believers, bound in love to one another, the family is the arena in which the drama of redemption is played out. The dying and rising with Christ is most clearly manifested. Here, the cycle of sin, hurt, reconciliation, and healing is lived out over and over again. In family life is found the church of the home: where each day ‘two or three are gathered’ in the Lord’s name; where the hungry are fed, where the thirsty are given drink; where the sick are comforted. It is in the family that the Lord’s injunction to forgive, ‘seventy times seven’' is lived out in the daily reconciliation of husband, wife, parent, child, grandparent, brothers, sisters, extended kin.”
The family plays a very important role in the life of the Church. A family striving to place Christ at its center becomes the most basic Christian community: a domestic church. In 1981 Pope St. John Paul II wrote, “the family constitutes a special revelation and realization of ecclesial communion, and for this reason too, can and should be called the domestic church.” (Familiaris Consortio #21). Families are church; they don’t merely come to church.
In Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution On The Church In The Modern World, we read, “the family is the place where different generations come together and help one another to grow wiser and harmonize the rights of individuals with other demands of social life; as such it constitutes the basis of society. Everyone, therefore who exercises an influence in the community and in social groups should devote himself effectively to the welfare of marriage and the family. Civil authority should consider it a sacred duty to acknowledge the true nature of marriage and the family, to protect and foster them, to safeguard public morality and promote domestic prosperity.” The Ministry of Family Life also extends beyond the doors of our churches and our homes into our society.
The pastoral challenges to the family, in the context of evangelization, is the theme of the 2014 Extraordinary Synod of Bishops. Instrumentum Laboris provides a reflection on the challenges facing the family today and outlines topics that will be discussed at the Extraordinary Synod. The document states the “need of establishing real, practical formation programs through which the truths of the faith on the family might be presented, primarily to appreciate their profound human and existential value” (15).
In the parish, the ministry of family life promotes a perspective that views individuals in the context of relationships, especially family relationships. Family relationships are the key criteria used to assess programs and policies in the parish. This sensitivity begs to ask the question: how does what we do affect traditional families, blended families, single parent families.
“Church leaders need to be more aware of how the Church’s policies, programs, ministries, and services can either help or hinder families in fulfilling their own responsibilities.”
A Family Perspective in Church & Society
United States Bishops, 1988 revised 1998
- To evaluate the needs of families within the faith community.
- To educate and enrich individuals and families through programs, workshops, retreats, newsletters, resource sites, etc.
- To advocate for “family-friendly” programs, policies, and services in parish planning.
- To create evangelization opportunities applicable to each stage in the family life cycle.
- To cooperate with other groups, agencies, and institutions in the community that work with families.
- To prepare a budget for family life activities and programs within the parish.
- To encourage participation in deanery/diocesan family life programs.
- To research and respond to the trends in society that impact families.
- To understand and support the diversity in family structures and cultures.
- To provide and encourage leadership training in a variety of areas of family ministry.
“What you do in your family to create a community of love, to help each other to grow and to serve those in need is critical not only for your own satisfaction, but for the strength of society and our Church. It is a
participation in the work of the Lord, a sharing in the mission of the Church. It is holy…. The early Church expressed this truth by calling the Christian family a domestic church or Church of the home.”
Follow The Way of Love
United States Bishops, 1994