Share our Lent: The Denkenbergers

The Denkenberger family (clockwise from top left): Jen, John, Joe, Mary Grace, and Wally. -photo COURTESY THE DENKENBERGER FAMILY

   Editor’s note: During this Year of the Family, the Catholic Sun and the Diocese of Syracuse have invited eight families to offer reflections on how they observe Lent in their “domestic churches.” The series begins this week with the Denkenberger family. Joe and Jen have been married for 11 years and have three young children, Wally (5), John (3), and Mary Grace (1.5). They are parishioners at Our Lady of Hope in Syracuse and also enjoy many Sundays at Holy Family Church in Syracuse. The Denkenbergers were “Our Family in Philly,” representing the Diocese of Syracuse at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in 2015.

Over the years our family has observed Lent in a number of ways. These have included the traditional approaches such as meatless Fridays and giving up a certain favorite food or activity. Now that our family includes three young children, we are always trying to do what we can to ensure faith is a routine part of our lives, and also that our children have an understanding of why.

   This approach extends to Lent. Our oldest is at the age where he wants to know “why” about everything. We make sure to take the time to explain the importance of what Jesus did for us, and why it is good for us to make sacrifices in our own lives. 

   As in previous years, this year our family will be observing meatless Fridays, which will typically mean some form of fish fry every Friday. We also plan to discuss aspects of Lent with the children every day, and take the time to respond to any questions. Our oldest will be reading a daily children’s devotional with mom in the mornings before school (“Blessings Every Day: 365 Simple Devotions for the Very Young” by Carla Barnhill) and mom and dad will be reading daily Gospel reflections from Bishop Robert Barron (dailycatholicgospel.com/sign-up-daily-gospel) at night.

   We are going to try a new form of observation this year, with each member of the family giving up something during each week of Lent. This “something” may be a toy, a favorite food, or perhaps an activity. With the young ages of our children (toddler, pre-school, and kindergarten), we are hoping that a rotating, weekly sacrifice will keep them engaged throughout Lent. As a family, we intend to encourage the children to support one another in this attempt and reflect on the meaning of sacrifice.    This likely will not mean much to our youngest, but our hope is to create a new family tradition and raise her in it.

   We are grateful to God for the gift of Jesus, showing us the way in life and sacrificing Himself to save all of our lives. Our hope is to grow this appreciation and love in our children.