“Let us not forget that the family and the Church are communities that build us up and support us in love. When the family is a strong community then the Church is strengthened and becomes an impressive ‘cloud of witnesses’ (Hebrews 12:1). Please help to build up the community of the Church of Syracuse and beyond by first building up your family as a community centered on Christ.”

   — From “Enriching the Church: The Role of the Family in the Life of the Church of Syracuse and Beyond”

With the publication of his pastoral letter, “Enriching the Church: The Role of the Family in the Life of the Church of Syracuse and Beyond,” Bishop Robert J. Cunningham announced a special Year of the Family, which began in the diocese on Dec. 3.

In his letter, Bishop Cunningham reflects on the mission of the modern family — evangelization — and how it can be accomplished by forming an “ecclesia domestica,” a “domestic church.”

“How does the modern family strive to live God’s plan for marriage and family today, namely, by forming a domestic church of their own?” Bishop Cunningham writes. “Allow me to suggest a few time-honored, but very practical, powerful, and effective ways: (1) prayer and worship, (2) formation, (3) community, and (4) service.”

Throughout the Year of the Family, the Diocese of Syracuse and its ministries will focus on each of these pillars and provide resources families can use to build their domestic churches. (Find suggestions on strengthening your family’s prayer life here and suggestions for continuing your family’s faith formation here.) This week, here are four ways your family can build community at home and in the world.

• Schedule family time at the table. Unplug from devices. Turn off the TV. Share a meal. Take some time to slow down, really talk to one another, and enjoy the company.

• Find support. If your family is struggling following a divorce, abortion, or trauma: support is available! Connect with the diocese’s Separated & Divorced ministry, Project Rachel ministry, and other support groups meeting regionally. Contact the Office of Family/Respect Life or visit the diocesan events calendar at https://events.syracusediocese.org/ to find a group near you.

• Reach out to a new family at your parish. Is there a young couple with a new baby sitting in the back pew? A family newly relocated to the area? Welcome them to your faith community with a simple hello and a “we’re glad you’re here.” Invite them to get to know the community and participate in parish activities. Make sure to let them know they are welcome and that you’re looking forward to seeing them again.

Pray for your parish family; for diocesan clergy, seminarians, and religious; and for our bishop — they’re all a part of our Catholic community!

• Bonus suggestion: Go to https://syracusediocese.org/year-of-the-family/ to watch video messages on timely family topics from Bishop Cunningham and diocesan ministry leaders.

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