“Today there is no shortage of people who want to help other people. Praise God! However, we have to be careful that charity and service do not replace worship, prayer, formation, etc. when it comes to our faith. These are not mutually exclusive. Rather, they are mutually enriching. A strong Catholic identity is what helps to transform our service into charity, into that which we do to provide for the physical and spiritual needs of others, extending to them an invitation to be a part of God’s Kingdom, a part of Christ’s Body, the Church.”

— 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. This week, here are three ways your family — together — can extend its domestic church to serve others.

   • Help prepare or serve a meal. Shelters and support centers can always use volunteers willing to prepare and serve meals to clients in need. Check with your local Catholic Charities agency or your parish to find opportunities. Teach children the value of nourishing bodies and souls and of connecting with those on the peripheries.

   • Collect items for those in need. Gather canned and boxed items for your parish’s food pantry, or toiletries and personal care items for an outreach program. Items as simple as a can of vegetables or a pair of socks can mean everything to a person in need.

   • Visit parishioners who are sick or confined to their homes. Nearly every parish has a program that ensures sick or homebound members of its community are visited and brought Communion. Find out how your family and can get involved and spend some time with members of your faith community who may be lonely or down.

   • 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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