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, 2017.

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,” through prayer and worship, formation, community, and 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.

Parents, godparents, and the entire community of the church play a significant role in baptism.

“For the grace of baptism to unfold,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, parents must assume their role as “nurturers of the life that God has entrusted to them.”

Faith requires a community of believers, the catechism continues, and faith must grow after baptism.

Godparents must be “firm believers” who are “able and ready to help the newly baptized — child or adult — on the road to Christian life,” and the larger ecclesial community should assist the developing and safeguarding of the “grace given at baptism,” the catechism adds.*

How can you help nurture the baptized in your domestic church and wider faith family? Here are some suggestions from the diocesan Office of Faith Formation.

• Parents have a natural desire to want to do the best for their child as they grow. Baptism is the first Sacrament whereby a child is wrapped in the grace to come to know God’s love for him/her. Support the growing family’s awareness of God’s love and the child’s growing faith in Jesus.

• While attending Mass, notice young families sitting near you and introduce yourself to them.

• Invite young families to stay for the after-Mass coffee social and have some friendly conversation about their growing family and share what is available at the parish to support them.

• Become a liaison to connect young parents by introducing them to one another.

• As a parish, offer Bible storybooks with child friendly pictures to families with young children as they are greeted before Mass.

• Offer Children’s Liturgy of the Word so that parents see the possibilities for their children when they are school age.

• Offer a pre-school faith formation program.

• Create a family-friendly environment for parents to meet the needs of young infants and toddlers — places for wandering toddlers with closed circuit TVs or audio feed of the church, a parent area for baby needs, and a quiet play area.

• Bonus suggestion: Celebrate the anniversary of your baptism. Not sure of the exact date? “Lent is an especially appropriate reason to recall with praise and reverence the day of our Baptism,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan wrote in his March 1 column for the archdiocesan newspaper Catholic New York.

“Why? In the early decades of the Church, these forty days were the final dramatic stage of an intense preparation for those eager for Baptism on Holy Saturday. They were called catechumens, and we’re still blessed to accompany them in our parishes this Lent.

 “For all of us, though, Lent is an invitation to recover our baptismal innocence and hope. On that blessed day when the waters were poured over us, we were claimed by Christ and His Church.

“These forty days prompt us to acknowledge that we have sadly wavered from that claim. Yes, other forces, other powers — sin, Satan, selfishness, other attractions — have lured us from the dominion of Jesus Christ. Our Lord invites us to return, to come back, to recover our identity as a child of God, redeemed by His Son, a member of His body, the Church, destined for eternity.”

*Excerpted from Catholic News Service’s Faith Alive! Sacrament series: Baptism.


Family Bible study:
Fifth Sunday of Lent

During this Year of the Family, the diocesan Office of Faith Formation will help you and your family journey through the Lenten season with an approachable, practical Bible study series. Each week the series focuses on an aspect of Sunday’s Gospel reading, provides questions for reflection, and suggests ways to live out the Lenten practices of praying, fasting, and giving.

Gospel focus

If it dies, it produces much grain.
(Jn 22:20)

For reflection

• Name one thing you can do that will help you have a better friendship with Jesus.

• Sometimes one thing needs to die in order for something new to be born. When have you experienced this in your own life? What do you need to let go of now for something new to grow?

• Name one area in your life that you need to let go of, to die to, in order to rise with new life.

Suggetions for action

• Pray: Lord, help me be courageous in my walk with you.

• Buy a piece of new clothing and give it away.

• Give up making excuses about what you know you need to change. Just do it.

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