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.

A study guide has been developed by the Office of Evangelization to help Catholics “break open” Bishop Cunningham’s pastoral letter. The guide aims to help readers “understand the challenges facing Catholic families today, and how they affect our faith life” and “take action in creating environments which strengthen our own families as well as those around us.” The guide breaks the pastoral into seven short sections and provides a summary, reflection questions, action steps, and further reading for each section. An excerpt from the section “Forming a ‘Domestic Church’” appears below. The complete guide can be downloaded at https://syracusediocese.org/year-of-the-family/study-guide/.

Forming a ‘Domestic Church’

   Bishop Cunningham tells us that the mission of the family is the same as that of the Church: to evangelize, which is to bring up and sustain disciples of Christ who in turn reach out to others. The family, therefore, is called a “domestic church” as parents are the first and best teachers in the ways of faith. Centered on Christ, families will experience unity and strength to surmount difficult situations.

Reflection questions

   • How was the faith passed on in my own family? What can I learn from this? What can I learn from others who live in a faith-filled home?

   • Have I made passing on the faith a priority in my home? In what ways do we celebrate our faith? What resources do we need to accomplish this more effectively?

   • How does my home reflect my family’s Catholic identity?

   • How do I draw upon my faith in times of trouble? How does my family draw upon faith?

   • How can my parish reach out to families from the time of their child’s baptism to the time when they enter elementary faith formation?

Take action

   • Pray together every morning before leaving your home.

   • Celebrate each family member’s baptism day.

   • Consider the faith dimension of every holiday and incorporate it into your celebration.

   • Show your Catholic identity in your home by including crucifixes and pictures/icons of Christ and your family’s favorite saints.

   • Celebrate feast days with special meals and treats.

   • Make a family pilgrimage to a local Catholic shrine.

Further reading

   Keep Your Kids Catholic: Sharing Your Faith and Making It Stick by Mark Cardaronella

   The Little Oratory: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying in the Home by David Clayton and Leila Marie Lawler    

   The Catechism of the Catholic Church 1655-1666 (“The Domestic Church”)

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