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 “The Modern Family” appears below. The complete guide can be downloaded at https://syracusediocese.org/year-of-the-family/study-guide/.

The Modern Family

Bishop Cunningham begins his pastoral letter by observing that family life, and marriage in particular, faces significant challenges in today’s culture. He calls us to understand what families look like today, so that we may more effectively assist them in living out and handing on the faith. Strong Catholic families who “regularly practice and live out their Catholic faith with devotion” enrich and sustain the Church.

Take action

• Make a list of spiritual goals for your family, such as writing a family mission statement, planning a sit-down family dinner, having a daily family devotion time, signing up for a service project at your parish, or scheduling a husband/wife date night.

• Be present to your family; establish “unplugged” times at home. Keep your kids safe on the internet by using the resources at https://syracusediocese.org/safe-environment/resources/ devoted to keeping kids safe.

• At church, make it a habit to introduce yourself to people you have not met. Parish leaders: consider offering more opportunities for parishioners to get to know each other, such as “doughnut Sundays,” a parish picnic, and family celebrations such as an Easter Egg Hunt at Eastertide or a Lessons and Carols for kids during Advent. 

• Offer encouragement and praise to younger families who attend Mass at your parish. Parish leaders: offer resources to keep kids busy and welcome at Mass, such as activity bags for kids and Children’s Liturgy of the Word. Consider offering babysitting during Mass times for the very young.

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