Table of Contents
- Family is defined as an intimate community of persons bound together by blood, marriage, or adoption for the whole of life. In Christian terms “the family is sacred and holy, a ‘community of life and love,’ which prepares, nourishes, and sustains the youngest members of the Church in their task of building up the Kingdom of God.” (On the Family, John Paul II.) In our Catholic tradition we hold as normative, that the family proceeds from marriage — an intimate, exclusive, permanent, and faithful partnership of husband and wife (Putting Children and Families First).
- The family should enable each member to grow in faith, hope and love, fostering the spiritual, physical, intellectual, social and emotional well being of each other and of the Body of Christ. In families, we strive to love, believe, foster intimacy, evangelize, educate, and pray. We also serve one another, forgive and seek reconciliation, celebrate and welcome, act justly, affirm life and encourage vocations. Family life, perhaps today more than ever, is lived in many structures — traditional and blended families, single adults, couples with and without children, one and two parent families, grandparents, friends and supportive community — reflecting multiple cultural and ethnic traditions and social relations.
- Sacred Scripture shows us that God created family and, through Jesus, became part of the human family. By our baptism, we in turn become part of God’s family, “…to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God” (Jn 1:12).
- In the Holy Family, we see the faith of Joseph and Mary as they struggle to provide a home to protect and nourish the child Jesus (Mt 1-2, Lk 1-2). For Paul, the beautiful mystery of married love reflects Jesus’ love for his Church (Eph 5:21-32). Throughout his mission, Jesus supports and sustains family relationships. At Nain, Jesus raises a widow’s only son from the dead, restoring not only her personal loss, but her dignity and status in the community (Lk 7:11-17). On every occasion that Jesus raises someone from the dead, he restores that person, not only to life, but also to family relationship. In Scripture, God unites and nourishes all members of the human family. Jesus affirms that family bonds go beyond the biological when He says, ” … whoever does the will of the heavenly Father is my brother and sister and mother” (Mt 12:50).
- The Church has traditionally recognized the family as domestic church, “a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (CCC 2204, 2205). The Church has always viewed the family as the cornerstone of society and called upon other social institutions to sustain and support the family. Church tradition has nourished the family through Word and sacrament, faith formation, guidance and counseling, and the feeding and care of those in need.
- Church documents, particularly those of Vatican II, recognize that family life is a “sharing in the life and mission of the Church by becoming a believing and evangelizing community in dialogue with God and at the service of humanity” (A Family Perspective for Church and Society). “The family is the foundational unit of the church and society. It is in the family that a basic orientation toward life, love, and faith is instilled.” (Putting Children and Families First)
- In the family, spiritual awareness and growth can be nurtured, neglected, or even discouraged. Families which do nurture Catholic values can make a difference in our community today. However the ideal family as represented in Scripture, Church traditions and documents, is not always reality in our world today.
- Catholic families in Southeast Texas will continue to undergo fundamental changes as a result of secular challenges to Judeo-Christian values, economic and technical advances, and social upheavals. It is the peculiar nature of American life to focus on the individual rather than the family. As a result, families, now more than ever, need the support and influence of the Church community in order to develop their spiritual, physical, intellectual, and emotional growth within the Body of Christ.
- Synod Survey and Speak-Up Session data indicate grave concerns that our Church does not adequately nurture and support families dealing with current realities. The data also indicates a need for laity as Church to assume responsibility for initiating and participating in programs and solutions to the problems surrounding family life today.
- The situation in the diocese reflects a variety of strengths and weaknesses typical of a world in transition. One strength is the great diversity of ethnic, cultural, geographic, and social experiences of our Church members, which produces a unique blend of wisdom and expertise. Another strength is the willingness of laity and clergy, working in partnership, to address problems and seek solutions. Additionally, the Diocese recognizes these needs and problems and has provided opportunities for dialogue and action on family issues to build and strengthen family life.
- One weakness throughout the Diocese is that adequate services and finances for family life programs do not exist. Families today often experience tensions or are divided because of economic issues: the need for two salaries, the absence of adequate governmental support, an ethos of consumerism and vulnerability to “keeping up” with others. There are a variety of communication issues that arise within families that require additional services and education. Family ministries addressing these needs and issues are very limited. This lack of family ministries stems in part from the scarcity of trained personnel to staff and direct family enrichment programs and from inconsistent use of existing programs at the parish level and from the lack of financial resources. The reluctance of family members to assume responsibility for and to participate in programs provided on the parish and diocesan level is an additional weakness.
- The Church in Southeast Texas needs to address evolving family realities through development, funding, staffing, providing resources and services so that all family members can be sustained, supported and renewed in their relationships with the Church and with each other.
Therefore the synod recommends the following goals and strategies:
Goal 12. Make Jesus Christ and his gospel the center of your home life.
- Accept the personal responsibility to exercise baptismal commitment in the choices of everyday life
- Be a role model
- Be willing to sacrifice a great deal for the good of the family
- Pray together at home
Goal 13. Form the young at home in the moral and ethical values needed for living and loving.
- Teach children discipline, self control and how to be responsible
- Teach children the necessity of respecting themselves, others, and all of creation
- Teach children how to relate to others and how to care for them
Goal 14. Promote concern for spiritual maturity so that youth are able to make life choices that are expressions of faith.
- Educate children to want to seek and to do God’s will
- Present the various vocations: Holy Orders, religious life, marriage, the single life as personal invitations given by God to live out the grace of baptism
Goal 15. Emphasize that marriage is a God-given vocation and provide various means to support couples throughout their marriage.
- Extend marriage counseling and education to include the time before and after the wedding
- Train couples to support and advise young and struggling couples
- Develop support groups for various family-related issues
- Celebrate significant marriage anniversaries at parish liturgies
- Extend compassion and pastoral understanding to those who no longer have a marriage partner
Goal 16. Make the family a major focus of pastoral education and services.
- Expand the Office of Family Life Ministry to be a resource for developing tools, programs, and leadership training related to various aspects of marriage and family life
- Provide a broad variety of educational seminars and other resources which present marriage, sexuality, family life and love, natural family planning, and parenting within the framework of Catholic teaching
- Expand the direct services of Catholic Charities to include helping families in crisis and the victims of abuse
- Schedule various kinds of retreats
Goal 17. Emphasize parent and family education so that Catholic beliefs and religious practices are nourished in the home.
- Encourage prayer and spirituality in the domestic church, the home
- Provide education and training on how to form young children in the faith
- Teach how moral standards relate to the sacredness of the family
- Teach skills for communication and parenting to young people before marriage
- Find opportunities to foster pride in being a Catholic family
Goal 18. Help immigrant families to adjust to living in Southeast Texas.
- Assist with developing literacy in the spoken language of the immigrants
- Teach basic English communication skills: speaking, reading, and writing
- Provide religious programs/materials in the spoken language of the people
- Help Catholic immigrants to understand and appreciate that both in their own culture and the US culture there are values and customs which are rooted in the Gospel
- Help youth to deal positively with the conflict between the cultural customs of their former country and those of the US
Goal 19. Expand ministry to address a rapidly growing Hispanic population.
- Help strengthen the Catholic identity and practice of immigrants from various Latin America countries by respecting, engaging and honoring their Catholic cultural customs
- Orient the clergy to the specific needs of Spanish-speaking Catholics
- Educate some clergy and seminarians to speak Spanish and to develop specific ministry skills needed within the Hispanic community
- Enable the Hispanic laity to evangelize youth
- On the Family [Familiaris Consortio, (FC)]. John Paul II, Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation, 1981
- Putting Children and Families First. National Conference of Catholic Bishops / United States Catholic Conference, 1991.
- Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], 1992.
- A Family Perspective for Church and Society. National Conference of Catholic Bishops / United States Catholic Conference, 1988.