Home' Aurora : Aurora August 2014 Contents 15
www.mn.catholic.org.au Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle
WHEN DID YOU LAST
GET IN THE WATER?
THE CATHOLIC THING
When was the last time you got into the
water? At some point in our lives many of
us stop getting in the pool or the ocean
or the river and watch from the side.
We watch others who are fitter, slimmer
or younger enjoying the delight of being
immer sed in the cool, refreshing and
About two year s ago, our daughter and
her husband decided to put in a backyard
pool. They calculated the costs and
inconvenience, weighed the benefits for
their five children and embarked on what
tur ned out to be an 18-month project.
There were quotes and salespeople,
contr actor s and DIY, but most of all there
wa s great anticipation. Of cour se, the costs
spiralled as unfor seen challenges arose and
additional options were added.
The family finally has a beautiful pool
which became the centre of their home
life that fir st wonder ful summer. Hot kids
coming home from school were refreshed,
busy pr e-schoolers were exhausted and
pregnant Mum took the load off. It was
everything they had hoped for and more.
Not only was it the centr epiece for
their family of seven, but neighbours
and extended families wer e invited to
par take in the pleasures of this sparkling
urban pond. I recall that Christmas was
celebr ated around the pool that year of
extreme holiday temper atures.
As gr andparents , my wife and I noticed
that the pool became a place of rela xation
where adults became kids and the kids
responded with joy a s their parents and
even grandparents joined in the fun.
"Grandma, I didn't know you could swim! "
remarked one surprised child as Gr andma
gr acefully stroked up and down peacefully
on a hot afternoon.
That child, Sienna, seemed to get most
use of the pool that first summer -- she
liter ally could not get enough of it and
would often stay in to practise a dive or
perfect her stroke. She par ticularly enjoyed
any one-on-one time she was afforded by
her parents or any willing adult who was
prepar ed to help her develop her skills.
It wasn't long befor e Sienna was a very
capable and confident swimmer, eager to
show her water skills to all and sundr y.
In all the expectation of the building of
the pool, the kids never imagined the joy
they would experience being gently held,
eagerly watched and excitedly played
with over the course of that fir st magical
summer. Nor could the parents have
anticipated the speed with which the older
children would develop confidence and
prowess with swimming and diving.
People and relationships changed in the
water that summer and the summer s to
follow. In the excitement, encouragement
and energy of the water, the family was
renewed. So much so that now, in the midst
of winter, the family looks longingly at the
pool in the hope of another sea son of fun.
Family faith formation is very similar to
lear ning to swim. I of ten say to parents
during a sacramental
preparation program, "You
need to get into the water."
Good sacr amental programs
are designed to have parents
sharing their faith with their
children. For it is not the faith
of other s which will tr ansfor m
kids a s much as the faith of
those they love and tr ust.
For decades, the Church has
maintained that parents are the
primary educators in faith and then
demanded they show up to weekly
prepar ation sessions wher e 'exper ts' stand
out the front and lecture on the faith. The
most eloquent speaker with the most
dynamic powerpoint isn't going to develop
the faith of children as much as those who
walk with them ever y day in gentle, loving
Preparing a child for a sacrament can be
a pr ecious time in the life of a family, a
time when that child becomes the focus ,
the centre of attention and prayer. Wise
parish teams understand this and take the
oppor tunity to facilitate conversations
between parent/guardian and child. They
guide parents along the path of questioning
and reflection which hopefully sees the child
emerge into a renewed stage of faith.
Our second gr andchild, Sienna, recently
completed her sacraments of initiation
with a beautiful celebr ation of her First
Communion. The day was filled with
feelings of relief, pride and delight because
her parents were dedicated to seeing
her through a program which at
times was demanding and
unaccommodating. They put
Sienna fir st for that month
and especially on her
When our daughter
said in fr ustr ation one
afternoon -- "Why
can't we complete
this workbook at home
online? or even if they just
had one day which we could
commit to and get it all done."
-- I thought, sur ely we can do better
for moder n families? Many families are
experiencing stress at a time which could
be as nourishing and rewarding as lear ning a
new swimming stroke.
The Children's Ministries Team in the
Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle is exploring
new ways of delivering sacramental
progr ams, ways that meet families where
they are and provide them with resources
to help their childr en grow in faith. One
city parish provides a list of YouTube clips
with cur rent teachings. Recently a program
was developed which puts parents in the
driving seat as the child navigates through
the lear ning activities. One diocese to the
nor th offers school holiday camps for kids
to enjoy as they pr epare for the reception
of a sacr ament.
Moder n families are diver se and Pope
Francis and the Bishops of the world
seem ready to acknowledge this at
a Special Synod on Evangelisation of
Families to be held in October. Hopefully
this will lead to a more inclusive view
of families, an invitational approach and
flexible modes of delivering the wealth
and wisdom the church has to offer.
Our five children and ten gr andchildr en,
combined with years of study and work
in the church, has convinced me of three
things, in this order:
• Most families have the wellbeing of
children as their top priority in their
• Relationships with God can
contribute to the happiness and
wellbeing of families.
• Receiving the sacraments is a great
way to experience the love of God.
The challenge ahead is to meet modern
families in their special times and offer
them the wisdom of an ancient tr adition.
This wisdom can deepen and enrich their
already blessed lives with words and
actions to prepare for, connect with and
celebrate the holiness of their homes.
John Donnelly is Director of the Life
and Faith Office, Diocese of Maitland-
Newcastle. He welcomes responses at
For it is not the
faith of others
transform kids as
much as the faith
of those they love
Share your thoughts@auroramagazine
Links Archive Aurora September 2014 Aurora July 2014 Navigation Previous Page Next Page