How can we support families so they may be witnesses to Christ, to each other and to the community? One of the best times to begin is when they are laying the foundations of family life. If parents are equipped with the knowledge, skills and community to help them live the faith and share it with their children, they will be off to a great start.
With that in mind, and recognizing that parishes play an essential role in accompanying young families as they begin their journey of faith, generous donors to the Family of Faith Campaign have allowed eight parishes within the Archdiocese to receive training and support in launching a program called Early Catholic Family Life (ECFL).
The program, originating from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, equips parents and their children, ages 0-5 years, to learn about the Catholic faith and develop the skills needed to witness to others.
This seven-session program also offers a unique opportunity for young Catholic parents to come together, share their deeply held beliefs and build relationships with each other and the parish community.
So far, two parishes, namely, Cristo Rei Parish (Mississauga) and St. Patrick's Church (Toronto) have completed their first session of the program. St. John Vianney (Barrie) is in progress and St. Joseph the Worker (Oshawa) will be launching ECFL in September 2018.
For Fr. Santo Arrigo, Pastor of St. Patrick's Church, there have been numerous benefits from the program in his parish.
"ECFL has allowed my parishioners to discover not only how much their children learn and understand about God and the Church," said Fr. Arrigo.
"What's been so beautiful is that the children actually teach and help the parents discover their own sense of faith in God."
Results from the first two parishes have been overwhelmingly positive. All of the parents who completed the program said they would recommend ECFL to other parents.
"Early Catholic Family Life reminded me of the need to continue developing my relationship with God," one parent said. "It will help us assist our children to appreciate themselves as a gift of God and also be a help for parents to develop and awareness of the Church community as an important, continual support in their faith formation."
In the meantime, Fr. Arrigo is already planning to offer the program again this coming year.
"We are starting to advertise ECFL for the fall."
For more information on Early Catholic Family Life in the Archdiocese of Toronto, please contact Patrick Douglas at firstname.lastname@example.org or (416) 934-3400 ext. 509.