November 5, 2017

Springfield Diocese puts focus on families at workshops

Story and photos by Carolee McGrath

Dr. Tim Hogan speaks to pre-cana instructors, Friday, Nov. 3, at the Bishop Marshall Center in Springfield.

SPRINGFIELD – Two Catholic speakers put the focus on families in the Diocese of Springfield this weekend, in an effort to invite people back to church. Tim Hogan, a psychologist, author and lecturer, presented “The Gift of the Cultural Hurricanes: Rebuilding Bridges that Transform Catholic Families,” at the 2017 Catechetical Congress held at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Parish in Westfield, Saturday, Nov. 4.

Later in the morning, Mike Patin, an author and Catholic speaker from Lafayette, La., presented “Rules of Engagement,” to address ways to reverse the trend of fewer and fewer families attending Mass. 

“When you listen to Pope Francis speak and look at the world, you realize we are going through an incredible, unprecedented transformation of culture, something we haven’t gone through in 300 or 400 years in western civilization,” Hogan told iObserve.

“So, everything is getting deconstructed and reorganized. So, what Pope Francis is saying in the middle of this, we have to train our eyes on the family and on marriages, that’s when we will do a good job to keep the church on track. That’s when we will infuse faith back into the world,” said Hogan who spoke at a workshop for parish and diocesan staff, Thursday, Nov. 2, and at a pre-cana workshop, Friday, Nov. 3.  

Hogan said parish leaders all across the country have to recognize how the family unit has changed.

“Traditional families are not even the majority situation for young people to be growing up in right now. The first thing we have to do is embrace who shows up at the door as family. That might be mom and the kids. That might be dad every other weekend and the kids…it requires a reboot of our computer of how do we love them well in this situation,” he added.

He also said as disciples, Catholics needs to be present for others, caring enough to know their story.

“We have been working on bringing people back to church. We call it bringing them back home. The challenge is more for us to leave church and go get them,” he continued.  “Invite them into our personal homes, build relationship with them, until they’re ready to go with us back to church.”

Hogan said parishes have to be creative. He said some priests in his home state of Michigan say Mass at local hockey rinks, where many families spend Sundays going from game to game for their children. He described how other parishes host candle-light dinners for married couples to let them know the church values their witness. He encouraged attendees at the workshops to use social media to get the word out about Mass times and events because most people are constantly checking their phones.

Catechists from across the Diocese of Springfield attended the 2017 Catechetical Congress held at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Parish, Saturday, Nov. 4.

Hogan directs the Christian Grace Counseling Center in Detroit, working with couples and families. He said a major pitfall is everyone’s jam-packed schedule.

“People don’t understand why they’re so busy. All they know is that the pressure is on. Their kids have to get into a good college. It’s super competitive, keeping up with the Jones. So, they gotta get to the soccer tournament this weekend kind of deal. Part of what we’re talking about is we have to slow this thing down and start meeting people one on one and understanding their story,” the husband and father of three said.

Author and Catholic speaker Patin also focused on ministering to families and engaging people at the Catechetical Congress. Patin calls himself a “faith horticulturalist” who plants seeds as he speaks to audiences all across the country.

“We see so many people who claim to be spiritual and not religious,” he said of the current culture.

“We have to keep inviting people. I want to teach them how ordinary people have to say something because I don’t think it’s bishops, priests and nuns that help contribute to the decline in the Catholic church, it’s when people like you and me stop inviting people,” said Patin, a husband and father who started off his ministry in 1984 as a high school teacher and coach.

According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, a non-profit research center based at Georgetown University, only 22 percent of Catholics attend Mass on a regular basis.

“In the last two and a half years, I’m seeing that if we’re going to move things forward, we have to look at families and family life today and how we can be more effective with what we’re offering and providing them the resources they need,” said Gina Czerwinski, the director of catechetics and youth formation for the Springfield diocese.

“If they get the sense that the church has their well-being at heart, I think families will be more receptive to what we’re trying to teach them and offer them.”

Several parishes from across the diocese participated in the catechetical congress, including Our Lady of Fatima in Ludlow.

“You get the feeling that all of America, probably the whole world is in the same situation. I blame it on secularism,” said Helen Johnson, who teaches faith formation to students in grade 10. She said both speakers were inspiring. She said even though the numbers paint a bleak picture of the future of the church, she sees something different.

“It’s impossible to get discouraged if you truly believe in Christ because we know in the end, Christ always wins,” said Johnson.

For a video version of this story, tune into an upcoming edition of “Real to Reel,” the Diocese of Springfield’s weekly television newsmagazine that airs Saturday evenings at 7 p.m. on WWLP-22 NEWS.