LAKELAND | Inspired by a summit on family life and the new Directory of Catechesis, staff from the Diocese of Orlando’s Secretariat for Laity, Family, and Life hosted their first Renewing Catholic Family Life workshop at Resurrection Parish in Lakeland on Sept. 12. Parents, children and catechists learned how to be stronger witnesses of Christ in the world.
Marilyn Hobdy attended with her three children (ages 12, 5, and 2) and her 3-month-old nephew. After losing her job during the COVID-19 pandemic, she became an instant stay-at-home mother and felt the workshop might offer helpful parenting tips. “With the kids – it’s constant, 24/7,” said Hobdy. “I thought I might need a little help.” She was thankful the free program also provided childcare. Hobdy especially loved the tip from mental health counselor Regina Boyd, on catching children doing the right thing and recognizing it. “It made me want to be more intentional. That’s a theme I’ve heard a lot here at Resurrection,” she said. “Everything is intention and God focused.” She noted learning how, even doing simple tasks can make a difference when “doing them through the eyes of Christ. It says I’m doing this because I love you.”
Diocesan Children’s Ministry Director John Molloy said, although the workshop was not based on Pope Francis’s post-synodal document on family and marriage, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), much of it reiterates the pope’s emphasis of experiencing God’s love within the family and dovetails with the new Directory for Catechesis and “its heavy emphasis on renewing family life and getting back to catechesis that centers on the family.”
As part of the workshop, Molloy, a father of five children ages 12 and under, spoke of rituals within families, creating space for playing, working and talking with one another—building family bonds that reflect the love of God. He suggested doing works of mercy as a family because these expressions show mutual love. He added, “The quality of the service out there (in the world) starts in our homes and how we serve one another.”
Involved in family life ministry for 12 years, Molloy said the need for this type of workshop is consistent with what he witnessed over the past decade. “I’ve seen this hunger for families to want to do things together, better and for the Church saying, it’s all about the domestic Church. This was the summit of all of that coming together. It was a great time to seize the moment.”
Through a variety of speakers, the Spanish and English presenters covered three areas of focus to build better families – relationship, rituals, and service. Bilingual mental health professionals also weighed in. Molloy noted, “a mental health professional is ideal because there are a lot of psychological dimensions to human relationships.” Counselors Regina Boyd and Linda Ortiz shared their professional and familial expertise as parents adding substance to the robust program. Their husbands, Dan Boyd (director of Laity, Family and Life) and Luis Ortiz also shared stories about their own family experiences and how their families helped them see the love of God and desire to share that love with others. The Ortizes serve at their parish, St. Isaac Jogues in Orlando, as ministers of Renovación Conyugal, a marriage ministry that extends to family life. The Boyds are faithful parishioners at Annuncation Catholic Church in Altamonte Springs.
Director of Religious Education at Resurrection Parish, María Jimenez, shared activity ideas to help families build ritual. Luz Santa, a catechist at St. Joseph Parish in Lakeland said she hoped to bring some of those ideas back to her parish to share with faith formation families.
Samera Alamm, who coordinates religious education at St. Joseph, Lakeland, is eager to bring the ideas to life. She hopes to send a weekly video to parents “encouraging them to live this kind of family life.” She said, “We see a lot of promise for it in the future.” Although her four children are adults, some still live at home. Alamm said the workshop offered several ideas to implement in her own household. “I saw areas we can still work on. And we always have relationships with other people… we can share this with,” she said. Regarding her children who do not attend Mass or participate in the Church, she learned she may still consistently remind them of the love of God and be intentional about inviting them to parish activities. With her mother living at home, she added, “I can give to her as well by giving and listening to her. I want to go home and give her a big hug right now. I am seeing this as a broad spectrum of relationships.”
Alamm added Regina Boyd’s comment on having a “prodigal vibe” struck home as teens and young adults frequently use the term, “vibe” today. Having a prodigal vibe “means we’re always welcoming. We’re always hoping. We’re always excited for every little step they take closer to God. That is hope and we can’t give up our hope. That’s what gives me joy to be here,” she said.
Concluding the workshop, Molloy offered an analogy for what was shared during the workshop. “Think of a fire. You need a catalyst, fuel, and you want to enjoy the warmth and light of that fire. And all these elements are interconnected,” he said. “Relationships are the catalyst. Strengthening those bonds helps us love one another greater than we already do. The way we connect with one another is the fuel. Through family rituals of play, work, talk and prayer we make better connections. The warmth and light of our families is shared through service. Practicing service inside and outside helps us care deeper than we already do for our family and our neighbors.” Molloy acknowledged it takes time and there are struggles along the way. He encouraged families to go home, unpack what they learned and “huddle up” with other families to encourage one another.
Just before their departure, Molloy and Tomás Evans, director of adult ministry at the diocese, offered families a list of “Love – Care – Connect” family challenges. The hope is families will capture these activities and post a photo to social media, tagging the Diocese of Orlando. The action helps families be accountable and share the joy of growing in the love of Christ by building strong Catholic families and witnessing Christ to the world through their loving relationships.
In his closing prayer, Father Tim LaBo, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Lakeland and parochial administrator of Resurrection Parish, emphasized, “Family is the foundation of our Church. This program flows beautifully in terms of our theology, spirituality, morality and more. I am excited about this whole process. It’s great for us to develop deeper and discover more and more of what Jesus is calling us to be as family.”
By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic, September 15, 2020