A Vision for Teaching the Family

Bishop Joseph E. Strickland

So they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to everyone in his house. He took them in at that hour of the night and bathed their wounds; then he and all his family were baptized at once. (Acts 16:32-33)

It is my instruction that we engage the people of the Diocese of Tyler as families, for the family is the basic building block of our Church and human society. I envision teaching being delivered primarily to families, according to their membership. The experience of learning the Faith will be a family-building and family-strengthening activity in the Diocese.

Most basically, engagement of the family means to accompany people according to the reality of their lives. To this end, I see three concerns: (a)engagement of the total family; (b)engagement of the members according to their season; and (c)engagement of members according to their changing challenges.

(a) We must engage the total family. The Catholic Faith is not meant to be held by only one person in a household, it is a household practice of the Faith. If one member of a family is preparing to receive a sacrament of initiation, we must have packaged teaching which will bring the rest of the family along the same journey for the sake of unity. Our materials and activities should seek always to speak to the entire family and promote the household practice of the Faith.

The fact that these truths about the main questions of faith and Christian living are thus repeated within a family setting impregnated with love and respect will often make it possible to influence the children in a decisive way for life. The parents themselves profit from the effort that this demands of them, for in a catechetical dialogue of this sort each individual both receives and gives. (Catechesi Tradendae, 6)

(b) We will engage the members of the family according to their season. Each member of a family is in a season of life. Broadly, we will be conscious of the Season of Infancy from 0 to 4 years of age, the Season of Initiation from 5 to 12 years of age, the Season of Discipleship from 13 to 22 years of age, the Season of Commitment 23 to 30 years of age, the Season of Living the Journey from 30 to 50 years of age, the Season of Maturity from 50 to 70 years of age, and the Season of Wisdom from 70 years on. These are not hard and fast ages, as individuals grow and make vocational decisions at different times, but our engagement should be sensitive to the teaching that will most impact people in these different seasons, particularly in relation to vocational discernment. We will model teaching on the ways family members in these different seasons can enrich each other’s journey.

(c) Each member of the family faces individual challenges, and, in order for our teaching to be most useful, we will engage each member of the family according to the challenges they face. When we engage a husband and father, we will give him the critical information necessary to live out his vocation according to the teachings of the Catholic Church, according to his characteristic role, responsibilities, and challenges. When we engage a wife and mother, she also will be given good, clear teaching critical to living her vocation. She will need many of the same things as her husband, but her needs will be different in key areas, and it is our responsibility recognize and respond to her individual needs as completely as possible. To provide teaching which exhibits quality, desirability and usefulness, we will accompany each member of the family through their lives and teach them according to their changing needs.

What this points to is a system of teaching which is far from “one size fits all,” but is instead custom-tailored to the members of a household as a family. This is a lofty goal, but it is precisely why I have chosen to chart this new course and found an Institute of teaching, so that this opportunity can be studied and this goal reached. Secular organizations in our world employ this sort of analysis and customization in the service of far less worthy goals. We will make every effort at this direct engagement of all the members of our families.

The reality of our time is that the family is fractured and undermined in serious ways in the day-to-day course of society. Underlying this is a fracturing of the human person that results in great confusion in each of the seasons mentioned above. The message of Jesus Christ is the antidote to this confusion and fracture. We will strive to offer the message of Jesus to the families of the diocese in the best way possible.


A Teaching Diocese: Constitution on Teaching the Catholic Faith
JOSEPH EDWARD STRICKLAND
BY THE GRACE OF GOD AND THE APOSTOLIC SEE
BISHOP OF TYLER
To the priests, deacons, religious, catechists and teachers, and all the faithful of the Diocese of Tyler, health and benediction.
Section 3: A Vision of Teaching the Family, “Teaching and the Christian Family”, 15