St. E's Update

Religious Ed and Sacramental Prep News - Dec/Jan

Who We Are and What We Do

This newsletter contains important information about our Religious Education and Sacramental Preparation programs for parishioners. Anne Gaspers is the Religious Education Coordinator ( and Mary McManus is the Sacramental Preparation Coordinator (

Just Imagine: A Year of Mercy

A year of mercy. Pope Francis has invited the Church to keep this theme front and center for the coming year. How would our world, our city, our families be different if we were more merciful toward one another? If we were a little more forgiving and a little less quick to judge? "The Mercy of God" is an extraordinary theme that is close to the heart of Pope Francis -- even ruffling a few feathers! Just imagine the potential for transformation as we pray, “Be merciful as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).

St. Elizabeth's will offer various events throughout the coming year around the theme of Mercy. Our first one will be the Advent Reconciliation Service on December 15.

A Shift in our Sacramental Prep Model - by Mary McManus

After reviewing feedback from parents & catechists regarding low engagement of youth, difficulties with the classroom teaching model and logistical challenges,

we are restructuring our sacramental preparation program for Reconciliation and Eucharist. The staff is recommending a model that involves parents as primary educators of their children, and that connects families with one another through a small community of faith. This shift away from the classroom based model is like the difference between going to school and going on a retreat.

Sacraments are about encountering Christ in a transformative way. “Information loading” does not equal faith formation. Rather, faith is about encountering the living God through the rich diversity of our tradition: sacraments, prayer, the liturgical cycle, biblical stories and events in our daily lives. Effective catechesis happens through ritual and prayer, and when we feel connected to God and others. When children experience something that they can’t quite name, but want more of…that’s a sign that we’re on to something. That's what we're aiming for with this shift.

There are important “nuts & bolts” of the sacraments to teach our children (such as memorizing prayers, knowing what to do, when, etc). But teaching these mechanics in a classroom format can be boring for children, and can lead to the false impression that faith = what you know. Clearly it IS important for the children to learn the nuts & bolts. But this information can be effectively taught one on one at home where the child can learn at his/her own pace and ask meaningful questions, thus going into greater depth. Parents are in a unique place to teach, nurture and facilitate a positive experience of faith.

A possible model for the Spring would be to meet for 3-4 two hour sessions with parents and youth together. (In contrast to the current model of eight 45 minute sessions with youth/catechists). Parents would cover the chapter at home prior to the session, and the Group Session would take on a mini-retreat format. If we continue to meet on Sunday mornings, a typical session might look like this:

  • Potluck meal with families (30 minutes) to ride the transition between Mass and to let the kids “shake their sillies” out

  • Icebreaker – 5 minutes

  • Opening Prayer - Liturgical catechesis with ritual action (blessing with water, breaking bread, laying on of hands, naming, anointing, lighting candles, etc) 20 minutes

  • Group Lesson (20 minutes)

  • Adults & children break into 2 groups (30 minutes). Adults share faith on adult level and children do an activity on their level. We could switch it up here, too - wouldn't always have to meet separately.

  • Closing Prayer together (10 minutes)

Families lead busy lives, and we want to honor your time commitment with meaningful activities. If you would like to help shape our new format, we will be convening a group of parents to flesh it out. Just email Mary at and we will get a meeting on the calendar.

See also: - This program is similar in pedagogy to what we’re proposing

Family Faith and Film

We held our first Family Faith and Film evening on Wednesday, November 4. Our first film we showed was Star Wars: A New Hope in preparation for the Star Wars film coming out in December. While we only had a couple of families in attendance, our discussion was lively and centered around what "the Force" is and how that relates to God in our lives. Wisdom definitely comes through the thoughts of the children and we adults can learn a lot from them if we take the time to listen. I encourage you to attend our next Family Faith and Film night on Sunday, December 13 at 4pm. We will be watching It's a Wonderful Life. Instead of dinner, please bring a Christmas treat to share! Our film on Sunday, January 17 at 4pm will be an animated film called The Prophet about Khalil Gibran.