Can evangelization happen at a parent meeting?
Parent meetings are often looked at by DREs and parents as difficult and a waste of time. One year I decided to change my focus, shift my attitude and see what would happen.
There is usually one meeting at the beginning of the year where I go over the plans for the year, and the schedule and meet new families. And then there are the sacrament preparation meetings, one for Penance/Communion class and the other for the Confirmation class. I don’t like these meetings. I didn’t like attending them when I was a parent and I dislike holding them as the director of said programs. Why? Because the parents and I are at cross purposes before we even see each other. Their interest in the meeting is to get the facts about the sacraments: dates, times, dress, and photo information. And how long will the service be and do we have to come to the rehearsal? And in the case of Penance and Communion, well, do we really need to talk about Penance at all? That’s not a big deal like First Communion.
I, of course, spend weeks thinking and praying and searching for all the right things to include in this meeting. I look at it as a chance to share the faith, to give adults an update, to once and for all find the perfect blend of professing the truth with such love that everyone begins to go to Mass every Sunday and has a conversion experience. Is it any wonder I have trouble planning the meeting?
The meeting is important since, in many cases, it’s the first time I am meeting the parents and probably the last time we will be together for this long a period of time. But even more so, it’s an opportunity to reach out in love and invite people to take another look at their faith, at Jesus, and the Church. How do I engage the parents so that they desire more? First, I must stop thinking it is all up to me. It is God who will invite them into a deeper relationship. I need to allow him to use me. Only then will evangelization be possible.
Yes, there can be evangelization
I had decided ahead of time that my primary focus would be on presenting the sacrament of Penance and less on Holy Communion. In an ideal world, I would have two meetings, but I can’t.
I began by welcoming the group and telling them about myself. Then we began talking about the sacraments and why they are important. I brought out the point that in our relationships with our spouses, children, family, and friends, we verbalize it when we have done something wrong and apologize. If we didn’t, it would be difficult to stay in the relationship with a good attitude. I drew out from that analogy that it is the same with God. We cannot harm our relationship with Him and then act as if we did nothing wrong. We talked about venial and mortal sin, the difference between the two and why confessing even venial sins is important. I find that there is a huge disconnect on that point, even with clergy saying that only serious or mortal sins need to be confessed. While technically that is true, if you are constantly committing a certain sin, such as losing patience with your children, if it turns into constant yelling, your children cowering, and your husband not wanting to come at night, well, it has become serious.
Why go to Confession?
I showed a video, Confession Explained from the Diocese of Richmond. Parents took notes, wrote down the links mentioned in the video, and had questions. I also reminded them to approach Penance as something joyful, as an event for the family to participate in together. I gave examples from my own family life and let them know that it is a healing sacrament to receive forgiveness, mercy, and grace, not judgment or condemnation. I used this quote from Pope Francis, “Going to confession is not like going to the dry cleaners to have a stain removed. No! It is going to meet the Father …” (Pope Francis, during his Jan. 23 daily Mass at the Vatican) to help make my point of why we need confession.
We wrapped up Penance and discussed Communion. We finished up with all the logistics, and I gave out information about what we’d covered, including the prayers their children need to learn.
After the meeting, a few parents approached me by asking more questions or thanking me for the review since they’d forgotten most of it. This meeting was different, and as I thought about why I think it came down to two main reasons; I very consciously relaxed and let the Spirit fill and guide me, I approached it from the perspective that this might be threatening to some parents and so I stopped making them the “bad guys” and proceeded with the thought they are trying to do their best for their children.