The election and installation of Pope Francis happened during the spring of this year when every catechetical leader had lots of other things going on in his/her ministry. Not only was there Holy Week and all the associated activities for catechumens and candidates preparing for initiation but there were probably preparations for the celebration of First Holy Communion, lining up catechists, aides and helpers for Vacation Bible School, maybe working on a graduation mass and meal for your high school seniors, perhaps a May crowning, and on and on. As much as we might have wanted to engage parents and families in dialogue about our new Holy Father, there were a myriad of other things demanding our time.

Pope at dinner table

As I thought about the beginning of the new school year and all the preparations for a successful catechetical year, it occurred to me that there are some simple but powerful ways we can help our parents to learn more about what Pope Francis has been saying about poverty, mercy, joy, evangelization and many other topics.

As a take-home activity, prepare one brief quote from St. Francis. Then put three questions with space for families to answer on their own. A great source for these quotes are the Pope's contributions to Twitter. If you don't have a Twitter account, you can find the tweets at: http://Twitter.com/Pontifex. For the questions each week you can write:

1. What does this saying from Pope Francis mean in the life of our family?
2. What do you think this could mean for people in our community (or city or state)?
3. How can we think about the world when we pray over these words?

Ideally, this activity can be done at the dinner table but parts could be done in the car on the way to soccer practice, while waiting to be seen by the doctor or dentist, or it could be a bedtime activity.

If you find that you want to do something like this but are swamped as usual, see if you can find a parent or grandparent who can compose these statements and questions for you as an at-home ministry. Lately I have heard more people, in response to Pope Francis' speeches or tweets, saying that they really want to do something to help the Church. You can help these people reach their goal by allowing them to help with this activity.

Example: “The measure of the greatness of a society is found in the way it treats those most in need, those who have nothing apart from their poverty.”

1. Our family is not rich, so how can we do something to help people who are in need?
2. How can we reach out to people in our city to offer help to those in poverty?
3. What can we do to help people in other countries who might be in need and live in poverty?

Another powerful and timely quote is: “In this Year of Faith, let us remember that faith is not something we possess, but something we share. Every Christian is an apostle.”

1. How can we be apostles to one another in our family?
2. Do we think people in our neighborhood or town see us as apostles? How?
3. Is there a way we can show children or adults in other countries that we are Catholic Christians and we want to share our faith with them?

There are many resources that can be offered to parents such as service through St. Vincent de Paul Societies, Catholic Charities, Operation Rice Bowl and other diocesan people who can help you encourage and organize things for families to do. Again, this is not something you need to do yourself; get a “Francis Facilitator.”

Almost everything the Pope has said publicly is a challenge to us. Let's encourage parents to be the first teachers of their children and learn much for their own faith lives.