Two men from Buffalo traveled to Philadelphia to learn how to raise their children in the faith. They, along with 20 others from the Diocese of Buffalo, joined a crowd of 18,000 for the World Meeting of Families.
The event brings together people from across the globe to share the joys and sorrows, ups and downs of being a family in the 21st-century. Experts, clergy, bishops and even Pope Francis will participate during the Sept. 22-27 gathering.
Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, archdiocese of Vancouver, Canada and former secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, led a breakout session titled, "The School of the Hearts: Parents as Primary Catechists," and offered practical tips for bring up children to be faithful Catholics.
"He started off by listing a lot of the challenges that parents face when trying to pass down the faith. He talked about specifics on parents' primary role being first the evangelizers, and then the catechizers following evangelization. Parents first role is to pass on the Gospel," said Mark Bailkowski, parishioner of St. Mary of the Lake in Hamburg.
Archbishop Miller said that the home should be the primary location for faith formation should to take place.
"Which I completely agree with. I have a 3-year-old daughter, and I think that's where she pays the most attention to anything, it's what we do at home and following what we do at home," said Bailkowski.
Offering 10 practical tips to the 500 people in his audience, Archbishop Miller said parents should be present, be joyful witnesses to the Gospel, and stick to the core message of God's love.
Bailkowski plans to use this guide in raising his 3-year-old daughter, Erin.
"Especially, with tip number one that the archbishop gave about being present to your children," he said. "The archbishop spoke a lot about how many challenges and draws there are on children's time, from extracurricular activities to social media to technology. How does that affect (the ability to parent a child)? For me, it's about searching for different ways to disconnect to reconnect to God and looking for a way to make sure that as Erin is growing up there are opportunities for her to be disconnected so that she can be connected. When she grows up she is going to face so many draws on her time. She has to know that you have to make room for praise, for being a part of your community."
Brian Ruh, pastoral associate at St. Amelia Parish in Tonawanda, has had few problems raising his four daughters in the faith, currently ages 10-15, because he and his wife are still the prime influence on their lives.
"My girls are great. My girls are very receptive to it, but it will be interesting when my girls get a little bit older, to see how many of my four girls are going to remain with the faith. Right now they're very receptive and these tips make sense to us," Ruh said, adding that he liked the simple way Archbishop Miller spoke to the crowd.
"The archbishop wasn't talking above us. He was talking to us in the sense of practical ... Here's some tips. He's offering us some tips to hang on to," said Ruh.
The World Meeting of Families, which kicked off Sept. 22, gathers people from across the globe to explore the critical role the family plays in society and to give families opportunities to talk about the challenges and blessings that all families have.