November 21, 2019

A Reflection on Family Spirituality: The Foundation for Church and Society

Aren’t you tired of hearing all the doomsday predictions about the way the family is headed in our society? Why do negative predictions seem to preoccupy our thoughts and energies when Christ said that He came that we might have life and have it abundantly (Jn 10:10)? Isn’t there another way to approach God’s gift of family? What could each of us do to build, uphold, and deepen commitment to family life the way God planned it? Christ enriched it by living it, and the Church affirms it by unwavering commitment.

Like Christ, each of us belongs to two families: (1) Family of Origin– that family in which we grew up and began our physical and spiritual maturing process; and (2) Family of Establishment– that family we choose when we are old enough, the one we co-create as adults. No one can ever say “I have no family.” We all do, but we must also define what our choice means at each stage of life; this includes single adults and celibate ones.

Our first family, Family of Origin, is the foundation of Church and society. It is the primary family: mother, father, and children when possible. This primary unit then becomes a family of origin for children, and the growth cycle continues. This unit includes children by blood, marriage, and/or adoption. It’s there that God intends each person to be loved, formed, guided, nurtured, and taught His way. Nothing can replace this unit. As the family goes, so goes Church and society for family is the bedrock of all God-created life.

Our second family of which we are a vital part, Family of Establishment, is the one we choose in our adult life, and which we co-create in an adult manner. We take into this new expression of family what we learned in our Family of Origin. We adapt what we learned there, change what is needed, and adjust what we learned to the situation of the family we select to help build. In both families, we must invest time, effort, energy, talents, and the virtues and characteristics of a healthy family life so as to be able to further our own maturing, and to enable and empower that of the other members.

In light of these considerations, what is our only vocation as Catholic Christians?

It is to enter into an ever deeper friendship with Christ and then to take His values and characteristics into daily life to both of these family units, and through these into our world.

We have this challenge within our reach and, though challenging, it’s quite simple. Beginning today, what if each of us would take this as our focus and resolution? Wouldn’t the world and the Church change in a short time? What if every Family of Origin took this as their simple motto? What if each school, faith formation program, youth and adult study group, and parish in the country (world) would take this as their motto? Could we even imagine what could/would happen to the Church? To the world? We’d all have a common goal toward which to channel our energies. What a simple solution. But, what possibilities! Both of our family units would benefit greatly. If we’d all work toward this goal, then the outpouring of the energies that this could generate would be incredibly life-giving. The fire that Christ cast on the earth would be kindled. How can we help fan that flame…today?

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Written by
Sr Angelita Fenker

SR. ANGELITA M. FENKER, 83, passed away on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013. Born in Fort Wayne, Sr. Angelita was a religious Sister and educator with various educational and ecumenical organizations in the U.S and Canada for 60 years, retiring in 2007.

She started her ministry in 1947, earned Bachelors degrees in education and family studies from University of Saint Francis and Purdue University. She was an elementary teacher, principal and director of religious education in Missouri, Louisiana and Indiana. She earned her Masters degree in education administration from Marquette University. From 1973 to 1990, served as the National Associate Director of Families for Prayer, Inc, of Albany, N.Y. During this time, she also earned her doctorate degree in spirituality and family spirituality from the Graduate Theological Foundation.

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

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Written by Sr Angelita Fenker
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