November 17, 2019

Family Aware

The Church has many positive ministries which faithfully serve families. However, these activities are sometimes isolated and not effective in the long run because they lack both stability (rootedness in the past) and a sense of vision (a legacy for the future). They seem to have no unifier to hold them together. It’s like having a heap of new-car parts in one place, and one which is put together. One will go somewhere; the other will not go anywhere, even though the parts are new.

Each parish functions with its own goals, which can change with each new pastor. Even each diocese (and all its offices) functions within the framework of what its present bishop wants, only to yield to new goals when another arrives. Where is the unifier in all of these? We limp along, and things seem to go well, but perhaps it could be more fruitful if there could be an over-arching goal under which all Church ministry functions, and from which all service to God’s people could find anchoring. It seems that family spirituality could, and even must, be the umbrella under which all Church ministry would function to provide this sense of unity, direction, and legacy wherein all great ministry ensues.

Remember: there is no spirituality in any parish or diocese without individual spirituality and since every person comes from a family, the spirituality of the parish and diocese is merely a collection of the family spiritualities which make it up. No more; no less. The pastor prays about this, fasts, is happy and maybe cries a bit over the spirituality of the parish, but he does not create it; he merely guides, directs, and empowers it. The spirituality of the parish is only the reflection of and collection of the spiritualities of the families which make it up. It is up to all of us to bring this awareness to the fore, and to do all we can to support it. Once awareness of this is present, it can be developed, nourished, and built upon. Awareness is a combination of attention and intention toward the task at hand. We can do nothing better pastorally than to affirm and build on this reality.

In all of our ministries, we must be family aware. We say we believe this, but often fail in the execution of our message. Our approach is often fragmented and focuses on the sub-groups of which families are a part: society, parish groups, schools, divorced, single parents, ethnic groups, etc. This causes only further fragmentation. There is no unifier. Christ preached His message to everyone and never focused on what made people different; He always focused on what unified them, and was common to each person and family, since all human beings have the same basic spiritual, physical, emotional, and psychological needs. Jewish people did not fragment the family; they understood its broad meaning and the many dimensions of the family life cycle. Christ trusted His listeners to make the necessary adaptations of His message to fit their unique situation. Then, those families which thought they didn’t fit the norm would no longer feel ‘dysfunctional.’

To take the holistic family spirituality approach, we need to broaden our concept of family to include all the stages of the family life cycle so as to include every level of family life which each of us could live through in our lifetime. In ministry, ask this question:

“How is what we’re doing impacting on family life, and on the families (of all ages) we serve?”

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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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