Archdiocese provides Lenten resources for families
BRAINTREE -- Each year, the Secretariat for Evangelization and Discipleship develops new resources for the faithful to use during Advent and Lent. This year, they are releasing their Lenten resources under Project Nazareth, the family-oriented faith formation program they launched in 2020.
What makes Project Nazareth different from other curricula is that it is meant to foster discipleship in the home, according to Melissa Kalpakgian, a content specialist for the Office of Lifelong Faith Formation and Parish Support. Instead of one hour-long lesson each week, it encourages parents to talk to their children about the faith a little every day.
"Project Nazareth is all about building habits in the family to help create a Catholic culture at home," Kalpakgian said.
The program has been used by families in about 100 parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston, as well as several outside the archdiocese. With the tagline "Faith begins at home," this curriculum gives parents of children from preschool through fifth grade a structure to talk about the faith and study Scripture as a family. Drawing on the Bible and the catechism, the resources encourage families to ponder ideas, listen to the Word, pray in different ways, and put what they learn into action. Microseries within the program focus on different topics, such as the Eucharist.
Kalpakgian said that Project Nazareth was developed to help parishes become what they call "evangelizing parishes." It can supplement a parish's preexisting programs, and many parishes make it available to homeschooling families.
"We want our families talking to each other about God and about faith, and just be comfortable talking about it. That is the real habit. That's when faith becomes alive at home," Kalpakgian said.
She added, "We want that natural dynamic of living a Catholic life. When the parents are not just models but also talking about their faith with their children, statistically, those are the children who stay active in the faith."
In past years, the secretariat sometimes created a Lenten calendar with a different item for families to do each day.
The Lenten family resource this year is a coloring book about the Stations of the Cross, which can be downloaded from the Project Nazareth website. The booklet invites families to ponder the verse from John 12:24: "Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit." Children can connect the dots and color pictures for each station, and families can reflect on the Bible verse and related questions together.
"The fact that they're holding a book that they created themselves all the more keeps their interest," Kalpakgian said.
Families can also sign up to receive a weekly "toolkit" via email, with resources relating to the Sunday Mass readings.
Kalpakgian said the secretariat has received positive feedback from both families and parishes that have implemented Project Nazareth. One parish leader reported receiving "great feedback" from parents.
"The families that are doing the program really seem to enjoy it and appreciate the prayerful time spent with their children," they said.
One father described how the materials helped him connect with his daughter in the third grade.
"My daughter and I are able to quickly look things up on the computer while reviewing the readings -- like the physical locations of various places referenced, or the back-story of people that are mentioned. I think that this adds to the ability to connect with these readings on a personal level," he said.
Another parent said she always thought of faith formation as something learned in a classroom, but she now sees it as the discovery of a person.
"That's what we want," Kalpakgian said.
Although it was not a direct response to the pandemic, Project Nazareth first became available when families were looking for remote options for faith formation. Kalpakgian said that it was a "huge hit" in a digital format during its first year. Now, parishes are asking for printed materials, since they are back in the classroom and "kind of digitalized out." To meet that need, the office is planning to rebrand and reformat Project Nazareth this spring to make it more widely available in print form.
Project Nazareth's Lenten resources are available at www.evangelizeboston.com/lenten-resources.