West Springfield parish embraces Generations of Faith program
Story and photos by David Martin
WEST SPRINGFIELD – Parishioners at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church, here, are very excited and have high expectations about their newly revamped religious education program, titled “Generations of Faith.”
Celeste Labbe, the parish’s religious education director, said Generations of Faith is a very different religious education experience, because the education does not just take place with children but also with the adults in the parish. She said parents are involved in the education of students in classroom situations and adults who do not have children also participate.
Labbe said the program allows the entire faith community to learn about their religion as a group in learning sessions that are appropriate for their age group. Generations of Faith meets six times a year with program sessions that are three hours long and are divided into three separate segments.
The first segment includes all age groups together learning about what message or theme is for that session. The groups are then divided into individual learning periods for preschool age through adults; the sacramental classes are also separate as they are presented with the same message for their age level. Finally, everyone comes back together again to share what they learned and to prepare for an upcoming event.
“It just takes the entire church community and gives them the opportunity to truly understand not only what their faith is all about, but (to understand) all the events that we participate in,” said Labbe.
For the April 5, session, Generations of Faith participants were preparing for the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. The elementary classes were learning about the event by filling Easter eggs with items that help retell the story. The preschool class went on a search to find the empty tomb and then discover the risen Christ, while the older students were all given a presentation on the Shroud of Turin.
Labbe said Generations of Faith has three components to it. First is the learning sessions, which take place six times a year; second is taking what they have learned about their faith and putting it into action in an entire church event; and third is a home kit to facilitate continued learning at home. The kit contains materials that will help participants remember what they have learned during the session, such as magazines, prayer cards and worksheet activities.
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini parishioner Nelson Picard said the home kit helps his family to sit down and review the information. He said it works especially well for his younger son, who is autistic, when they do the activities from the home kit together because it helps him learn about the faith step by step.
Picard said Generations of Faith is the perfect title for the program because, with each new generation, changes come and “the church has to evolve too,” but he said younger children can acquire from adults what they learned as children. He said young people in the program seem to like having the older generation present.
“I think it gives them the motivation to see that it is important to adults and it should be as important to them too. So I think they like having everybody involved,” said Picard.
There is one main theme for each year in Generations of Faith; Labbe said they chose The Creed as the theme for this year because it contains the central beliefs of the Catholic faith.
Geoffrey Gould (pictured at left) is a music teacher in the Westfield public schools and parishioner at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Belchertown, where his own sons are involved in the Generations of Faith program at that parish. Gould works with Labbe to present music during the beginning and ending of each session when all age groups are working together. He said working on the religious education program in both parishes is a great augmentation to his faith.
“Celeste is one of the hardest working Catholics you are ever going to meet; I feel like that translates over in the way that the people engage in this new program. I only see good things happening,” said Gould.
Gould expects the program will continue to grow in West Springfield and said he hopes more parishioners will become interested in learning together with their children by participating in Generations of Faith.