Over 150 people turned up for this year’s Catholic Family Dialogue on 23 July at Catholic Junior College. Organised by the Archdiocesan Commission for the Family (ACF), the event sought to explore the relevance of the Catholic Family in today’s challenging world.
It was due to the apparent decline of the practice of the faith at home that prompted the organisers to go for the theme ‘Will the Catholic Family Still be Relevant Tomorrow’.
Mr Kevin Simon, 27, was among the participants who signed up for the event. A volunteer at a youth centre, he went with the hope of learning how to reach out to troubled teenagers. He was accompanied by his mother, Mdm Debbie Ng, 58, who hopes to help her grandchildren grow in the Catholic faith despite life’s distractions.
In his opening address, the Spiritual Director of ACF, Msgr Ambrose Vaz, cited that a recent survey showed a decline of church attendance. He cautioned, “It is a worrying trend that can translate to a waning quality of family life.” He also stressed the importance of the family home as the environment that allows us to first encounter God. “This home experience teaches us that God is love and moulds our identity to love.”
The half-day event was a plethora of experiences shared by veteran family therapist and keynote speaker Brother Collin Wee and expert panellists from all walks of life.
Brother Collin compared his growing-up years in a Catholic family with how many of today’s Catholic children at home lack the touch points of the faith.
He cited a host of reasons, like issues relating to spousal, financial, educational needs; household chores and other practical tensions pulling in different directions.
His advice: “Journey with your children at their pace. Accompany them through life to help them become the persons they are meant to be.”
He added that parents should be the central focus in the family – always leading by example and respecting differences. “Families should be safe places for them to come back to.”
Grooming entrepreneur Jean Yip and her family also took to the stage to share their guiding principles of living the Catholic faith in the midst of their busy corporate life: showing love and leading by example.
Jean recounted how her education in a Catholic school taught her to do good deeds while her husband, Mervin Wee, related the importance of receiving the sacraments regularly and joining a ministry. Actress-daughter Cheryl Wee shared how she would keep the faith alive even when she was overseas by staying near churches so that she could go to Mass regularly.
Participants were encouraged to dig deeper into the theme at the breakout group discussion, where they tackled challenges faced by Catholics today and how they could encourage the practice of the faith at home.
Families with inter-faith couples was a hot issue, with many giving their views on the matter. “It’s good to hear what other inter-faith couples have to say and know that I’m not alone,” said Ms Sharon Quek, 39, who is married to a non-Catholic and seeks to be able to express her faith openly at home.
Other challenges cited were the distractions of social media, opposing tension of time and priorities, lack of formation of parents themselves and even not having enough Catholic teachers in our Catholic schools to help influence Catholic students.
Suggestions on how to promote the practice of the faith domestically included drawing in young people through social media, having at least one meal together as a family each week, using communities as influencers instead of only relying on the Church and getting the Church to be more explicit in welcoming those struggling with issues such as divorce and same sex attraction.
The day’s event included a panel discussion on the theme ‘Will the Catholic Family Still Be Relevant Tomorrow?’ Moderated by media anchorman Augustine Anthuvan, the panel comprised political and social commentator Eugene Tan, Monfort Junior School principal Wilbur Wong, an inter-faith couple Jeremy and Samantha Ang, a senior couple Vincent and Rebecca Lye and student Michelle Thio.
The general consensus of the entire event was that families should instil more consciousness of the faith and “to allow Gospel values to be more real” at home. One way to bring about this is to join a family life ministry at their parish, where activities can help to instil such awareness and growth in informal ways.
Look here for photos from the event.