The family is a little church with the same mission as the universal Church, and is the primary place where the faith is passed on from one generation to the next. Many of the 603 laws in the Old Testament focus on the family to ensure its survival and wellbeing, including laws around marriage, diet in the home, sexual activity, purity of the husband and wife, and education of the faith in the home.
Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia quoted the poet Jorge Luis Borges: “Every home is a lamp stand.” Love begins at home, spreading from family to family, from house to house. Indeed, this is how the early Church began and grew. In the New Testament we see how the early Church centered on family homes. Christians met, prayed and served the community from within their homes. With no church buildings as we have today, Christianity flourished in a domestic setting.
In Singapore, some of our parishes set up Family Life Ministries (FLMs) helping their parish priests in supporting the family of families within the Church. While most events and activities celebrate family milestones and promote family bonding, there is also the need to help our couples and families have a basic understanding of the ‘higher whys’ and of God’s master plan for marriage and family; as it was from the very beginning.
As a lot of these truths have been drowned out by the noise of the world seeking to redefine gender, marriage and family, this FamFare issue discusses the challenges faced and the successes achieved by two FLMs. We hope that it serves as inspiration for other parishes to set up their own FLM to evangelise families and to have families evangelising other families, building up a vibrant, missionary and evangelistic Church.
FLM – OLPS
Recognising the massive responsibility of chairing the parish’s FLM, taking over the mantle in the ministry that was started some 20 years back, Alex Budiman and his wife Annabell were somewhat reticent about serving as chairpersons. Yet they also understood the enormous impact they could have on people’s lives, which has partly been why it’s been a difficult journey for a couple that just wants to get the balance right.
“We weren’t sure how effective we could be,” explains Alex. “We were reluctant to accept the nomination at the end of 2015, given that we were relatively new members and were not necessarily familiar with the charter and operations of the ministry. We are so grateful to Daniel and Shelley, who we took over from as chairpersons, as they encouraged us a lot and provided the support we needed, staying in the ministry for the first 18 months to help provide a smooth transition. We inherited a team of eight couples as the core team.”
Although well supported by the core team to ensure continuity, one of the challenges the couple has faced has been the turnover of members in the ministry over the last two years. Blessed with new couples volunteering, the current core team stands at eight couples, and Alex and his wife are ready to bring FLM to its next phase of development.
“We have had a busy first two years, which has included being able to chart the course of the ministry for the next phase as well as bringing back the popular Family Camp to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour (OLPS) after a long hiatus.
Fortunately, we received wonderful support from Father Kenny Tan, the Faith Sycas (OLPS youth ministry), the altar servers and other ministries. We couldn’t have been happier to hear the testimonies from the families on the last day of the camp,” explains Alex. “But we have so much more to achieve. Our ministry tends to be more centred around events to promote family bonding and formation. The challenge is to find a “sweet spot” that addresses family needs aligned with our vision and mission of supporting families to recognise the role of parents as the first catechists and the family as the first Church. This could prevent some of the family issues experienced by so many families today.”
Supporting Christ-centred families
Given that parents set the tone and are the critical success factors in creating a Christ-centred family, the OLPS FLM is on a mission to increase the involvement of parents in FLM and within their own families. The demands and responsibilities in a competitive and high-cost Singapore consume a lot of a parent’s time and energy. But outsourcing faith formation to the catechesis programme is not sufficient. It has to start in the home.
They want to set up a support system in FLM that will guide parents through their roles as leaders of a Catholic family. Alex also feels that if more parents were involved with FLM, this would bring greater insights into their needs and how FLM can tailor programmes for better support.
Wanting to reach more families
“We wish we had a larger turnout at some of the events and programmes. It takes a lot of coordination and effort to hold each one, so we hope more families can participate and benefit. We have done a few faith formation programmes but we need to do more,” Alex explains. “We always welcome and need more volunteers to help with event planning and coordination. We have been fortunate to receive support from our volunteers so far. Our motto is God always provides and our ministry can certainly testify to it. We have a programme/event about once every six to eight weeks and we meet as a core team monthly for two hours. This meeting includes faith formation for the first hour.”
Alex also hopes to be able to learn what other parishes have done and take onboard what has been successful, which is something he looks to ACF to be able to coordinate, along with a roadmap on programmes to support families.
The rewards are worth it
It has been a challenging, yet rewarding, two years. Asked whether parishes that don’t have an FLM should start one, Alex’s reaction is a wholehearted Yes!: “Families today need help more than ever. We’ve also seen that the more you give, the more you receive. The extra benefit we get from serving is seeing how the families benefit from and enjoy our programmes. We also journey with fellow core team members and have become close friends by serving in the ministry.”