He added that John Paul II is the model of this goal, pointing to a parish in St. Florian, Poland, as one of the first implementations of this family-based concept.
“There was no explicit ‘program,’ but there was the life of the priest and the lives of the young adults and families,” he said.
The image for St. Mary’s entire “Toward a Family-Friendly Parish” initiative is an icon of Christ sharing a meal with Lazarus, Martha and Mary. Parishioners were invited to hang the icon of Bethany in their homes. The image is part of the parish’s efforts to emphasize the inclusion of all members, even those who may not currently be married or raising children.
“We needed to remember that not only do the family members have an age, but the family as a whole unit has an age as well,” Fr. Granados explained. “Every family experiences very different stages of life and progress in the path of holiness accordingly.”
He said the initiative aims to include widowed parishioners as well as single people and those who are divorced.
“When we touch the family, we touch every person at every time of life: the child, the young adult, the widow, the sick, the poor, the divorced, or the priest,” he said.
In this way, the program does not detract from or compete with other programs at the parish.
“If the family is the path of the Church, then it is the path of the parish, the center of its mission,” Fr. Granados said. “Any department in the parish should be family oriented. If we help the sick, we will try to heal his or her relationships with the family. If we have a wonderful food bank, we need to consider the poverty of being without relationships – loneliness.”
“To consider the family as (simply) another ‘sector’ of the ministry is to forget the way God has chosen to come to us,” Fr. Granados said. “God came to us in the Holy Family of Nazareth and comes to us through the sacrament of marriage.”
During one month of the initiative, parishioners were invited to reflect on outreach, specifically to widows and orphans.
Parishioners Tim and Angela Urban say this challenge particularly affected them.
“(It) challenged us to look outside our family, to treat all members of the parish as family and to be more attentive to who might be needing our family’s help,” they said. “We realize what a gift family is and sharing it with others has been a blessing for us and our children.”
Fr. Granados’ Spain-based community, the Disciples of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, also has a parish in Virginia, but Saint Mary’s is the first to host the “Towards a Family-Friendly Parish” program. Fr. Granados says the order hopes to spread the program to its school in Madrid next year.