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Since the earliest days of Christianity, the family home has been a center for evangelization and formation in virtue. And in today’s world, the family’s role in spreading the faith has never been more important. The Catechism tells us,
In a world often alien and even hostile to faith, believing families are of primary importance as centers of living, radiant faith. For this reason the Second Vatican Council, using an ancient expression, calls the family the Ecclesia domestica [domestic church]. It is in the bosom of the family that parents are by word and example the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children … Here one learns endurance and the joy of work, fraternal love, generous—even repeated—forgiveness, and above all divine worship in prayer and the offering of one’s life.
It sounds so beautiful, doesn’t it? But many Catholic parents may read these words with a slight pang. Creating a family culture that teaches love for God and human virtue, and a home that is a “center of living, radiant faith,” can seem so hard to achieve. Certainly it’s the work of a lifetime, and it can seem daunting, especially if you don’t have the example of having grown up in a faithfully Catholic family to guide you.
That’s where a brilliant new project comes in. Catholic Sprouts’ Domestic Church Project is dedicated to equipping Catholic parents from all walks of life to be the spiritual leaders their families need.
“We are determined to help all Catholic parents build and lead their Domestic Churches,” said founder Nancy Bandzuch in an interview, “no matter who they are or how incomplete their own formation might have been.” The project’s website explains why parent leadership in the home is so crucial: “Studies have shown that when parents show their faith is important, are active in their church, and talk about the faith in the home, 82% of those children will be active in their faith as young adults.”
Even though religious practice in the home is so important, it can be hard for parents to know where to begin. “Parents need support starting and leading these conversations,” Bandzuch said. “The Domestic Church Project offers parents training and support, as well as engaging audio lessons they can listen to as a family and discussion guides that gently teach parents how to lead the conversations about faith in their family on their own. All of our materials will soon be super easy to access through a beautiful app.”
All the project’s resources “require zero prep, can be consumed in 10 minutes or less, and engage the hearts and minds of the whole family at once,” the website says.
How do you make your home a “domestic church” when your everyday is all over the place?
The project is especially vital this year, when so many children will receive most of their faith formation at home. “This year millions of parents will be doing Faith Formation at home for the first time,” she said. “This is great news, because parents need to be the primary educators of their children’s faith, but parents need support and training. We are determined to fill that void and empower parents to embrace their vocational calling to form their own children.”
In timing that could only be God-given, this year when the Domestic Church Project is so needed, the project has received a huge boost in support and funding thanks to the OSV Innovation Challenge. Catholic Sprouts recently went through a rigorous yearlong process to finally win an award of $100,000 to support their mission, along with two other winners.
“The Innovation Challenge changed our lives and our ministry,” Bandzuch said. She shared how participating in the challenge helped focus her mission:
We have been actively serving Catholic families for over two years, but the challenge pushed us to think bigger and dare to address the real problem faced by Catholic parents. Our coaches and mentors pushed us to drill down until we realized that there are tons of ideas for Catholic parents, and “what” parents can do to teach the faith, but there is no “how.” We realized that there is no systematic guide that could train parents in how they can teach the faith at home and raise saints … Thankfully, the Innovation Challenge not only trained us to meet this need, both through a renewed faith and smarter business practices, but also it connected us with other talented Catholic innovators excited and eager to partner with us as we tackle this problem and build Domestic Churches.
Bandzuch said she has the following plans for using the award funds to support her project’s mission:
- Building a beautiful app: She said, “Because we offer audio content and PDF discussion guides, we wanted to create an easy place for parents to access the materials and use them immediately.”
- Translating resources into Spanish: “Our popular daily podcast for Catholic families (Catholic Sprouts, which has been downloaded nearly 2 million times) will be launching in Spanish soon.”
- Hiring a marketing director: “This will help us form relationships with parishes and dioceses so that they can use what we offer to support the families that they serve.”
Nancy and her husband, Bill, are the parents of five small children, and the award was a meaningful affirmation of their work with Catholic Sprouts. “During this summer of pandemic and canceled activities, we made many sacrifices to be part of this Challenge,” she said. “Winning means that we get to continue serving Catholic families but now with a little more help and better tools.”
More than anything, she hopes that all Catholic parents know they are welcomed to the Domestic Church Project and that they have what it takes to spiritually lead their families: “Single parents, converts, reverts, homes with mixed faiths … Renewing our Church starts with parents. It is our mission to transform the Church by building over 100,000 Domestic Churches in the next five years, because holiness starts at home.”
Forming a domestic church? Don’t be afraid to write a holy rule!