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Parents have an outsized impact when it comes to passing down their faith to the next generation, and one clever program makes it even easier (and more fun!). Strong Catholic Dad equips dads to grow in their own relationship with the Lord, build fulfilling relationships with their wife and kids, and pass on the Catholic Faith to their children.
If you pay attention to the statistics, Catholics are facing a crisis of young people leaving the Church. Somehow, handing down the faith to the next generation is failing, on a mass scale. Catholics are abandoning the faith of their parents and grandparents at a record rate:
Catholicism has experienced a greater net loss due to religious switching than has any other religious tradition in the U.S. Overall, 13% of all U.S. adults are former Catholics – people who say they were raised in the faith, but now identify as religious “nones,” as Protestants, or with another religion. By contrast, 2% of U.S. adults are converts to Catholicism – people who now identify as Catholic after having been raised in another religion (or no religion). This means that there are 6.5 former Catholics in the U.S. for every convert to the faith.
But when it comes to handing down religious beliefs, schools and parishes don’t make all that much of a difference. The research is overwhelmingly clear: It’s what happens in the family home that matters most.
That information can help parents feel empowered to take ownership of their children’s faith formation. But it might also be a little intimidating to know how much rests on parents’ shoulders! How can parents hand on their faith in an engaging and spiritually substantive way?
Strong Catholic Dad
One organization, Strong Catholic Dad, exists to inspire fathers to spiritually lead their families. It also helps families to have fun and connect with each other while growing in faith! Michael O’Rourke, a Catholic father of twelve, founded Strong Catholic Dad to share his own approach to faith formation at home.
What does the team at Strong Catholic Dad do? Their website says,
We help dads lead their families to heaven. We do this by providing fathers with intuitive approaches and engaging tools to grow in their own relationship with the Lord, build fulfilling relationships with their wife and kids, and pass on the Catholic Faith to their children.
And how do they do it? Through two signature programs:
1Fuel for the Fire
These resources are published free of charge on their website and social media channels, and are meant to equip dads with the insights they need to become strong Catholic dads.
2See for Yourself
This is the program that makes family faith formation fun! The See for Yourself approach is a fun and effective way to build fulfilling relationships with your kids while passing on the Catholic Faith.
The approach is simple: Dads use viral YouTube videos as icebreakers to capture the attention and imagination of the whole family, and then turn that captivation into lively discussion about life and the Faith.
Strong Catholic Dad makes implementing this approach easy by providing See for Yourself guides. Each of these online guides includes 1-3 hand-selected videos along with questions, answers and activities designed to engage the whole family. The guides offer the Catholic perspective on a variety of topics, from Angels, Demons, and the Church Militant to Fatherhood, Humanity, Beauty and the role of Emotions.
What an ingenious strategy, right? Not surprisingly, it’s getting national attention. Strong Catholic Dad recently received a big boost when it was a finalist in Our Sunday Visitor’s 2020 Innovation Challenge.
The OSV Difference
The OSV Challenge called on Catholic entrepreneurs to submit their “napkin idea” for a chance to win $100,000 in support of their mission. The challenge aimed to support ambitious, interesting projects bringing about meaningful, positive influence in the Church and the world. Out of 350 applicants who went through an intense selection process over a year, Strong Catholic Dad was selected as one of 12 finalists who went through a rigorous Accelerator Program with the Notre Dame IDEA Center.
Michael O’Rourke, founder of Strong Catholic Dad, said that the experience of taking part in the OSV Challenge really confirmed his mission. In an interview with Aleteia, he said,
The OSV Innovation Challenge surveys the landscape of the Catholic Church and asks, “What does the Church need most today? What is the Holy Spirit inspiring to meet those needs?” To be selected as a finalist means, “We see what you are doing. We believe it is inspired. We want to help you take your project to the next level. We believe in you!” The OSV Challenge’s selection of the Strong Catholic Dad See for Yourself guides reinforced and even strengthened our belief that these guides can transform families, strengthen parent/child relationships, and build children of great faith in our society “where widespread unbelief and invasive secularism make real religious growth practically impossible.” (Section 68, Catechesis in Our times)
The OSV Challenge helped O’Rourke realize ways that he needed to change how he presented his program. “What we are offering is so unique and people had no real reference point to understand it,” he said.
He began to show his audience what Strong Catholic Dad was offering by talking through a real-life family interaction using a See for Yourself guide, so they could experience it themselves. “After that, they really got it!” he said.
Another boost came from studying other projects and models throughout the Innovation Challenge. “We realized that we needed to open up a channel of great content that was free for anyone so as to build credibility and name recognition with our audience,” he said.
That inspired the launch of the Strong Catholic Dad podcast, “for parents who are often pained to find cut-to-the-chase practical advice that has actually worked as evidenced by grown kids who continue to choose their Catholic Faith and strive to be constant, courageous and loving in a faithless and fierce world.”
Going into the Challenge, the Strong Catholic Dad team mainly expected a chance to win some grant money, but instead, “What we got was a ‘come alongside’ boost for all aspects of our ministry,” O’Rourke said.
We made new friends and were connected with many other innovators. OSV went out of its way to plug us into opportunities for collaboration with its many different operations. Finally, OSV even promoted our ministry through their channels as well as in press releases, podcasts and other media outlets!
Best of all, his experience with the OSV Innovation Challenge inspired him with the sight of Catholics working in unity for the salvation of souls. He said,
“If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” -Mark 3:25 The OSV Challenge internalized this truth spoken by Christ and is putting it into living action. The harvest is ever abundant and the laborers are woefully few and isolated from each other.
Too often in ministry, we succumb to fear for our own ministry’s financial health and fail to reach out to raise up and support our brother co-laborers. This thinking is born from the lie that there aren’t enough resources or inspirations of the Holy Spirit to go around, so “I’ve got to keep mine to myself.” When this happens, we all lose.
Not only did God make us dependent on Him, He made us to work interdependently with others. He blesses our activities when we reach out to support and encourage even our “competition” – can there really ever be competition for souls? We are truly fighting for the same goal – Heaven – and fighting against the same enemies – sin and the devil. The OSV Challenge gets that, lives it, promotes it, and makes winners out of all those who espouse these same principles on the path to Heaven.
We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give. Thank you OSV Challenge for helping to infuse life where the Church needs it most!