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Connecting Your Children with God Through Nature and Play this Summer

One of the most incredible things about the Catholic faith is the omnipresence of God in the everyday fabric of our lives. God’s love and light is all around us, but it’s up to us to seek Him out and strive for connection with God through prayer and reflection.

Fostering a Fulfilling Relationship Between Your Children and Their Faith
As a Catholic parent, you want to foster a loving relationship between your child and God—with smaller children, though, this is often much easier said than done. Fortunately, the summer season is ripe with opportunities to teach your child about the everpresent love and light of God, and you can strengthen his or her understanding of the Catholic faith through the natural wonders of the world that reveal themselves during this lively time of year.

How to Teach Your Child About God During the Summer Season
For all children, summer is the time of year meant for fun and adventure—more often than not, prayer is the last thing on their minds. In order to encourage them to pray more frequently and to become more enthusiastic about practicing their faith during all times of the year, strive to make religious learning and faith-based habit building fun for your children.

Discovering the Natural Wonder of God’s Earth
Natural wonder is all around us, and summertime is the perfect opportunity to share with your child the beauty of the outside world. Taking family nature walks—or even a stroll through a large local park—is a great way to introduce your child to the ways in which God is present in the natural world.

Utilizing Play As a Means of Faith-Based Communication and Connection
Play is an essential part of your child’s development, and the summer season provides ample time to explore the world in fun and enriching ways. Teaching prayer to young children through play is particularly effective, as the short attention spans that are common at this age can be more easily managed through engaging activities that already feel familiar. Some opportunities for faith-based play may be arts and crafts, image identification, and storytelling.

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A Time of Regeneration: Embracing the Summer Season

For Catholics around the world, the start of the summer season marks a shift in the patterns of our religious lives. With June already behind us, it’s important to take this time to embrace our relationship with Christ and our loved ones, and to experience this time of regeneration to its very fullest.

But where do we begin?

Faith-based regeneration affects us at our core—when we take the time to recenter our minds on the reasons we worship, we become closer to Christ as we remind ourselves of the purposes behind why we pray and why we observe the Catholic traditions.

Keeping Up with Religious Obligations
With the summer season in full swing, temperatures are rising and work or school schedules may become significantly lighter than in other periods of the year. And while the summer season is certainly an important opportunity for relaxation and rejuvenation, maintaining a regular schedule for prayer and worship is essential to religious regeneration.

For families with children, finding the time for religious observation can be difficult, especially during the summer season. But failure to practice this essential element of our Catholic faith puts us at risk of deteriorating our own relationship with Christ.

When we put in the effort to carve out time in our busy, hectic lives of managing a home, a career, and a family, we set ourselves up for the establishment of life-long prayer and reflection habits that will serve to strengthen our faith throughout our lives.

Below are a few simple tips for finding the time for prayer during this busy time of the year, and how to take advantage of this period of regeneration and growth in our love and appreciation of Christ.

Collect Your Favorite Summer Themed Prayers
There are prayers for every feeling and every time, like the below adaption of a summer solstice prayer:

“Jesus, thank you for Summer. Thank you for light and warmth. Thank you for the sun. Thank you for the gifts of nature and for the annual cycles and seasons. Today, give us that grace again, to see you as the Creator, the One who lifts us up to be with you forever, even now”.

– Source Unknown; Adapted by Bill Huebsch

Make Prayer a Family Activity
Inviting your loved ones to worship and praise the Lord alongside you can fill your heart with warmth when you need it most. If you have young children at home, try to incorporate prayer or reflection time into common “cool-down” periods, such as after dinner or before bedtime.

Reevaluate Your Obligations and Priorities
When it comes down to it, prayer is a religious obligation—it serves as an essential building block of the foundation of Catholic identity. Without it, we lose a crucial component of our relationship with and understanding of God’s mercy and compassion.

When you find yourself not having the time to pray or reflect during the summer season, make an attempt to reevaluate current non-religious obligations, and try to prioritize prayer during this time.


Summer Prayer and Meditation for Catholics

As Catholics, prayer plays a monumental role in our lives. We pray for guidance, we pray for forgiveness, and we pray in times of joy and sadness both. Without prayer, we are unable to praise God in the ways we should, and it’s important to strengthen our ability to pray—it’s a practicable skill like any other.

Paired with an understanding of how to properly focus and relax the body through meditation, prayer can even further heighten your sense of faith and strengthen your relationship with Jesus and God the Father.

The Summer Season and Finding the Time to Pray

Summer is a great time to practice more frequent prayer and meditation for families. During this period—when children are most likely to be home and parents may enjoy more flexibility than in other, busier work seasons—families can learn more about the importance of prayer and meditation together while also working to establish more disciplined observance of their Catholic faith.

How to Teach Your Children About Prayer and Meditation

Teaching children how to practice meaningful prayer and meditation is all about establishing confidence, trust, and security. This summer, make it a goal for your family to practice prayer and meditation at least once a day, and strive for more depending on your shared schedules. God understands the hectic nature of everyday life, but it’s important to make the time to reflect on your beliefs and connect with Him in order to maintain a healthy relationship with your Catholic faith.

Below are a few tips for teaching your children about the importance of prayer and meditation, and they can strengthen their relationship with their faith through consistency and focus.

1. Emphasize the connection between prayer and positive feelings.
2. Establish a dedicated space in your home for prayer and religious study, such as in your child’s bedroom or your family room in the evening.
3. Encourage honest (but necessarily entirely open) communication between your child and the rest of your family. Make sure your child feels comfortable talking about sensitive topics such as prayer and religion, but that he or she also understands that it’s not necessary to reveal every personal detail in your conversations. Doing so will make your child feel more comfortable throughout the process of learning to practice meaningful prayer and meditation.
4. Pray in front of your child outside of your dedicated time and space to help your child realize that prayer and meditation are important elements of typical, everyday life.
5. Stay consistent with your lessons and prayer sessions!

By following these simple tips, you will be able to encourage your child to open his or her heart to God with more confidence in order to accept His love and guidance in times of both happiness and hardship.

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End of Year Family Letter from The Superintendent

Dear Families,

As parents and guardians, you are tasked with making decisions which will help nurture your child and keep them safe. Being a parent is the most difficult and rewarding job. Over the past year, the stress and anxiety that comes with parenting has been amplified in the face of a global pandemic, health concerns, and unrest within our society. During a bleak time, you have continued to act as beacons for your children in guiding them along the path of Christ. Your support of your children, our schools, and our communities have made this year possible. I am grateful for all you have done and continue, to do to provide your children with a Catholic education.

It is an honor to have our Catholic Academies and Parish Schools entrusted, not only with the care and education of your child, but in the development of their faith. Our shared faith, especially during this past year, has provided us the strength and comfort needed to forge even the most difficult paths. The children are blessed not only to develop their faith within the school community but to learn firsthand from their families and parents. Despite the pandemic, parents still made the effort to engage with their children in their religious education, pray at home, attend liturgy, and safely participate in community events. Your children benefit tremendously from each of these experiences.

Our school communities are blessed to be filled with families who supported staff, teachers, and students, as they made the leap to reopening in the fall. There have been many changes in the way students have learned over the course of the year, in-person, hybrid, remote, but parents have not wavered in helping their students achieve. Parents were also quick to share words of encouragement and appreciation for teachers, staff, and administrators, knowing that they were doing everything in their power to create the best possible learning environment. Parents supported schools through fundraising and direct support of other families in need. Through the generosity of Diocesan families, we were able to provide extra PPE, hand sanitizer, and even more scholarships, to aid families during this challenging time.

Parents and families helped make this year a success not only in your guidance in faith and support of schools, but in your efforts to be a positive example for your child. It has been extremely difficult to stay positive over the past year and even more so as you work to provide a somewhat “normal” experience for your child. We have said over the past year that “children are resilient” and indeed they have been, but we owe a large thanks to families who have provided the foundation for these children to cope with difficult times. By encouraging your child, preparing them for difficult situations, and giving them the tools to understand their emotions, you have enabled them to work through an incredibly challenging year.

At the close of a tumultuous school year, it is my hope that you will be able to enjoy some time with family. Take time to pray together and embrace the peace that comes from building your relationship with God. I wish you good health, happiness, and minimal stress through the summer. We look forward to our time together in the fall.

In Christ,

Thomas Chadzutko

Thomas Chadzutko, Ed.D.

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Promoting Kindness this Summer: How to Speak with Your Child About Empathy and Friendship

We’re living in a time when kindness goes a very long way in demonstrating our empathy and friendship to others. After a turbulent year, young students are eager to get back into the classroom and interact with their peers.

As they continue to navigate the everyday challenges of childhood while also keeping up with the task of understanding the many changes occurring in the world today, young students must be reminded of the importance of kindness in their interactions with others.

This summer, promote kindness within the academic and social lives of your child by encouraging the communication of empathy and the building of friendship.

The Importance of Developing Empathy and Friendship Building Skills

Empathy and friendship are just two of the many ways in which humans communicate and interact with the people and things closest to them—it’s how we show one another we care. Depending on a wide range of factors, children may find it easy to interact with their peers and build meaningful relationships. For others, friendship building and other significant social skills may come less naturally. But that’s okay, because families can work together to give children the communication tools they need to effectively convey their empathy toward others and strengthen their friendship building skills.

How to Strengthen to the Communication of Empathy and Friendship in Your Child

In order to help your child interact comfortably with their peers at school and in the widest range of social environments as possible, you can promote the spread of kindness to your child right at home.

1. Maintain a parent-child relationship built upon a foundation of love and security to make your child feel more comfortable trusting and communicating with others.
2. Talk about feelings at home to teach your child that vulnerability and sensitivity are positive characteristics that contribute to healthier relationships with others.
3. Read stories that teach lessons about friendship to provide your child with context for the importance of these issues.
4. Practice validation when interacting with children to ensure they understand the importance of feelings—both their own and those of others.
5. Remain patient throughout the process of teaching these important lessons to your child. He or she will learn to practice patience with others, as a result.

When teaching your child about the importance of empathy and friendship, as well as the ways in which we can effectively communicate with others in meaningful, powerful ways, it’s important to invite him or her into the process by using reflection as a means of unpacking the important life lessons you will learn together on this journey.

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3 Ways to Make Summer 2021 a Positive Experience for Your Child

Like so many things to come from 2020 and 2021, the summer season should still be considered an unprecedented time—one that parents should consider carefully as they prepare their children to engage in their summer activities, including social or development groups, summer school, camp, and others.

Summertime, however, should be an exciting time for your child, and it’s important to take the steps necessary to ensure a positive experience for your child amidst the uncertainty of life post-COVID.

Below are three simple ways you can help your family escape the stress of this year and make Summer 2021 a positive experience for your child.

Find Joy in Nature

All around us, the world is teeming with life—all you have to do is seek it out. One of the easiest ways to encourage your child to explore his or her surroundings and learn more about the wonders of nature is to facilitate outdoor play whenever possible.

If you live near a body of water, plan a trip to the beach. Natural parks are another great option for those in landlocked areas. Regardless of where you to choose to have your outdoor outing, consider visiting the area before you bring your child along for the fun to ensure no overcrowding and that social distancing guidelines are being followed.

Bond on a Family Road Trip

Have a car and no place to be this summer? Plan a family road trip! Road trips don’t have to be exhausting, lengthy affairs. If you’re unwilling or unable to travel to a different state in your car, keep it local—research museums and other attractions that are within a two- to four-hour driving distance from your home.

On a summer family road trip, your destination should matter less than how you spend your time with your family along the journey. As you drive, speak with your children about their home and school lives, as well as what interests them. You may be surprised about what you can learn about your family members on the road!

Take Up a New Hobby

The summer time is the perfect opportunity for children to explore new hobbies. From art to sports, from music to writing, you never know what activity your child will be interested in next. During the summer months, encourage your child to explore their interests by exposing him or her to new experiences, such as trying out a new instrument or reading about a new process.

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The Pentecost Tradition and What It Means to You

The Pentecost tradition marks a very special time for Christians around the world, both historically and spiritually. In the weeks that followed the ascension of Jesus into Heaven, his apostles looked forward to the arrival of the Holy Spirit to guide them in their faith in his physical absence.

Each year, Pentecost traditions are performed by Catholics across the country in celebration of the Holy Spirit and its impact on the Roman Catholic denomination as a religious movement. Priests often appear in red ceremonial robes to celebrate the flames of the Holy Spirit, and the grand feasts of Pentecost mark the close of the Easter Season for the Church. The holiday is celebrated on the seventh Sunday of every Easter, falling this year on May 23.

Pentecost means something different to every Catholic, and each year, it’s important to review the history of the Pentecost in relation to the ascension of Jesus to prepare your spirit to celebrate the final days of the Easter Season.

The History of Pentecost

The Pentecost tradition traces back to the ascension of Jesus outlined in the New Testament of the Bible. Before Christ began his ascent into Heaven, his promise to the apostles that the Holy Spirit would arrive to guide them in faith continued to act as a guiding light toward salvation and God’s light.

As they prayed, the apostles felt compelled to speak in tongues, marking the descent of the Holy Spirit upon them. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, apostles and many onlookers of Jerusalem gathered to listen to the very first Christian sermon delivered by Saint Peter. This moment in Christian history is commonly regarded as the birth of Christianity as an organized religion.

How is Pentecost Celebrated?

Each Catholic family celebrates the Pentecost tradition differently, but common ways to rejoice in the descent of the Holy Spirit on mankind include the attendance of dedicated church services and celebratory feasts.

To prepare your spirit to celebrate the Pentecost and the arrival of the Holy Spirit, pray about your gratitude toward Jesus and his sacrifice. Reflecting on the importance of your faith and relationship with Christ can ready your spirit to rejoice in God’s mercy and light at the close of the Easter season.

What does Pentecost mean for you and your family?

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Understanding Faith: The Ascension of Jesus

The Ascension of Jesus is an essential event to our faith as Catholics, and it represents so much more than the physical departure of Jesus from Earth to Heaven.

For each of us, our relationship with Christ means something different and manifests itself in countless ways, endlessly evolving just as we do throughout our lives, but it is through the Ascension of Jesus that each Christian is tied to God the Father and blessed by Jesus’s ultimate sacrifice for humanity. 

Why Do We Celebrate the Ascension of Jesus?

As Jesus rose from Earth to Heaven, he was exalted and took his place at the right hand to God the Father. This glorification of Christ is a core component of the Christian faith, one that emphasizes the new relationship between Jesus and God, as well as that between Christ and the followers of the Church—us.

With his eleven apostles present to bear witness to his departure to arrive at the throne of God, the Ascension of Jesus occurred forty days after his resurrection from the tomb—for this reason, we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension on the fortieth day of Easter, and always on a Thursday.

Each May, we revel in the joy derived from being in the grace of God with the Feast of the Ascension. This year, the Feast will take place on May 15, 2021, serving as a celebration of our divine salvation. 

Spiritual Preparation for the Celebration of the Ascension of Jesus

Prayer and Reflection

One of the most effective ways to spiritually prepare yourself to celebrate the Feast of the Ascension is to further strengthen your faith through prayer and reflection. To pray and reflect successfully, take the time necessary to more thoroughly study your bible and incorporate your daily life into the practice of your faith, perhaps through a Bible study schedule.

Establish and Maintain Spiritual Calm

In addition to physical and mental pain, stress can negatively affect the health of our faith. Spiritually, you may feel less connected with your faith and relationship with God, preventing you from truly rejoicing the unconditional love that Christ holds for us during the Easter season. To better prepare yourself to celebrate the Ascension, establish and maintain spiritual calm through meditation or other activities that personally bring you calm, such as walking, reading, or writing. 

Connect with Your Family

As with any feast, we celebrate best surrounded by the people we care about most. As you prepare yourself to celebrate the ascension of Christ into Heaven, spend time with your family as often and as safely as possible, inviting them to rejoice in God’s love for us as we bask in the love we receive from those physically close to us. 

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Spreading Faith at Home and in Your Community

As Catholics, our faith is what bonds us together and keeps us grounded in our shared love of Christ. Through our families and our communities, we grow even stronger in our faith, fostering communities and relationships with the principles and teachings of Christ at their foundation.

For this reason, we should always strive to share our faith with our loved ones, both at home and in our communities.

This is easier said than done, and with pandemic restrictions still in place that prevent large gatherings of unvaccinated individuals, this mission of faith becomes all the more difficult. These obstacles, however, challenge us in ways that promote spiritual and religious growth—even more so in the aftermath of COVID-19 as we attempt to connect once more with the world around us.

How to Share Your Faith with Your Family

To share your faith with the world around you, begin by inviting those closest to you to share in your love of Christ. Whether it be your spouse or your children, there are several ways to share your faith with your family that are both engaging and fulfilling, allowing you strengthen your own faith while introducing the love of God to the people you care most about.

Each week, set aside time to bond with your family members, perhaps around your living area after dinner or, if you have young children, before bedtime.

Some additional ideas to share your faith with your family include the following:
• Reading and studying the Bible as a family
• Attending virtual mass or group devotions
• Praying before family meals

How to Share Your Faith with Members of the Community

Sharing your faith with your community is the first step toward building a more unified group of people within the church and outside of it.

In order to communicate most effectively with your friends, colleagues, and acquaintances in your community, approach each conversation with an open mindset. Never proceed with the attempt to convert the beliefs of someone—rather, you should share the universal principles that drive us as Catholics to become better citizens and, more generally, better people.

In addition to prayer, reading Catholic books encourages thinking and contemplation beyond the Bible, further expanding our understanding of the religious and secular worlds and how they relate to each other. By reading about the stories and perspectives of other faithful, we are able to grow in our love of Christ so that we may better share our faith with others.

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Preparing Your Spirit for Holy Week and Easter Sunday

The weeks leading up to Easter Sunday are a holy period that invites you to celebrate the resurrection of Christ and revel in the love of your family and closest friends. This year, our Easter celebrations must happen a bit differently.

However, it’s still important to prepare your spirit for the holiday, even more so in today’s world. Below are a few simple ways to bring yourself closer to Christ during this holy time.

Actively Participate in Holy Week

Not only is it an obligation for Catholics, but Holy Week is the perfect opportunity to prepare your spirit for Easter Sunday. Actively engaging in the following Holy Week practices with your loved ones will prepare your spirit to accept Christ’s sacrifice and love for us into our lives in the difficult months to come.

Make an Effort to Attend Mass

Depending on your location, attend either a virtual or in-person mass, either by yourself or with a family member. (Don’t forget to remain socially distanced!) If you’re not comfortable with attending a mass in person, there are a number of free online resources you can use to find a virtual mass to pray and reflect this year, such as the Online Mass Finder by Tabella.

Read Relevant Bible Passages Carefully

The gospel is a comforting and illuminating source of light and comfort for us as we navigate difficult situations and dark periods. Below are a few passages for you to reflect on as you prepare to celebrate Christ and his return.

Matthew 28:1–10:

Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

Ephesians 2:4–7:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved ), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Genesis 22:9–14:

“In the mount of the LORD it will be provided.”

Being Grateful in 2021

However you choose to celebrate, keep Christ and his life in your thoughts as you prepare your spirit to accept the Lord’s love and forgiveness, which we need now more than ever.