(Left) David Woon catechises his son Xavier through meaningful cartoons like Auto-B-Good. Photos provided by respective families

There are also parents who use the media to catechise their children. David Woon is one parent who believes “the best way to catechise kids is through the most powerful media of all – television”.

Father Erbin Fernandez, Director of Catechetics at the Singapore Pastoral Institute, says:

“It is truly very encouraging to see that there are some who with a bit of encouragement are truly able to respond to their baptismal calling. Indeed John Paul II in his Apostolic Exhortation on Catechesis In Our Time (Catechesi Tradendae, CT) insisted that: ‘Without monopolising or enforcing uniformity, the parish remains, the pre-eminent place for catechesis... (in which) the family’s catechetical activity has a special character, which is in a sense irreplaceable... This catechesis is more incisive when, in the course of family events (such as the reception of the sacraments, the celebration of great liturgical feasts, the birth of a child, a bereavement) care is taken to explain in the home the Christian or religious content of these events. The parents themselves profit from the effort that this demands of them, for in a catechetical dialogue of this sort each individual both receives and gives... Family catechesis therefore precedes, accompanies and enriches all other forms of catechesis.’ (CT 67-68)”

There have been some complaints of improper behaviour by children in church – playing video games, sleeping – and the failure of their parents to teach them correct behaviour, especially during Mass. But such occasions are relatively few, though they can be distracting to other worshippers when they do occur. On the other hand, there are many parents who not only teach their children proper behaviour in church but who are, by their word and example, “the first preachers of the faith to their children”. Joyce Gan spoke to a few of them

(Right) Caroline and Remigus D'Souza pray the rosary with sons Benedict and John-Paul, who have learnt to pray and intercede for others in need

? Monica and Mark Lim

Monica and Mark Lim said their seven children, aged three to 20, do ask why they have to go for Mass and pray the rosary, “but not in a resentful way”, because “from young, they see us doing it and know it’s important to us”. They just want to know why, the Lims said.

Monica and Mark pray the rosary every day, either at home or in the car, and the children “know it’s a daily habit and are always invited to join”. Monica shared that it is very seldom that they do not join in the family prayers.

“If you really want your children to live the faith, you have to live it,” she asserted. “The most important role of a parent is to ensure our children go safely home to heaven. They don’t have to be straight ‘A’ students but if they realise their importance to God and their purpose in life, we parents have done what God put us here on earth to do.”

Through the parents’ encouragement to build a relationship with God, their children have become involved at church – their oldest daughter, now 20, has served in the same choir since she was eight; her two sons asked to be altar servers when they received their first Holy Communion.

? Joanna Wong

Talking about the faith to your children seems to be another good way towards faith formation, according to Joanna Wong.

“The highlight of our day is to have a debate or family discussion over any subject that our sons would like to talk about, be it church, gangs or drugs... we constantly encourage two-way communication with our sons, aged 16 and 20, and allow them to express their own opinions as well as challenge ours,” she said.

This leaves the channel open for her children to ask questions about the sacraments, attending Mass, etc, when the parents can then share and explain the faith, Joanna added.

? Beatrix Tanet

Beatrix Tanet, on the other hand, shares the faith with her 12-year-old son, Raffael, through telling him stories, something she has done since he was young.

“When I forgot, he would remind me,” Beatrix said, and she would then introduce Bible stories to him.

In daily life, she constantly reminded him to say grace before meals, they pray together at bedtime even now and “also in the mornings before we go to church where he serves Mass at Novena Church”.

She would explain the religion and faith to him in practical ways when there are opportunities. For example, when they come across a funeral Mass, Beatrix would take the time to explain why people die and why there has to be a funeral Mass; when Raffael asks why she goes to visit prisoners, she tells him, “In the Bible, Jesus said ‘when I was in prison you visited me’ and what we do for the most needy man, we are doing to Him... so he learns a lot on a daily basis.”

Beatrix is pleased that from December last year, the mother and son have started a practice of praying the rosary on the way to Mass every week and added proudly, “It’s not bad for a boy his age, isn’t it?”

(Left) David Woon catechises his son Xavier through meaningful cartoons like Auto-B-Good. Photos provided by respective families

? David Woon

There are also parents who use the media to catechise their children. David Woon is one parent who believes “the best way to catechise kids is through the most powerful media of all – television”.

“I watch with my 44-month-old son Xavier meaningful cartoons like Auto-B-Good (an animated video series with Christian roots), which teach good values in interesting non-preachy and modern ways,” said David.

“I also make it a point to pray together as a family the first thing when we wake up and before we sleep – just a short prayer with one Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be, so as not to bore my son,” he added. “He has since learnt the prayers by heart and the most encouraging thing is that he will remind us to pray if we ever forget!”

? Joanna and Erlich Phua

Joanna and Erlich Phua use certain programmes and movies to catechise their sons aged seven, nine and 13.

“We believe in parental guidance – we allow them to watch Harry Potter, for example, as it is a good teaching moment; we help the younger ones learn to discern ‘black’ from ‘white’, the older one learns to deal with the reality of a ‘grey’ world and choosing the lesser of two evils,” shared Erlich.

The parents say their “approach is that faith is caught and not taught”. “We are instruments of God, stewards, not owners. Children learn more from what they see and experience, and less from what they are told. The most effective way to catechise them is to live the faith.”

Other ways Joanna and Erlich employ to form their sons in the faith are to explain the signs and symbols at Mass where possible, for example, “when making the triple cross before the Gospel we teach them to say quietly, ‘May the word of the Lord be on my mind, on my lips and in my heart’.”

The couple advocate “applying the faith in everyday decisions all the time, not just in knowledge and devotions”.

“Knowledge does not get you to heaven, love does. We foster love between the brothers, reinforce good behaviour... we say night prayers to thank the Lord for the day and appreciate the good things He has done, including the trials that helped us grow. We pray for our living relatives and friends, including our helper’s family, and we pray for the dead. We also sing simple hymns in the car...” These are some of the things the family does to nurture the faith.

? Caroline and Remigus D’Souza

Caroline and Remigus D’Souza have been bringing their five-year-old Benedict and two-year-old John-Paul to daily morning Mass since they were born, “come rain or shine”, even when the family is overseas because “Holy Mass is the best gift we have been giving them”.

Though “it is not easy waking them up at 5.30am, getting them ready and getting stares from worshippers sometimes when they get cranky or misbehave, with God’s grace, we have persevered and it has been worth every effort,” the D’Souzas said.

They explained why they do this: “We believe it will be a lot tougher to teach an older child who has rarely been to Mass to behave, and leaving the children at home sends the message that Mass is not for children. Regular attendance helps them recognise the sacredness of the Eucharist, to value their faith and enrich their spiritual life. Their real home is with God in His Church, but they will only learn to recognise it as home if we bring them to Mass from an early age.”

Caroline only remembers a couple of times when Benedict had said he was tired and wanted to sleep in. “I use this as an opportunity to teach him about God’s love and faithfulness with simple truths such as ‘Jesus, the Lord of Lords, our best friend who loves us more than anybody in the world, is waiting for us! Let’s go see Him!’,” shared Caroline.

They explain to their sons that daily Mass is a part of their lives, “just as they eat everyday to sustain themselves physically, they need to go for Mass everyday to sustain their souls”.

On the way to church, the family prays in the car and tries to memorise some Bible verses. The parents read to them, every night before bedtime, stories about saints, virtues, prayers, etc. Then comes praying the rosary as a family, each taking turns to say their petitions aloud.

“Through hearing us pray, Benedict has learnt not to be selfish in his prayers but to always pray and intercede for others in need.”

Having an environment of love and trust at home helps too, said Caroline and Remigus. The parents would tell their sons whenever they go for church meetings so the boys know “how we ourselves use our time and trust that we practise what we preach”.

“At the end of the day, our aim is to let them know how much God loves them, that they are never alone and can turn to Him anytime,” shared the couple.

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