New series hopes to inspire Catholic parents to ‘fully embrace their vocation’

FORMED "The Catholic Parent" Luke and Sarah Hellwig in the new series “The Catholic Parent” on FORMED. | Credit: The Augustine Institute

Have you ever been the parent constantly running your child out of Mass for bathroom breaks or because of crying fits? Or have you spent a lot of time sitting in the pew giving your child anything you can find to keep him or her entertained and quiet during Mass? If you’re a Catholic parent, the answer to these questions is probably a resounding “yes.”

To encourage and empower parents on their journey to pass the faith down to the next generation, the Augustine Institute and Catholic Sprouts have come together to create a six-episode series highlighting Catholic parents as the primary educators of the faith for their children. It’s called “The Catholic Parent,” and it is now available to view on FORMED.

Nancy Bandzuch is a Catholic mother of six and founder of Catholic Sprouts, an organization that provides educational and catechetical tools designed to assist parents to teach the faith at home. She spoke with CNA about her own experience of trying to teach the faith to her children and how that inspired the work she does today.

“Being a Catholic parent was much harder than I thought it would be,” Bandzuch shared. “I had expected that teaching the faith would feel natural and organic, but it wasn’t.” 

She added: “As our family grew, it felt like someone was always crying, and my temper was much shorter than I thought it would be. Every time I tried to teach the faith it fell apart, and I felt like a failure.”

Out of desperation, Bandzuch started a short, five-minute podcast for her children. She explained that she wanted something that everyone could listen to while getting lunches ready and would “plant one little seed of faith.” These short podcasts would be the catalyst for the launch of Catholic Sprouts.

“After a while, I decided to share the podcast with the world, and it turns out that I wasn’t the only one struggling to teach the faith. Five years later, the ‘Catholic Sprouts Podcast’ has been downloaded over 12 million times, families and classrooms tune in from all over the world, and we now offer lots of other printed materials for parents to use in the home as they strive to teach the faith,” she said.

Bill and Nancy Bandzuch in the new series "The Catholic Parent" on FORMED. Credit: The Augustine Institute
Bill and Nancy Bandzuch in the new series "The Catholic Parent" on FORMED. Credit: The Augustine Institute

The inspiration for “The Catholic Parent” series came from a “desire to showcase and discuss the real struggles and blessings of being a Catholic parent,” Bandzuch said. 

“We wanted to create something that all Catholic parents would see and instantly relate to. Too often the media produced around Catholic families shows the ‘glossy ideal,’ when in reality, all of our families are imperfect,” she expressed.

“And yet, as this series shows, it is in our brokenness and imperfection that God calls us to holiness through the family.”

The episodes are roughly 20 minutes long and include testimonies from six Catholic families and teachings from Father John Nepil, S.T.D.; Sister Rachel Marie, OP; and Sister Francesca Igweilo, OP. The episodes also cover topics such as our Sunday obligation, confession, family prayer, generosity, sacrifice, and handing on the faith. 

Bandzuch explained that these specific topics were chosen from a desire to “create content that was 100% in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church, so we chose the precepts of the Church as an outline for the series.”

“To this we added tasks specifically assigned to parents in the catechism: teaching the faith and leading the family in prayer,” she added. “‘The Catholic Parent,’ therefore, is an exploration of how parents are called to live out the core actions of our faith in a unique and beautiful way.”

When asked why these topics are so important for parents to take part in with their children, Bandzuch emphasized that “as Catholics, we have set ourselves apart and, in many ways, we are asked to live a life seen as radical in today’s world.”

“Lots of important research has shown that if children don’t learn the faith at home from their parents, it is highly unlikely that they will remain Catholic,” she said. “Vast numbers of children who ‘grew up Catholic’ leave the faith every day, and the only way to change this is through the parents.” 

“The way that Catholic parents publicly practice their faith in front of their kids is hugely important not only for the sanctity of their family but for the sanctity of this world.”

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After watching the series, Bandzuch hopes viewers will “see themselves and their own struggles.”

“Too often we feel alone. We assume that others have it easier or are doing a better job. This isn’t true,” she explained. “All of us struggle to bring young children to Mass. All of us dread stepping into the confessional. Tithing is tough for everyone, and no one enjoys fasting. You are not alone, and yes, these things are hard, but we can’t stop there.”

“We hope that parents will begin to see the privilege of being a Catholic parent and more fully embrace their vocation,” Bandzuch said.

And for those parents who are stressed or anxious to go to Mass with their little ones, Bandzuch shared this advice: “Regardless of how we feel or how our kids behave, Jesus Christ, the Lord of the universe, is present at the sacrifice of the Mass. This should be the reason that we go to Mass every Sunday. He is there!” 

“Even if you don’t hear a word of the homily, you have to run kids to the bathroom during the consecration, or an elder parishioner says something nasty about your kids, it doesn’t change the fact that Christ is there. When we continue to go to Mass through the difficult years of raising kids, it shows our children that we believe this and that nothing will keep us from being in the presence of Our Lord.”

You can find out more about “The Catholic Parent” series here.

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