The Catholic University of America

Final Presentation by

Claire M. Henning

for the degree of

Doctor of Ministry

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

10 a.m., Caldwell Hall, Happel Room




Passing on a Catholic Expression of Christian Faith in Today’s Milieu:

A Model of Faith Formation and Faith Sharing for Catholic Parents of Early

Primary School Aged Children Using Three Parables in the Gospel of Luke


Director: Raymond Studzinski, O.S.B., Ph.D.


The Church understands the primacy of the role that parents play in the religious formation of their children.  To support parents in this critical responsibility, the Church has developed educational institutions and programs that are important both to families and the Church’s mission of evangelization and catechesis.  However, as professional religious education has flourished, Catholic parents have become passive participants in their children’s faith formation. Parents have come to view faith formation as principally pedagogical religious education, and to rely on professional teachers and materials to teach their children faith.  The home as a locus of faith transmission has been devalued.

Studies suggest that in today’s milieu, parents and children highly value interactive time together, and children are open to expressing their thoughts and feelings when discussing faith and religion.  This study hypothesized that if parents and children were taught faith sharing techniques that incorporated the parables of Jesus, a dynamic faith experience would result.  To this end, a study book was developed and provided to thirty-one parents to use with their children.  The three-chapter study book explored parables from the Gospel of Luke: The Lost Sheep, The Good Samaritan and The Prodigal Son. Parents were instructed to read adult pages first to deepen their understanding of the parables. Then, with their children, they read a storybook version of the parable, graphically designed and paraphrased to engage young children.  A list of faith sharing questions followed to encourage and focus parents and children on religious dialogue.

In-depth interviews were conducted with parents before and after using the study book. The interviews provided a rich body of data with insights into the participants’ Catholic identities and faith sharing interactions with their children.  The children’s paraphrased materials proved to be particularly effective, as did the faith sharing questions.  Some aspects of the adult pages were well received, others less so. The study provides novel insights into parent-child faith interactions, and demonstrates the value of family faith sharing. The findings inform ways to develop creative materials that effectively engage parents and children in faith development.