FAMILIA program arms families with knowledge

SPARTANBURG — Catholic families feeling the strain of the world chipping away at their faith have been thrown a lifeline, and it is called FAMILIA.

Family Life in America (FAMILIA) is an international Catholic lay apostolate of the church that arms people with the knowledge that it takes to defend their beliefs in an increasingly unbelieving society.

Started in 1993 by concerned  Catholics, FAMILIA has active programs in most of the states, as well as Canada, New Zealand and Australia. The program fosters the development of religious, moral, psychological and social values in the family. It helps parents develop a strong, harmonious family structure, fosters an awareness of the need for Christ and the church in daily family life, and promotes the teachings of the church about marriage and the family.

FAMILIA was introduced to South Carolina last year at Jesus Our Risen Savior Church. Neil Johnson participated in that first year and said he can now convey the church’s position on many issues and feels more comfortable with his faith.

“I’m more knowledgeable now,” he said. “I’ve never really used the catechism before. I’ve never read encyclicals before. But now I feel I can get the facts about our faith.”

Steve Miller, a FAMILIA trainer, said the program helps lay the groundwork for the church’s beliefs. Groups study documents of the church, rely on the catechism and reflect on Gospel readings. Participants then apply those insights to their daily lives.

FAMILIA teaches men to be spiritual leaders in their families and the workplace. It shows women how to nurture faith within their families and helps them understand their demanding but rewarding roles as  wives and mothers.

Men and women meet separately in Family Life teams, twice a month. The teams talk about marriage, family, faith, and the church’s role in helping parents raise their children. Animators keep discussions on track and heading in a positive direction.

Kathy Lynch thought FAMILIA would be a good way to meet people with younger children. As it turned out, the lessons helped her deal with issues her older children were having.

“I have a daughter who is engaged,” Lynch said, adding that her daughter was feeling peer pressure not to get married, but to cohabitate.

She credits FAMILIA with helping her show her daughter the blessings of marriage, which in turn helped her daughter stand up to the peer pressure and even explain the blessings of marriage to her friends.

In order to bear fruit, FAMILIA takes commitment from its members.

“It’s not a touchy-feely program,” Miller said. “The readings are not simple, so it does require some thinking, some preparation and some time. It has allowed me to go into depth on some of the encyclicals and the Second Vatican Council.”

Miller meets with designated parish animators once a month to review the prepared course material. In turn, the animators become the facilitators for their family life teams.

Tina Andress, who helped spearhead the program at Jesus Our Risen Savior, said many people in FAMILIA have come to understand the incredible riches of the sacrament of matrimony.  They have walked away with a better understanding of their faith and have a renewed appreciation for the Mass and the sacraments.

She said they have learned as parents and spouses how to help their families grow in holiness and that many have discovered how to go deeper in their prayer lives. Because of this, she said, many desire to become more involved in parish life.

FAMILIA runs September through May. It hosts information nights and accepts registrations for year-one and year-two family life teams before the end of the first year.

Registration is currently being accepted for the fall program. For men, the focus of the second year will be Christian marriage, and for women, the Blessed Mother and the dignity of motherhood.

For more information
Contact Greg and Tina Andress at (864) 476-9613 or gtandress1@aol.com.