Author and EWTN TV Show Host to Give “Feeding Your Family’s Soul” Workshop in Shreveport

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I sat down with Donna-Marie Cooper-O’Boyle, author of Feeding Your Family’s Soul, to talk to her about her book and upcoming workshop in Shreveport on April 28.

 Q: What inspired this idea to set aside dinner time as a dedicated time for teaching the faith to our children?
It just makes sense to me – when the family is gathered for dinner, we have the advantage of a captive audience – a hungry family! Kidding aside, I believe dinner time is a perfect time to teach the Faith because we are all gathered together to break bread, to pray with one another (at least Grace Before Meals), and to converse about our day. I believe that at least once a week we can seize the opportunity to teach the Faith right at the dinner table! I like to encourage families to also pray more while gathered together at the table. The children can voice their prayer intentions. The prayer habits that the family will form now will hopefully be carried into the children’s future domestic churches.

Q: What are some of the reasons dinner time, in particular, is an advantageous time to do this?
Today’s families are pretty much out of time on most days–struggling to check off our “to-do” lists, running ragged getting to all of the sports practices and games, as well as many other activities that can cause us to become exhausted, as well as pull us away from the dinner table. Time to teach the Faith becomes almost non-existent. That’s one reason why I think the family dinner table is a good place to teach the Faith. We can nourish our bodies and our souls!

Most Catholic and Christian families enroll their children in faith formation classes. That is very good. However, the parents and grandparents are called to be THE first and foremost educators of Faith for the children.

The Church has always taught that the family is the vital cell of society and that as a “domestic church” it should mirror the big Church. … There are so many Church teachings to support the necessity of parents teaching the Faith to the children, but Id like to mention at least a few. First of all, the Catechism states, “Parents are the principal and first educators of their children” (1653). As well, “The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute. The right and the duty of parents to educate their children are primordial and inalienable” (2221).

In Familiaris Consortio (The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World) we learn, “Hence, parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children. Their role as educators is so decisive that scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it. The right and duty of parents to give education is essential” (36). These words should truly inspire us to step up to the plate to be our children’s and grandchildren’s Faith educator. … There’s much more, but the point is that the family is so important. We grow in Faith together and work out our salvation together right within the walls of our domestic churches—through the daily give-and-take, the practicing of virtues, and forgiveness—over and over again! We are all works in progress and absolutely need to carve out the time to learn and live the Faith! Teaching the Faith at the dinner table ensures that it will actually happen and not get put off until yet another day because our schedules are so intense.

Q. For an event like the one you will be holding in our diocese, what can people expect to learn?
Hopefully, people can learn ways in which to teach the Faith to their children, as well as how to deal with specific situations, how to be more countercultural, how to set parameters for the dinner table, and more. I hope and pray that folks will also feel a sense of camaraderie being there with other parents and grandparents. As well, I will have my many book titles, DVD’s and other resources available for purchase and book signing.

Q: Will they learn ways to teach the faith to all ages?
I will provide various tips about teaching the Faith to all ages of children.

Q. “Teaching the faith” is such a broad topic, what are some specific ways you encourage families to share their faith at the dinner table?
… One example is in challenging the children. They usually like to be challenged. They want to make you proud! The brief lessons in my book often encourage the family to extend the lesson throughout the week with encouragement to do a little research to share at the table, or to call upon specific saints for help. There are also suggestions for family members to help in certain ways in the family, or to reach out to relatives you might not have contacted in a while and get together for visits (hopefully a meal). I love to encourage families to share a recipe with an older relative and ask them to share one of theirs so that you can keep family traditions going throughout the years. Another type of “extra credit” lesson is in doing Works of Mercy as a family.

“Feeding Your Family’s Soul” will take place on April 28, from 9:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. at St. Mary of the Pines Parish in Shreveport. Visit www.dioshpt.org to register today!

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