A primary goal as we work with children and youth in our parishes, programs, and schools is to create a Catholic Faith Environment; one that models Christ and the Gospel message, follows Catholic Social Teaching, fosters the faith development of our children and youth, and provides them with deliberately different messages and experiences than those they encounter in society. In order to truly provide such an environment, we must ensure that our children and youth are safe and feel safe. The very strategies that we implement to help our children experience right relationships throughout their life span, to prevent abuse, and to build resilience to trauma help us to create not only a Catholic Faith Environment, but a culture of protection and healing.
Our initial Safe Environment training presents strategies that help create faith environments that are not only safe and secure for children and youth, but ones that model Christ and the Gospel message, follow Catholic Social Teaching, provide deliberately different messages than those encountered in society, and foster faith development.
In his Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis calls us to provide faith environments where all “can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven, and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel.” He states of our parishes: “In all its activities the parish encourages and trains its members to be evangelizers. It is a community of communities, a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey, and a centre of constant missionary outreach.” #28
Our continuing education session for this year, Discipline and Discipleship in our Faith Environment encourages us to consider our call to missionary discipleship. We are challenged to identify what we can do within our faith environments to form disciples; how we can be missionaries, reaching those children and youth we may be missing; how the strategies we use to create a safe and secure environment can help us to form disciples; and how forming disciples helps us to create a culture of protection and healing.