The Ecumenical Home: Parents

For Ecumenical Households

You are probably at this site because you are part of an ecumenical family. Catholic homes in today’s Church, unlike any other period of history, often include one spouse who is not Catholic. These spouses are either Christian (interchurch marriage) or from another non-Christian tradition (interfaith marriage). There is a lot of good news here for you. For example, children who are exposed to other religions early in life learn that although a person may be of a different religion, that person is the same child of God on the inside.

The Center for Marriage and Family at Creighton University, with the help of a grant from the Lily Foundation, did a study of mixed marriages and found that the families resembled the general American population. They ranged from very religious to not too religious at all. About 60 percent remained married and 40 percent divorced. The study also found that when couples in mixed marriages were able to work through problems relating to differences in religious affiliations, they were twice as likely to have a stable relationship as those who did not work through their problems.

Probably more than any other group, interchurch and interfaith families understand the principles of ecumenism and, in a very real way, keep us all asking the question: “Why are we not one?” It is the true desire for unity, which is the mark of an ecumenical catechesis.

What are some things you can do as a parent to build an ecumenical catechesis?

  • Make sure your child is acquainted with your spouse’s church and traditions.
  • If your spouse is active in his or her church, have the family participate in family gatherings and activities.
  • If you feel you need support as a person in a mixed marriage, check with the parish office. Often parishes have support groups for non-Catholics who are married to Catholics, or vice versa.
  • During the year be aware of interfaith and interchurch activities in your neighborhood (for example, Thanksgiving services or the Church Unity Octave) and have your family participate.
  • If you are an interfaith family (Jewish, Muslim, or other) encourage your child to share his or her experiences in religion class, especially around the feasts and holy days of those traditions.
  • Encourage your spouse to call your child’s religion teacher and volunteer to talk to the class about his or her beliefs or traditions.
  • Read and pray the prayer for unity (John 17:20–26) together as a family.