An inspiring and ‘Spirit-filled’ day was enjoyed by over 80 Family Group Co-ordinators from parishes across NSW. Fr Peter McGrath, founder of the Passionist Family Group Movement, led this annual review at St. Anthony in the Fields where Family Groups began in 1972. A recent recruit to Fr Peter’s team, Peter Kennedy, added additional insights, support and direction to the
development of the movement.

So why was this day so special to me? It touched my heart. It renewed my spirt and it refreshed my commitment to Family Groups.

Here are the key discussion points that brought this about.

Fr Peter began: – “The purpose of a Family Group is to love and care for one another. It is the work of the Lord – ‘to love one another’. Many people have said to me that over the years their Family Group has become more and more family for them. What has happened is that the Group is no longer a Group, it is FAMILY. And Family is the heart of the Church, as John Paul II said again and again.”

We were asked to consider ‘at what level do we communicate with each other in our family group?’

If we remain simply a GROUP, we will only communicate as purely social groups do. However, if friendships develop through monthly get-togethers, annual home Masses and weekends away, then we learn so much more about each other.

Outreach becomes the norm. Catch-ups between the monthly gatherings become common. The group evolves as a family
where communications at deeper levels, emerge and grow.

Sooner or later, most if not all, experience a revelation that there are some members in my Family Group with whom I feel I can trust as a brother /sister. These people help me to know myself better; that I am not alone and that someone else understands and cares about me and my immediate family.

I liken my 25 years involvement in a Family Group to becoming part of my in-laws extended family (all 35 of them and growing). It didn’t happen over-night, in fact it took commitment and effort over a significantly long time to feel a part of a new family.

Just as we need to commit to our own family to remain a family / extended family, there is a need to participate and contribute to the Family Group pot too.

A comment was made that the monthly activities are the vehicle to make time for your own family within the Family Group. From my own experience, how true, particularly when the children move off on their own, you still have your Family Group family. As Fr Peter said, the family group should become more FAMILY and less GROUP.

It is a common experience everywhere to see numbers at Mass decline, for its members to age and, for many reasons, numbers dwindle. Church life and people’s experience of church is changing, and the changes are challenging.

Fr Peter reminded us; ‘to do our bit and then leave the rest to God’. For me, it goes against the grain to do this. It’s so hard to change. But do I really have a choice?

Will the Family Groups in our Frenchs Forest Parish look the same in 10 years time as it did 10 years ago? Probably not.
But is that a reason to give up on them? I could ask myself ‘is my family going to be the same in 10 years as it was 10 years ago, or even today?’

There are lots of practical things that Family Groups have learnt to do to become successful and these things must continue to be practised. One thing we don’t often do however is to stop and reflect on the reason for family groups and their meaning in our faith life.

Three of the biggest messages I took away from the day are:

  1. That the family Group functions should become more and more family functions.
  2. That we are being called to respond pro-actively to change in our church and the world.
  3. To renew my commitment and practice of loving one another through my Family Group and the wider community in which I move.

Joe Tesoreiro
Member of the Frenchs Forest Parish Family Group Coordinators Committee