Family Ministry: Touching the Minds and Hearts of People

By Mrs. Teresa Hartnett, Director of Family Ministry, Roman Catholic Diocese of Hamilton

The human person is a complex being made in the image and likeness of God. The role of the Family Ministry Office is to assist people to live the call of their baptism in both their personal lives and in their relationships, the most important of which is in the family. According to Pope Benedict,

“We need fertile soil in which to put down our roots, a soil that is rich in nourishing elements that make the person grow.” 

Family Ministry, seeks to help each person to cultivate a meaningful, joy-filled life.  It also helps to connect the Church with the home. Its task is to equip the faithful to engage in ways that will positively impact every dimension of their lives.

To do this family ministry incorporates many programs such as, hosting family nights, parent retreats, mom mornings and a variety of other activities that fall under this umbrella. Beyond these family ministry provide programs, training and support to those in the parish and community so they are able assist a wide variety of people with their needs, whatever they may be. We are called to undertake this care because the Church in fact sees itself as a “family of families.”

These supports cannot be achieved by one office, but indeed requires the support and collaboration of others working within parishes, schools and the community. With a coordinated effort it is possible to meet the needs of every person and to strengthen family bonds which can offer so much to support its members.

At every stage, people and families have needs and struggles.  Strong relationships lead to connections that draw people together and build resilient, lasting links which help people more readily deal with life situations; it helps them to feel that someone cares about their needs. When a person knows they are not alone, it can truly be the best healer!

In the Hamilton Diocese many parishes have started, or are looking into the possibility of, a care ministry. This type of ministry will vary from parish to parish depending on the demographics and needs of the parish, but these ministries have one thing in common: caring for the vulnerable members of their communities. Families and individuals are struggling under the weight of so much today, but parishes are finding ways to reach out and respond. From simple acts, to more complex and detailed support they are meeting the needs of people and making a difference in their lives.

Pope Francis said it beautifully when he said:

Our parishes must be capable of generating a people, that is, of offering and creating relationships where people feel that they are known, recognized, welcomed, listened to, loved — in other words, not anonymous parts of a whole…we must have revolution of tenderness in parishes and the diocese… pastoral care is based in baptism and blossoms from brotherhood and is not the task only of the pastor and priests, but of all the baptized.”

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One area that we are encouraging parishes to focus on is the visitation of home-bound seniors and seniors living in long-term care facilities. Research has shown how people in these situations thrive when they are visited, called on the phone and cared for.

Parishes are already doing a variety of work in this area, ranging from spiritual care (bring the Eucharist to someone who cannot come to Church), to personal support for caregivers, to friendly visits with those who may have few or no visitors. The beauty of this ministry is the friendships that are formed, the caring relationships that develop and the feeling of belonging that comes from being known.

Parishioners who engage in this ministry work feel joy at being able to connect with people in need and in being able to offer support on a continuing basis.

Presently the Diocesan website, at has information on Palliative Care and we will soon complete a section for Care Ministry, one that will offer supports and suggestions on how to reach out. With so many aging and sick people, in a world where globalization may mean families are not close by, it is time each of us reached out to support others, helping them see that they are indeed part of a larger community family.

Let us consider the words of Martin Luther King: Life’s most persistent and urgent question is what are we doing for others? The answer we provide can make all the difference in the lives of those we touch.