Catholic Transcript By The Most Reverend Henry J. Mansell, D.D., Bishop of Hartford, CT
We are reminded by the Catechism of the Catholic Church that the family is the original cell of social life. At the same time, we realize the tremendous obstacles that families face in meeting the challenges of every day. It is helpful to know, nonetheless, of the notable progress which families are achieving on a regular basis.
Some outstanding facts have been emerging. Renowned surveys over the past 16 years – for example, those sponsored by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University – find that the more often children have dinner with their parents, the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use drugs, and that parental engagement fostered around the dinner table is one of the most potent tools to help parents raise healthy, drug-free children.
The statement is made clearly and simply: frequent family dinners make a difference.
The evidence in these surveys shows tellingly that compared to teens who have frequent family dinners (five to seven per week), those who have infrequent dinners (fewer than three per week) are twice as likely to use tobacco, nearly twice as likely to use alcohol, and one and a half times likelier to use marijuana.
During these years, there is consistent evidence that family dinners help to make a significant difference in academic performance and weekly attendance at religious services.
One way to bring attention to this outstanding phenomenon is a national Family Day – A Day to Eat Dinner with Your Children. It is promoted every year by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse and takes place on the fourth Monday of September, this year on Sept. 26.
While it is possible for families to join together for this event, it is not necessary. The important thing is for the family to be together and to recognize the value of doing this frequently during every week.
We all know that objections will come forward. What about one-parent families? Answer: They celebrate as a family. How do we handle our social, academic, athletic and work appointments? Answer: We may have to schedule another meal as the family get-together. How do we address the technological intrusions? Answer: Shut them off during the meal; no texting of other friends at that time. The important fact is that you are all there.
There is no extra cost involved. The long-term dividends your family will receive will be the profound spiritual and emotional return on your personal investment. Many of you, of course, are already experiencing these rewards from family dinners.
We in the Archdiocese of Hartford will be participating in the preparations for people to celebrate Family Day. Parish bulletin inserts and further information will be provided to our priests and deacons to carry the message forward. Our schools and religious education programs will be promoting the idea. The Catholic Transcript, our television and radio programs, and our Web sites will be developing this work as it unfolds.
The archdiocesan offices that are already involved include the following: the Chancery, the Office of Catholic Schools, the Department of Religious Education, the Communications Office, the Office of Family Life, the Hispanic Evangelization Office, the Office for Black Catholic Ministries and the Office of the Diaconate.
Materials will be provided in English, Spanish, Polish and other languages as necessary. Suggestions will address practices seen in various cultural backgrounds.
Yes, many preparations are being made but we do not wish to make this a complicated enterprise. It is important to understand that we all are relational, to one another and to God. We are the family of the Church and we celebrate that reality especially in the Eucharist, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The awareness of this reality brings our lives to greater completion.
As we discuss over the table the happy events of our day and the challenges we face, we must keep in mind, as the first Christians did in the Sacred Scriptures, those who do not have sufficient means to provide a full meal. As we continue to enrich our lives, we cannot ever lose that awareness.
May our Family Dinner be increasingly blessed by God’s love and help us to appreciate more acutely the fullness of our lives.
Archbishop’s Annual Appeal 2011
The total so far this year is $9,378,197, which is $515,294 higher than at this time last year. You continue to edify with your extraordinary generosity. The number of unemployed people in our area is rising and economic difficulties remain, but your increasing concern is tremendously encouraging. As we know, contributions still may be made until the end of this calendar year. Be sure of my grateful prayers that God may reward you and all whom we serve with His ongoing graces.