When Michele Smith, religious education leader at Saint Callistus Parish in Kane applied for a Faith Formation grant with the Catholic Foundation of Northwest Pennsylvania in 2019, she never imagined that a global pandemic would alter her plans for implementing a parish-wide faith-formation plan. Part of that plan included adding the GIFT (Growing In Faith Together) program as a monthly, family-centered faith sharing opportunity. Michele explains, “My original intent was to provide an opportunity for parents to gather and share their faith with their children. We planned to share a meal together and then continue afterward with an activity based on the theme for the night. With COVID restrictions excluding large group gatherings, I knew I had to put that plan on hold.”
With the GIFT program already on her radar, Michele decided to adapt it for use with her elementary religious education students. Repurposed as a take-home tool kit, the children were to use the contents with their family. Students would leave their monthly in-person class with an assembled bag that included a virtue, prayer and saint of the month, all based on a central theme. Also in the bag were activities (mazes and puzzles) and a craft related to an Old and New Testament story that matched the theme. Family movies, books and games were also occasionally included. The theme for March is “Pray, Fast, Give.” Past themes have included Kindness and Gratitude, Hope, Respect and Reverence, and Love.
Kendall Saquin, a second-grade student, shares that her favorite item in the bag is the prayer table kit. She says, "I love doing my prayer table because I get to say my prayers and sit quietly at the table. I like how it changes each month." Meant to provide families with an easy way to include a visible part of their Catholic faith in the home, the prayer table kit is also based on the monthly theme and includes a prayer cloth, prayer card and saint block.
Michele shared that "the grant allowed us to focus our attention on the needs of evangelization and faith building in our parish. This opportunity has definitely lit a spark in our Lifelong Faith Formation plan." While 2020 put a damper on best laid plans, people like Michele Smith and her team at Saint Callistus pivoted and found the spark for their faith formation program.
Saint Callistus students show off some of their GIFT projects
How can you help?
Faith Formation grants are made possible through the Evangelization Endowment of the Catholic Foundation. Donations in any amount designated for the Evangelization Endowment increase our capacity to award grants for creative and impactful life-long faith formation programs and projects throughout northwest Pennsylvania today and for future generations.
“The grant allowed us to focus our attention on the needs of evangelization and faith building in our parish. This opportunity has definitely lit a spark in our Lifelong Faith Formation plan.”