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Results from the Vocation and Mission of the Family Survey

Vatican Survey on the Vocation and Mission of the Family
in the Church and Contemporary World

The following is a brief summary of the responses to the survey.  The majority of respondents (71%) attend Mass weekly, with aproximately a quarter (23%) of them being daily communicants.

In many cases, responders expressed frustration at the complexity and length of the questions.  And it should be noted that the responses dropped significantly as the survey continued; it appears respondents “gave up” on the survey due to its length and what they perceived to be confusing questions.

Since the responses weren't necessarily directly related to the question or statement proposed, summarization of the responses proved nearly impossible. However, there were two major themes that could be extrapolated from all the responses: 1. the need for more highly-trained priests and 2. the importance of attending Mass and hearing a moving, realistic homily about family life.

The following is a representation of the responses given. 

Preliminary question

Most respondents agreed that the description of the various familial situations in the Relatio Synodi corresponds to what exists in the Church and society today.

Part I
Listening: The Context and Challenges of the Family

The Church must present a more welcoming presence that nurtures marriage and families at the parish level. Many families are struggling to find a friendly environment in our churches on Sunday mornings. The Church can help by educating all priests and leaders to be present to the challenges of marriage and families. Our experience at the parish level is of very little organization, which impedes structure and the ability to form programs to help families.

The world Church must continue to tell the story of the beauty of life in Christ. The international media must continue to be used to the maximum extent possible to reach and evangelize those on the periphery of its teachings. Christian families must continue to be the primary examples of the beauty and joy of Christian life.

In general, Christian families are the primary witnesses to society of the beauty and joy of living as a family within the Church. Fathers must continue to recognize that their primary responsibility as head of the family is to bring the family to Christ through the Church. Formation of ordained ministers must include programs that emphasize the critical need of healthy Christian families for a healthy Church.

In Maine, the "traditional family" is still strong in many circles, but it is quickly becoming, like everything else, a "choice among many." The Church has responded by trying to prevent the legalization of same-sex marriage, and as a result, has been branded a villain among the youth who disagree. Natural marriage is still common, though whether or not it is still the primary living arrangement for the majority of families with parents under 30 or in poverty. Those who have faith, whether Catholic or Protestant, or were brought up in the faith, are likely to start a family before 30. Those without faith or in a crisis of faith are much more likely to delay marriage until 30 or so, and wait even longer to have their children.

Part II
Looking at Christ: The Gospel of the Family

Most Catholics only hear sacred Scripture at Mass, if they attend. Families that bring their children to faith formation programs are more exposed to the teachings of the Church through parent meetings or what their children bring home. There is certainly a need to develop more opportunities for people to encounter Christ through prayer experiences, parish retreats and reflection days that could be offered at the parish.

Married couples experience the love Christ has for them in their love for their children. They experience the virtues of love, mercy, forgiveness and charity, which Christ has for us through the virtues they share with their children. Sinful aspects to avoid in marriage are self-centeredness, jealousy, unforgiving, and being demanding,

Perhaps, it would help if more interaction was encouraged between happily married partners and the younger generation, so that they can witness the joys found in a permanent commitment to marriage.

Marriage does demand a certain emotional maturity on the part of spouses and a willingness to make sacrifices of individual wants and ambitions for the good of the family. Some people are not emotionally capable of that. A more intense preparation for sacramental marriage might be helpful. But greater formation in the faith itself, which includes an appreciation of the greatness and beauty of the gift of life - human life and all of creation.

Make it "awesome" to mingle with older, successful couples who can model holy family dynamics, amid struggles and joys.

More homilies on the power of forgiveness and how it can build a family are needed. More often than not, the homily is the only faith formation a family will receive. Our pastors need to be strong and support the family vocally every chance they get.

How special is it to know that your family is a little domestic Church? Pastors are effective if they connect with families, learning children's names and giving them just a little bit of attention that they carry with them through their week. Children are starved for some kind of attention. Attention from their priest is such a big thing. Parents point out so many superstars and athletes to their children - in some families, they talk about the importance of the priest, pointing out all the good that he does and the many efforts to connect with us. Families are truly blessed by the ministry of their priest.

Part III
Confronting the Situation: Pastoral Perspectives

Once again, the power of the homily. People will listen to their pastor. He is the principal agent to be able to allow such activity to happen in the church.

Better promotion of Natural Family Planning (NFP) and the reasoning behind the Church's teaching on contraception.

Time is a factor for all families. The most education that a family can count on is the holy Mass. Priests need to take advantage of the parents sitting in front of him, supporting them as best he can. Certainly, other offerings must be made, but the majority will be effected/impacted by what takes place at the Mass. That's just reality.