Welcome to our November/December Newsletter!
God calls each one by name. (Is 43:1, Jn 10:3) Everyone’s name is sacred and demands respect as a sign of the dignity of the one who bears it. (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2158) In the last Newsletter we highlighted the great models of charity found in our Patron Saints, who lead us to Christ when we are in communion with them.

Every saint has a feast day. A Nameday celebration commemorates the feast day of the saint whose name we received at Baptism. To the church’s mind, the day of the saint’s death is their feast day because it is their birthday into heaven. To celebrate Nameday then, is to have a kind of faith-filled, special family birthday party each year, in honor of your child’s special Patron Saint. 

“Namedays enrich a child’s thinking and create feelings of security, reverence and love of tradition which comes from links with the past.”, Helen McLoughlin tells us, “ They bind the members of the family closer to each other, to God and to the saints; they are a means of sanctifying the home, fulfilling the command of the bishops of the United States: Christians must make their homes holy.”
In her essay, “My Nameday—Come for Dessert”, Helen McLoughlin encourages parents and children to become aware of the mystery of the feast. “Parents must revere and pray to their children’s patrons and express love for the heavenly protectors after whom they have named their children by a joyful celebration of the heavenly birthdays of the family patrons.”

McLoughlin provides lots of great ideas to celebrate Nameday. Here is a selection of her suggestions for coming to know your family’s Patron Saints and making your child’s Nameday meaningful and memorable:
  • Participate in Mass together as the most important part of the Nameday celebration. “At Mass the family seeks God’s graces for the nameday child through the intercession of his patron. They receive God’s word, glorify Him and place the child’s particular needs at the feet of Providence.” 
  • Plan “a little evening”--a time for a party and a special prayer for the child in the company of friends and family.
  • Keep the party short and snappy: invite no more children than can be comfortably managed.
  • Plan the time so that a few games may be played. Give prizes and end with a quiet game.
  • Invite the participation of both children and adults in preparing and decorating.
  • Include special and fun details and novelties such as colored straws, marshmallows, animal crackers and candies. 
  • Make a Nameday dessert-- serve the most beautiful cake or pie you know how to make, with punch and special drinks.
  • Decorate the dessert and the table with a symbol of the patron saint, use the saint’s symbols to decorate napkins and place cards.
  • Declare a period of quiet, say a decade or a few prayers of the rosary, listen to a story while cutting out, pasting or coloring decorations. For children, a time of stillness may best be maintained by allowing them to help with a nameday decoration.  Silence and handiwork provides the space for the Holy Spirit to work upon their hearts and minds and hands. 
  • Tell or read about the Patron Saint and his or her holy and virtuous life, the good deeds that were accomplished or one of the stories about their life that inspires awe. Simple, short and illustrated stories work best for young children.

“Namedays like holidays give variety to our years; furthermore, they are a stabilizing influence, bringing the family together and uniting it to the Church. Namedays are a means of strengthening the faith of our children, of drawing them closer to the Communion of Saints. One of the ways to create a supernatural atmosphere in the home and to train our children in the faith is by the celebration of namedays.”

This article is based on “My Nameday—Come for Dessert” an essay by Helen McLoughlin
 “By their lives and example they (saints) become our teachers and models, stars in the night skies of life by which we may sail a straight course to God”
Dr. Pius Parsch, The Church’s Year of Grace
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Next online training: Saturday, February 27 & Saturday, March 13
We did it! After months of prayer, hard work, and preparation, ECFL recently successfully conducted its first sessions of online training. On consecutive Saturdays, November 7thand November 14th, we connected by Zoom with Cathy Russell from the Diocese of Ogdensburg, NY, and two parishes from that wonderful Diocese. Also attending was the Cathedral Parish in Orlando, Florida, and a representative of Assumption parish in Richfield, MN. It was a very good test of our online training. We were happy to have as many as 20 people participating. 

Not to blow our own horn, but it went very well! We are ready to do lots more of it!
I thought the training was very good. Provided a great overview of the program and how it works. The supply lists for each session are wonderful and helpful for us to get started. We are very excited to bring this to the Cathedral parish!”
Trainee from the Diocese of Orlando, FL
The online training that we developed follows closely the in-person training that has worked well for us over the years. One significant difference is that instead of meeting for a full day, from 9 AM to 4 PM, we divided the training into 4 “modules” with training occurring over two Saturdays.

Module 1 – Overview and Orientation. In Module 1 we give the trainees the background of the program, stress ECFL’s successful focus on reaching parents, and then describe the program’s key components - what ECFL looks like and how it works. We then conduct sessions we call “Attend With Us”. In “Attend With Us”, trainees are brought virtually into the classroom and parent discussion room to witness what the program will look like from the parents’ perspective.

Module 2 – Parent Discussion Leader Training – In Module 2, those who are being trained to lead the ECFL Parent Discussion are guided through the two manuals needed for Parent Discussion – The Parent Workbook and the Parent Leader Guide. Trainees are given an overview of all the lessons, guided in detail through the first lesson, and given tips on leading a small group discussion.
"The program was outstanding. The presentation was well
planned and organized. The time was maximized with
meaningful activities to learn the program."
Trainee from the Diocese of Ogdensburg, NY
Module 3 – Early Childhood Leader Training – In Module 3, those who will become Early Childhood leaders become acquainted with the Early Childhood Leader’s Guide. The Leader’s Guide is a very comprehensive, step by step guide for EC leaders.

Trainees review carefully Early Childhood Lesson #1 to gain a sense of the schedule, the Station Activities, and the Circle Time plan. They review the program’s “Quality Indicators” and Easy Reference Aids. There is a complete discussion of facilities, props, and equipment, as well as class size, ratios, and staff responsibilities.
Module 4 – for ECFL Parish Coordinators – The role of the Parish Coordinator is relatively new for ECFL. It was suggested by our friends in the Diocese of Toronto as a way to capture some of the “administrative” aspects of the program including recruiting of families, and also to be a support to the Parent Discussion Leader and the Early Childhood Leader.

In Module 4 we describe and explore the four primary responsibilities of the ECFL Parish Coordinator, as follows: Overarching administration, ECFL startup including recruiting, ECFL implementation, and Sustaining ECFL in your parish.

So what’s next? More training! Because our first online training went extremely well, we are eager to schedule and conduct more online training sessions. If you are interested in introducing ECFL to the families with small children in your parish to help them create a household with Jesus at the center, and if you want to use this “COVID time” to prepare for implementation, sign up for our next ECFL online training. 

Just email us: info@earlycatholicfamilylife.org, or call us: 612-925-1203. We would love to hear from you!
Next ECFL Online Training:
February 27 & March 13
ECFL is dedicated to helping parents with small children to create a home that has a Catholic culture
a home with Jesus at the center.