Family Group Reflections from St Teresa’s Upholland Wigan.
St Teresa’s Upholland is a parish in West Lancashire with a vision to look out into our community and beyond.
St Teresa’s Focus Team, a lay team who support the parish priest, invited Maureen O’Brien, coordinator for Marriage and Family Life for Liverpool Archdiocese to one of our meetings to introduce Family Groups in January 2016. Maureen gave a short presentation, including the Family Group video. The seeds sown that evening fell on rich soil and the Focus Team invited Christine and Vince Joyce to discuss starting Family Groups in our Parish. Chris and Vince gave a great presentation to the Focus Team and plans were put in place to have a launch date in September 2016.
Leading up to the launch, we held a cheese and wine evening to encourage Family Group leaders to come forward which was attended by 8 interested parties. Most people liked the idea of Family Groups, but were concerned about the time this would involve, however, after these concerns were addressed by Chris and Vince, we had a definite leader with two others interested.
During the final weeks leading up to the September launch, we advertised Family Groups in the newsletter to provide a point of contact, provided fliers at the back of church and I attended a meeting at St Teresa’s Primary School for the parents of new starters to give a brief presentation and again more literature and found a lot of definite interest.
During the weekend of the launch, Chris and Vince gave a presentation at our Saturday and Sunday Masses, showed the video and invited interested people to sign up. We received around seventy applications from a variety of parishioners. Interested people were split into a good mixture of three Family Groups to represent a family and the Family Groups and their leaders met within a couple of weeks to establish a name and to plan their activities, and other parishioners came forward after the initial launch to join.
St Teresa’s Family Groups are: Amigos, Genesis & Shalom. Each group has 20-25 members Groups meet monthly with a turn-out of between 10 to 25 people. We have placed a dedicated Family Group noticeboard at the back of church, and advertise in the Parish Newsletter to encourage new members to come along. We have a winter and a summer inter-Family Group activity, (Quiz and Rounders Match this year), which are always well attended. Leaders meet informally and agree that the initial enthusiasm for Family Groups at St Teresa’s has not faded. Our activities will be typical, but some of The leaders meet informally and all agree that the initial enthusiasm for Family Groups at St Teresa’s has not faded. Our activities will be typical, but some of the more unusual ones have been: High Ropes Activity Day, Barge Trip, and a Christmas Decoration Making Workshop.
As St Teresa’s Family Group coordinator, I have thoroughly enjoyed helping to get Family Groups established in our parish. At times it has involved emailing and telephone calls, however, as the Family Groups are functioning independently, the task has not been too time-consuming.
The highlight of my time as coordinator to date was the National Family Group Mass in Northampton that my wife, Margaret and I attended, in May this year. We received a warm welcome and were very pleased to see so many clergy involved and enthusiastic about Family Groups, which is wonderful as I truly believe having a supportive parish priest, as we have in Fr Philip Kehoe, is essential to the success of Family Groups. Recently, I presented the Family Group candle received from Bishop Peter Doyle at the National Mass, to our parish. Fr Philip also allowed me to give an annual update; encouraging a small crop of new members, and which I hope is a sign of things to come as St Teresa’s Family Groups go from strength to strength.
Family Group Parish Co-ordinator, St Teresa’s, Upholland