The Sullivan family, Patrick and wife Kyra, with eight of their nine children. Photo courtesy the Sullivan family

Crisis offers opportunity

  • December 4, 2020

Catholic parents seeking to help their children make sense of world events have had their work cut out for them in 2020.

But Patrick Sullivan believes the pandemic, political divisions, social justice causes and seemingly endless tragedies around the world are all opportunities for parents to build more Christ-centred children.

“Right now, as much as there are crises and difficulties and stresses and frustrations, there’s also hidden amidst all of this a great gift,” said Sullivan, a father of nine and creator of Catholic parenting blog Me & My House.

“You have the opportunity right now to kind of take the magnifying glass to your own home and say, ‘OK, what works for us? What doesn’t work? What brings joy and peace to this home? What doesn’t?’ Because we know that if the family goes right, the world goes right.”

Sullivan believes the home is a microcosm of the world with daily occasions for the entire family to practise understanding and openness to hearing different people’s perspectives. As those skills are effectively built as a society, through the love of God, it eventually bubbles over into the world at large.

“For example, I teach my son to try to understand where his sister’s coming from,” said Sullivan, who with his wife Kyra resides in Barry’s Bay, Ont., where they homeschool their children ranging in age from 14 to two months. “As they grow in a habit with that, they look at our neighbours. Then they look at maybe other friends in the school settings and say, ‘Can I understand where they’re coming from?’ If we do that well, they’ll become habits and those habits will actually spill out and help those around us.”

While raising a young family, in 2014 Sullivan left a career in education to become a full-time Catholic lay evangelist. He began by teaching Bible studies in coffee shops around the Greater Toronto Area before launching Catholic media company Evango. He found in talking with parents there was a great thirst for Catholic parenting support. He was led, along with his team, to build resources to show mothers and fathers struggling with parenting guilt that they are not alone.

“What we do as a team is we tell parents, ‘We know you love your kids,’ ” said Sullivan. “Let’s start there and see can we become better parents. Most often they are already doing the right things but just need a couple of tips here and there and a couple techniques, and to hear from like-minded parents that can say, ‘I’ve been there too and there’s help. There’s friendship. We are all on the same journey.’ ”

With the Christmas season upon us, Sullivan sees an opportunity for families to build a home culture conducive to the needs of their children by reinforcing faith in the face of mass commercialization.

“Love it or hate, you’re going to hear the (Christmas) stories, you’re going to see lights coming up in your neighbourhood and for me, that is a great opportunity to kind of refocus things with our kids and our own family culture,” said Sullivan, a parishioner at St. Mary’s Church in Wilno, Ont. “We ask, ‘Can you remember a time maybe from the Bible, or maybe something from what Father said at Mass where lights mattered, and really pointed towards something?’ Of course, for the earliest Christians, the star just appeared. We call them back to experience the reason for the season.”

With all that is happening globally, Sullivan encourages parents as they look at the state of the world to not allow anxiety to fill their hearts. Instead, he says, allow it to engender a sense of hope that as parents they are raising children who will be able to one day change the world.

“I don’t think we should be worried,” said Sullivan. “At the end of the day, you and I, as parents, are being called to send out missionaries into the world. We’re raising real weapons that can bring grace. In my case I’m sending nine weapons into the world that can really help to heal and bring this world back together again.”

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