Last night we had our third Listening Session, this one with parents of Middle and High School students. It was a lovely, chatty group and they had some great things to say. Looking back on the night, I see that we (me, and the parents) went in to this conversation with agendas- neither of them bad, by any means- but telling.
The group was mostly women, and mostly people who have been involved in the parish for a while now. We had one new parent who has just joined the parish after difficulties in a neighboring parish with their confirmation program, and brought her daughter and five other families with her. I started by asking them how they ended up at our parish and why they stay. Some were lifers, some had ended up here after struggling at other parishes, and some came when their former parish had been closed.
I asked them then (and this is where those agendas revealed themselves), I asked about their faith, and what they need for their own faith from the church. To the last one, they answered by talking about what their kids needed. I tried re-directing them, pointing out that my question had been about their own faith and their answers were about their kids. They said "that IS what we need- we need our kids to have faith, to have a community, to have a safe place to come with questions. We need to be part of a place where we don't have to fight our kids to come to Mass."
I was surprised that their faith needs were so wrapped up in those of their kids, and they set me right. At the end, they identified a need for a support group for themselves (with wine), where they could come once a month to just talk and laugh and ask each other "WHAT AM I DOING WRONGGGG?" I've always wanted to have a group for parents of teens called "whine and wine" and they loved that idea... so we'll start that up in the next few months.
By the end of the evening my throat was on fire. It hurt to talk and I could hardly wait for everyone to leave! I headed straight home to bed and am home sick today (the day before Ash Wednesday, for crying out loud!) sweating and watching terrible daytime tv. I'm hoping that resting today will mean I'll be ready to roll tomorrow. Because away we gooooo!!!