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October 7, 2003
Greetings and welcome to Faith Formation Update, a free monthly e-newsletter for catechetical leaders with a focus on parish catechesis beyond textbooks and classrooms. I'm Judith Dunlap. In each issue I offer a brief starter and my "Every Family" column. My co-worker and fellow religious educator Joan McKamey offers video resources and ideas in her "Seen and Heard" column. Our co-worker Chuck Blankenship suggests other faith formation resources for adults from St. Anthony Messenger Press in his column, "Sowing Sampler." Finally, we encourage YOU to share views and program ideas about this month's topic on our online bulletin board, "Faith Formation Forum." Blessings on your work!
—Judith Dunlap

p.s. You're receiving this either because you signed up, or because you're a loyal customer of St. Anthony Messenger Press. We will never send you unwanted e-mail. There is an unsubscribe link at the bottom of this page.
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Fall Holidays

Fall is here. Summer things are packed away and in the Midwest we are pulling out our long-sleeve shirts and wool sweaters. Shopping centers, however, have been ready for fall since July 5th. For about a week and a half they touted "Back to School" motifs (a few colored leaves and giant pencils). Then they went right on to what has somehow become one of the biggest holidays of the year: Halloween.

Halloween has been a popular secular holiday for children since way before I was a youngster. But within the last few years it seems to have caught on for adults too. Think of the millions of dollars spent on decorations and treats. (Has anyone else noticed how Halloween decorations, complete with outside lights and garlands, are beginning to rival Christmas decorations in popularity?) At the same time many adults are becoming increasingly concerned about recognizing this holiday that seems to celebrate witches and devils.

We need to be informed and ready to answer the questions and concerns of the folks who approach us on this subject. By reviewing the Christian roots of "All Hallow's Eve" we can help others at least understand where the symbols of ghosts and devils, skulls and skeletons come from. Page McKean Zyromski addresses the issue in a recent Catholic Update, "How Halloween Can Be Redeemed."

Some adults also worry about how an emphasis on the devil and witches might negatively affect youngsters and adolescents. Ms. Zyromski has a response to this question as well. In a 2001 Youth Update she tells young people to pay attention to their "gut." She suggests using her "up or down rule":

When you are weighing your choices and the value of your activities, I'd like to suggest the "upward and outward" or "downward and inward" rule. In other words, do songs, books and games lift your heart up (to appreciate God's love and care for you) and out (to widen your compassion and understanding of other people)? Or do they pull you downward (diminish your trust in God's care, make you depressed) and inward (make you more self-focused and even morbid)?

She goes on to tell teens that they are old enough to notice such things about themselves and "to quit taking in the garbage." Good advice for all of us. (For more on the Christian roots of Halloween, check out's Halloween feature.)

When it comes to difficult topics, we are quickly learning a few minutes on the Internet can help us find answers even faster than calling our local library resource person. For answers to your questions about Catholicism, check out the Web site. It is an excellent resource. For example, to find out information on the influence of Harry Potter, just type in the boy wizard's name in the article search box. You'll find some interesting comments.

Finally, for an idea on how your youth or intergenerational group can turn Halloween trick-or-treating into a parish-wide service project, read the Family Column below.

Sharing the Bounty

The year our oldest son went off to college we started a new tradition in our family. When his four siblings came back from trick-or-treating, they each put a couple of handfuls of their goodies into a shoebox that we sent off to their brother. As each of them left for school they became recipients of the same Halloween treat, until finally there was only Peter left at home to do the sharing.

I remember the day the reality of being the last born in this tradition hit my youngest son. I was mopping the kitchen floor as he stood in the doorway and explained the dilemma. He had spent all his Halloweens sharing his candy with his brothers and sister, and he wanted to know who would be sending him treats when it was his turn to go off to school. His question sparked a parish-wide service project, Sharing the Bounty, that is still an annual activity at my home parish almost 15 years later. When Peter went away to college he got his Halloween candy just like his brothers and sister. Unlike his siblings, however, his treat came from his Church family, which made the gift all the more special.

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Video Updates on the Saints

As I write this column, autumn has just begun. Whether or not you are enjoying brightly colored leaves and bonfires, you know the fall holiday that comes first to most people's minds: Halloween! Back-to-school supply aisles in stores have already made way for candy and costumes. I've heard that when it comes to holiday spending, Halloween is now in second place behind Christmas.

With all the attention Halloween gets these days, it's important that we catechetical leaders not let this "teachable moment" pass us by. Just as we make sure our efforts point to Jesus as "the reason for the season" at Christmas, we can use the energy around Halloween to point to the saints as the religious reason for this secularized "season."

With this in mind, consider turning All Saints' Day into a parish social and formation event for all ages. November 1 is on a Saturday this year, meaning that our obligation to attend Mass that day will be dispensed. Invite all the "saints" in your parish to attend the Saturday morning Mass (if one is offered) and stay for a pitch-in brunch and "Saints Showcase" afterward. Following the meal, offer a brief presentation on what makes a saint and the call of each of us to sainthood; then show video stories of saints in various locations around your facility. Provide showtimes, ratings (child, teen-adult, all) and locations for viewing. Since videos will be of differing lengths, provide coloring pages and other saint activities/readings for children and adults in the large gathering space used for the meal. Call everyone back together at a prearranged ending time for a closing prayer.

Everyone, Everywhere is a classic video resource that offers a poignant look at the life and ministry of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who will be beatified October 19th. View a video clip from Everyone, Everywhere (RealMedia | Windows Media).


Other videos on the Saints (click on the video title for more information):

• The Gift of Katharine Drexel (28 min., teen-adult)
• People of Faith: Moses, Joseph, Jonah, Ruth, Abraham and Sarah, Deborah, Jeremiah, David (eight 15 min. videos, available separately or as a set, grades 4-8)
• Religious Classics With Michael Himes: Augustine, Friedrich von Hugel, Ignatius of Loyola, Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila (older teen-adult)
• St. Clare of Assisi and the Poor Clares (2 parts, teen-adult)
• St. Francis of Assisi (30 min., teen-adult)
• St. Francis of Assisi: The Man Who Loved Everybody (28 min., animated, primary-adult)
• We Learn From Mary (15 min., grades 1-5)
• Work of Love: Mother Teresa (teen-adult)
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Catholics Read
Catholics Read...A Book Club With a Purpose

It began with "Seattle Reads" and "One Book, One City" in Chicago. Soon cities across the country were urging their residents to read a common book, discuss it and grow from the experience.

Now the Catholic Book Publishers Association has initiated a national reading program for Catholic parishes, dioceses and individuals: CatholicsRead. This ambitious program is being launched this month (October) by CBPA, with the help and encouragement of its member publishers (including St. Anthony Messenger Press). Find details of the program on the CatholicsRead Web site.(There's a preliminary site up now and the full site should be up sometime this month.)

Three books of the Bible (Job, Romans and the Gospel of Luke) have been designated for study during the Liturgical Year 2004. On the Web site, you can find basic information about these three books of the Bible, including information about various translations available, as well as listings of books by CBPA member publishers that relate to those books of the Bible. The site offers direct links to publishers' Web sites, as well as information about local Catholic bookstores where books can be purchased.

St. Anthony Messenger Press is suggesting three books for this program: Into the Abyss of Suffering for the Book of Job; Live Letters for the Letter to the Romans; and Woman, You Are Free for the Gospel of Luke.

CatholicsRead offers a wonderful opportunity for dioceses, parishes and individuals who want to promote Bible study and Catholic reading. Log on to today, and join in!

Study guides from St. Anthony Messenger magazine
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Faith Formation Forum

How do you celebrate fall holidays? Our editors will screen and post your ideas on our online bulletin board at You can check the board from time to time to see others' ideas. Submit your ideas by clicking here.

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