Chris Morris, director of faith formation at Holy Family Catholic Church in Orange, has noticed a recent increase in the number of people not only returning to the Catholic faith — but who are also bringing their children or friends along with them — to experience his lively program of weekly classes leading up to receiving the Sacraments.
“Some were baptized into Catholic families but then fell away from church when they were very young and never received all the Sacraments,” explained Morris. “Others come with no faith background, but they’ve had some experience that attracted them to the Church.”
SARAH RIGGIN AND HER 15-YEAR-OLD SON AIDEN ARE PICTURED FOLLOWING THIS YEAR’S EASTER VIGIL MASS CELEBRATED AT HOLY FAMILY CATHOLIC
CHURCH IN ORANGE. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE RIGGIN FAMILY
The COVID-19 pandemic may have caused people to reflect on what was missing in their lives, Morris speculated.
“They were really looking to fill the hole that only He can fill,” he said. “This is an opportunity to build a relationship with God. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Sarah Riggin was inspired by her 15-year-old son Aiden to sign up for the Holy Family classes to receive their Sacraments.
“He expressed he was ready to move forward with his Confirmation,” she said, adding that both of them were baptized years before as children. “I thought long and hard. I realized I, too, was ready to proceed with my Confirmation and grow in my faith.”
Riggin signed them both up for Morris’ classes.
“He was excited to enjoy the spiritual journey together,” she added of her son. Morris believes that this is the ideal scenario.
“The single greatest influence on a child’s religiosity is their parents,” he said. “For them to do it together always gives better results. They’re more committed to the faith, and faith is meant to be practiced with others.”
Jné Muñoz, a working mom of six children who wanted to rejoin the Church last year, decided to make it a family affair.
“Chris (Morris) told us about the classes, and I said let’s all do this.”
Her 3-year-old and 19-year-old did not participate, but her other children — ages 17, 11, 10 and 9 — did. Her husband was also supportive and although he works nights, still attended few of the classes.
Attending the classes for 8 months with her children sparked a lot of interesting conversations among them.
“When we all learned the same thing, we could all talk about it,” said Muñoz.
Her kids enjoyed it so much she started bringing along her sister’s children too.
Riggin and her son also talked about what they were learning.
“Every Sunday after class we would discuss topics over lunch and how the topic fit into our life,” she said.
The Holy Family program typically runs from August to March and Morris makes sure the classes include a lot of variety. He invites guest speakers from within the Diocese of Orange family such as Fr. Sy Nguyen, Fr. Rudy Alumam, Fr. Cheeyoon Chun and Sr. Claudette DesForges – and covers subjects such as “What is Lent?” “Sacraments of Healing,” and “Discipleship,” among others.
It used to be that Catholic families followed what was called the “rule of sevens.”
“First there was Baptism, then seven years later was First Communion, and seven years after that would be Confirmation and seven years after that they’d get married,” Morris explained. “That doesn’t happen anymore.”
These days Morris has also noticed that more young people in their 20s are choosing to experience this process with friends.
“They were brought up in the faith, but then in high school decided that science and faith are incompatible and fell away,” he said. “Then they experience life and feel there is something they missed.
Morris added, “I’ve seen three or four friends going through the program together. They ask a lot of questions — and that’s perfect.”
Each year, the program culminates at the Easter Vigil, and this year, Muñoz and her four children were baptized or confirmed.
“It was really nice, with all the candles lit,” she said. “It was a really neat experience for me and my children and all our guests. I’m very proud that we all received the Sacraments.”
“We enjoyed learning about our faith and growing,” said Sarah Riggin. “The whole process was truly special because we got to experience it together. I know I will hold this dear to my heart forever.”
Morris welcomes all who want to return to the Church, no matter what their situation. For working people who have complicated schedules, he always finds a way to facilitate their path.
“We’re very flexible—we have to be,” he said. “Not just because it won’t work for us, but because that’s the way Jesus would want us to be. He met people where they were. We trying to adopt his teaching style. It’s a joy to do this. It isn’t work — we’re helping people get closer to God.”