This week we hear from Claire Mannyx. She was instrumental in creating this ministry. Gathering as community does not just mean going to Mass. It can look like families doing a commando course, treasure hunts for Fruits of the Spirit, pinatas, talking telephone cans, prayer tents and a sausage sandwich. ‘Belong’ was created as a space for the young and young at heart to play and pray.

Belong, Believe, Become.

These are the three words that started the Belong ministry – a desire for children and their families to have a place to belong, to grow in their faith, and become the people God created them to be.

Belong started six years ago with a team of four people. We organised Family Mornings four times a year. We offered fun, engaging activities all centred on a common theme, and at the end of the morning we reflected upon this theme. The aim was to give parents and children the opportunity to do fun things together and engage in faith related matters, while at the same time engage with other families and build community. We had themes like Be who you are, ‘B’ is for Bible, Be a servant and Be joyful.

Around four years ago we were invited by the Sacraments Team to prepare Family Mornings for the families preparing their children for the Sacraments. We now organise Family Mornings for the Sacraments of Reconciliation, Confirmation and Eucharist. These have been a great success! There is always a fun, positive atmosphere on the day. The families enjoy the time they have together. We get to express our faith in a joyful, fun, life-giving, engaging way that makes it interesting and worthwhile.

One of the great things about the Family Mornings is that it takes people of all ages; from teenagers, young adults through to our more “experienced” parishioners to come together to make the occasion work. These mornings would not be possible without the help of parishioners who, on the day, come and help us run the activities, share their faith and serve lunch to the families. It is a community event.

COVID and 2020 saw the unexpected postponement of the Sacraments Journey and with restrictions continuing into this year we could only commit to putting on one Family Morning for Confirmation. I enjoyed preparing and coming up with activities with the others on team. It was an opportunity to engage with my faith and find ways to make it accessible to children and parents in a fun way.

Our hope is that Belong will continue in some shape and form for years to come. We are always open to new people sharing their gifts and creativity as we continue to accompany families in their faith journey. Speak with myself, Lisa, Bev or Claire McWilliam if you would like to be involved.

Lisa Kristofferson is one of the original team members. Her children have moved from participation in the activities to guiding other younger children. She shares:

My family still has symbols scattered within our home reminding us of the quality and valued time spent with this group. The WWJD (What would Jesus do?) bracelets that were carefully made are on bookshelves and bed heads gently reminding us of acting as Jesus would in various situations. Our Fruits of the Spirit “Joy” orange that sat underneath our dash mat in our Prado regularly made appearances on busy grumbly school mornings on the way to school. It would spill out into the College Car Park with raptures of “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy……” A few quizzical looks, but the idea of finding joy was recommunicated and remembered. Finally, we have our aprons hanging in our pantry that are emblazoned in colourful crayon with, “Love and Service Go Hand in Hand”. Our family adores baking and eating (of course) and so use these regularly……. even if they are a little on the tight side because of astronomic growth, they are still worn with pride and fond memories of serving cakes and slices in the St Joseph’s Parish.