Young families, busy with little ones and bedtimes, are hungry for a ministry that doesn’t just accommodate their precious kids but serves them. Alan and Joanne Foley, a Twin Cities couple, knows this well. With a heart for the Faith and extensive experience with Minnesota public schools’ popular Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) model, they created Early Catholic Family Life (ECFL), a program to help Catholic parents deepen their faith and share it with their children ages 0-5. Since 2001, more than 100 Minnesota parishes have been trained in ECFL as well as parishes in Wisconsin, Georgia, Kansas, and Colorado. It is also available in Spanish.
When the local Archdiocese tightened its budget recently, ECFL lost a valuable advocate. Always striving to fuel vital missions and ministries in our community, CCF found a way to partner with the ECFL ministry to spread the word and offer grants that remove financial barriers that might preclude parishes from offering this valuable program. “Engaging families within our parishes early is of extreme importance to the health of Catholic schools,” said CCF President Anne Cullen Miller, “so partnering with ECFL is smart.” Experience has also shown that ECFL is a great way to encourage our rapidly growing Catholic Latino community to get involved in parish life.
Grants are provided through a permanent endowment held at CCF that supports “quality preschool education and faith formation as well as parenting skills.” Founders and supporters of this endowment had the foresight to know that the health of the Church depends on the quality of its ministries that serve its youngest members.
How does ECFL work? The magic happens once a week, over seven weeks. Participants attend a two-hour ECFL program with three components:
- A guided parent-and-child interaction component
- A parent-only discussion led by a trained facilitator
- A children-only session led by a trained early childhood leader
CCF’s grant opportunity pays for the cost of the training of the parish volunteers who administer the program, as well as all the materials needed to carry out the program.