At the first planning committee meeting for the new Pius Parents Faith Builders group, Anne Haines, director of faith formation at Pius XI High School, led attendees in a prayer inspired by the parable of the mustard seed.

Anne Haines, third from the right, director of faith formation at Pius XI High School, Milwaukee, poses on Jan. 22 with Pius students who have helped collect items to be donated to the Open Door Café at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. The students will join their parents in serving at the Café as part of the school’s new Pius Parents Faith Builders group. (Catholic Herald Family photo by Ricardo Torres)It was a fitting sentiment with which to start Faith Builders, an initiative that seeks to serve as a sort of religious “booster club” not unlike corresponding athletic and fine arts parental support organizations.

Haines and other founders hope that, like the biblical mustard seed sown in the field of the believer, Pius Parents Faith Builders will yield an increase of faith in the school community that will “grow and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade” Mk 4:32.

Haines proposed the group after reflecting on how vital is the role of the parent in the faith formation of the Catholic child.

“I would just look at the booster clubs for athletics and for the performing arts – there are all these parents’ guilds that are helping out with the efforts in the school – and I thought, well, faith is our most important thing that we do in Catholic school, so why shouldn’t we bring some parents into the effort?” she said.

The group’s mission is to increase parental involvement in school celebrations of the sacraments and in service events – not necessarily to correct a previous lack of involvement, said Haines, but to put proper emphasis on the importance of parents and kids participating in faith activities together.

“(It is so) important for students to see their parents involved in faith, too,” she said. “It helps to facilitate the transfer of what they’re learning in the home and here at school…. I think that sometimes students can compartmentalize faith – as in, this is what we do at home, this is what we do at school, this is what we do on Sunday; where, in fact, our faith is something that should permeate everything we do.

“It has a whole lot more credence when they see their parents living it out in the efforts that we’re doing here at school.”

School parent Maryann Majewski said she was immediately interested in helping to form the group when it was suggested to her by a fellow mom.

“Faith is a big part of our family life and (I’m happy to do) whatever I can do to help not only my daughter but other students, teachers, the whole Pius community,” said Majewski. “Let’s face it, we live in a different world, and a world where, I think, faith is even more important – at least for me personally – and our family, and so I just wanted to do what I could to help build that, strengthen that.”

Majewski, the mother of Grace, a junior at Pius, regularly attends school Mass with her daughter. Haines calls that kind of involvement in faith activities “absolutely crucial” and the sort of behavior the Faith Builders want to promote.

“The kid on the basketball court sees his parents watching him or her and they know that this is important and it’s valued, and the parent wants to see him,” she said. “Well, we want parents to be able to see their students up there reading or taking up the gifts or serving at a meal program. “Getting parents really entrenched with those particular faith activities will help students to see that there’s a continuance between everything – it’s part of who we are as a whole person, not just something we do in segments or pockets.”

Haines says she hopes the Faith Builders will be successful in increasing parents’ involvement in the sacramental life of the students, especially in regards to organizing eucharistic adoration or recitation of the rosary, calling the parents “the drivers of the faith of our children.”

That’s something that really resonates with Majewski. She said her daughter is already involved in service activities and has an interest in liturgical music, but that it is her responsibility as the parent to “solidify” those interests by participating in them herself.

The group’s first event will take place Sunday, Jan. 31, at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist to help kick off Catholic Schools Week. The event centers on the cornerstones of Catholic education – faith, knowledge and service – and begins with 9:30 a.m. Mass; afterward, parents and students will serve together at the cathedral’s Open Door Cafe and will also deliver toothpaste and deodorant collected in the students’ homerooms the previous week. The day will conclude with a dessert social in the cathedral atrium.

Haines and Majewski also hope that the group might eventually be able to raise funds to assist needy students in attending school retreats.

“It’s not that Pius doesn’t do service or go to Mass – they do all those things,” said Majewski. “It’s just (meant to) bring it together, and maybe this will help direct parents and students and teachers, and make it a tiny bit easier in this world that we live in.”