Work of Mercy Project #1, Faith Formation Levels
Twice a year, kids enrolled in the Holy Family Religious Education Program, Faith Formation levels, work on a “Work of Mercy” or “social action” project. The works we perform will change annually and will be directly related to the works defined by the Holy Catholic Church. All works will be interpreted and tasks will be age appropriate. This portion of our program is described in the Faith Formation Parent Handbook with the white cover as well as in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2447.
Corporal Works of Mercy:
In the fall semester 2022, the staff, volunteers, and families in our program will minister to the families of the victims of the May 24, 2022, mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. We will send a perpetual Mass intention to each of the families. This act alone encompasses bury the dead (for the victims); pray for the living and the dead (for the victims and their loved ones); and visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, and comfort the afflicted (for the families and friends of the victims). It is an act of love to show respect for the bodies of the dead, since during life, they were temples of the Holy Spirit and received the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion. Further, we are called to minister to the victims' families, letting them know that we haven't forgotten them or their loved ones.
In this work, we will:
Parents’ Role in this Project
Your children will hopefully share with you what we are doing during class time. This may bring up some questions. Please note that we are not going over any of the events during our classtime. We feel this event happened long enough ago that the story has been discussed in their public school classrooms and at home. Instead, we are focusing on what a work of mercy is. We read the Scripture passage Matthew 25:31-46 to begin our conversation.
How do families explain school shootings to our kids? Jane Ripperger-Suhler, a child psychiatrist at Seton’s Texas Child Study Center, Gary Steck, the chief executive officer and a marriage and family therapist at Wellmore Behavioral Health, and Julia Hoke, a psychologist and the former director of psychological services at Austin Child Guidance Center, had this advice for parents about how much we should say about a mass shooting:
Check in with yourself, and prepare your talk and your answers
Not all parents are able to have a conversation on this topic with their kids, and that’s ok. If they need, parents can talk with a friend, pastor or mental health professional before talking with children. Parents will want to not only discover their own thoughts and feelings but will also be ready to express them with precise language that kids will understand.
Be ready to talk but be ready for your child not wanting to talk. Don’t force them to talk about it.
Remember that many kids already will know what is happening because schools will be talking about it, their friends will be talking about it, and they have access to social media. They are looking to their parents and teachers to reassure them. Your goal in talking to your child is making sure they are feeling safe.
Start the conversation
First, check your emotions before you talk to them. Remind yourself of the facts and how you will state them.
The conversation can start by asking the child what they already know and gently correcting any misinformation. You can ask things like: “What do you think about this?” “What questions do you have?” Gauge if they want to talk about it, knowing that they might not want to talk about it. Don’t force them to talk about it.
If your child does want to talk, listen to what a child has to say and be attentive to their concerns.
It may be easier for young children to have a tough conversation if they’re doing something they enjoy such as playing outside, taking a walk, or coloring, while they are talking.
Let your children know that there are many people who love and care for them.
Let them ask questions
Children may have questions about what happened in Texas. Experts say you should answer those factually, honestly, directly, clearly, and simply. The amount of information a child needs to know will vary based on their age and even between children of the same age. An example of what you could say is: “A kid walked into a school and shot students.”
Kids don’t need to know every detail of a tragedy, particularly if they don’t ask about it. Don’t go into graphic or gory details. Even with older kids, you don’t want to overshare.
Very young kids might not need you to say much of anything.
Make sure children know they can ask questions later.
Remind your children again that they are loved and that the adults in their lives are doing everything they can to keep them safe, every day. Depending on your child’s age and level of understanding, some specifics about safety measures, such as door monitors (here at Holy Family we call ours “the God Squad”) and police officers at school, door locks, catechist and teacher skill and expertise, and practice drills might help reassure some children.
Most importantly, remind your kids that you—as their mom and dad-- will keep them safe.
Remind them that, as a family and as a parish community, we stick together.
Remind them that if they see something strange/odd/unusual with one of their friends or classmates or are concerned about one of their classmates, they should tell an adult immediately. We have to work together to stay safe.
Be a role model
Parents can tell their children how they’re feeling using age-appropriate language and in age-appropriate ways. You can model that it’s OK to have certain feelings (sad, scared, angry, etc.).
You can focus on how you are feeling, that you’re upset and that you also don’t understand why this happened, but be careful about how you are reacting.
Stay calm when you talk; don’t become worked up and frantic. You want to be authentic and genuine, but you have to put up a wall and not show them the true depths of your own fear or anxiety.
Watch for long-term effects
Kids might react to the shooting at different times and in different ways, so parents should keep communicating and monitor their kids for long-term mental health effects. Some of those symptoms include changes in appetite, sleep, behavior, moodiness, or excessive worry. In young children, symptoms may manifest in persistent headaches or stomach aches. Early on, those symptoms aren’t likely a cause for concern, but if they’re having continual symptoms over a longer period of time, parents should seek professional mental health help.
Upcoming Family Events
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