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Being able to talk with their mum about their faith is the
number one reason children and young adults remain
engaged with the Church, according to research shared
at the National Association of Catholic Families second
annual conference held in Sydney in April.
“Lucky there’s no pressure,” laughed Bec Smailes who,
together with husband Allan and their four children Dane,
6, Erin, 8, Cascia, 9 and Hannah, 11, were sponsored by
the Adelaide Archdiocese to attend the conference.
They agreed it was an invaluable experience in their
family’s faith journey and highlighted challenges and
opportunities to consider.
A presentation by the Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia, who
are based in Nashville but have established a Mission
House in Sydney, hit a chord with the young family from
Aberfoyle Park parish. The Sisters spoke of their work with
young people and research they had undertaken regarding
what kept children engaged with their faith.
“The top four answers were praying as a family, doing
ministry as a family, talking to their dad about their faith
and the number one response was talking to their mum
about their faith,” explained Allan.
“It really reinforced to us that the family unit is central to
their faith and since we have come back we are making
sure we are spending some one-on-one time with our
children, so they can talk about where they are at, life
issues and what they would like to see us doing more as a
“One thing they have already said is they want more prayer
time, because they love it when they get to take charge of
prayer time, so we try and have family prayer at least once
Bec said a feature of the conference was that it was
designed to cater for the whole family.
“One amazing thing we loved was that many of the
speakers who ran sessions for the adults then went and
ran sessions for the kids,” she said.
“Sometimes kids are a bit of an afterthought at events
like this, but they had a full stream that was broken into
different ages and the content they were given was really
meaty and really at their level. They loved it.”
The conference, which attracted 500 delegates including
children, also covered bioethics and the culture of life –
how this needs to be nurtured in the family and raising
children with the understanding of the “sanctity of human
life and the dignity of the human person”.
There were personal accounts from parents about how
they were helping their children to live their faith. For
example, one mother spoke about taking her daughter
with a group of friends on regular visits to the local
retirement home so they could share fellowship with
elderly members of the community.
Allan said he was astounded by the achievements of some
of the guest speakers, who stressed no matter how busy
their family life, making time for personal prayer was a
“I used to pray a lot when I was a single person because I
had a lot more time, but it’s really slipped and they said an
hour a day should be your baseline minimum.
“We don’t want to burn ourselves out and be stressed
trying to fit that in, but I was challenged and inspired by
that and have been setting my alarm and getting up earlier
to pray each day. I am finding it incredible and since I’ve
been praying in the morning, I’m working better at work
and am just more focused and it gives me a peaceful
confidence to start the day.”
Even though they lead an extremely busy life, the Smailes
are active members of the local parish. Six years ago they
established Care Factor, a youth group for 11-14 year
olds, which conducts four events each year. They also run
marriage preparation courses, Evenings for the Engaged,
while each school holidays Bec organises a Mums on the
Move event which enables mums and their children from
the local school to come into the Church environment and
connect with parish mums.
They understand that nurturing a Catholic family takes time
and commitment but they believe it is worth the effort.
“It’s a matter of families having priorities and being able to
say no to things. For us, Church has to be a priority,” said
“Sometimes Allan will say we are not giving the kids
enough different opportunities, but I say that we are giving
them a glimpse of what eternal life is; we’re giving them
something much more.”
By Lindy McNamara
STRONG UNIT: Allan and Bec Smailes with their children, from left, Dane, Hannah, Erin and Cascia at the
‘Christ the Healer’
A DIFFERENT WAY TO PRAY!
Contact email: general @ au-jacobswell.org
REGISTER via the “EVENTS” page at www.au-jacobswell.org
The healing order of
St. Peter’s Cathedral King William Road North Adelaide
Christ the Healer in the Cross & The Kingdom
Teaching the Cross & Kingdom Walking Pt.1&2
Free: Christ the Healer service of worship
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