Have you ever said a rosary around a campfire, with beads in one hand and s’mores in the other? Or had family devotions while wearing your fuzzy bunny slippers?
A new social media group in the Philadelphia area is helping Catholic families do that and much more.
Formed this past July, the Catholic Family Fun Club (CFFC) “provides a platform for Catholic families to attend – and create – local catechetical and social activities together,” said the group’s founder, Mary Beth Yount.
The CFFC, which uses a crowd-sourced calendar to promote its events, already has 935 registered members from 166 families throughout the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
An assistant professor of theology at Neumann University, Yount is passionate about Catholic families and communities.
“While I was still going to graduate school in Pittsburgh, and while I was pregnant with our fourth child, my husband was diagnosed with a terminal illness,” she said. “Suddenly he was very sick and unable to work, and since my family was in Texas, it was a very challenging time.”
Yount’s parish rallied around the struggling family. “They rose to the occasion, checking in on James when he was unable to leave the bed, dropping off casseroles when the fourth baby was born, and just generally providing emotional, spiritual and liturgical support all along the way,” Yount said. “It was an amazing gift during a very hard time, and through all of that my ideas of what Catholic community can mean were solidified.”
Her husband recovered, and three years ago, the family moved to Philadelphia. Having been appointed director of Content and Programming for the 2015 World Meeting of Families, Yount found an ideal opportunity to share her enthusiasm for Catholic family and community life.
“Suddenly I began hearing about all kinds of different groups, regular events, serious issues, and all kinds of fun things,” she said. “I realized that other families and individuals would probably love to hear about all of these other ways to be involved and connect with other Catholics too. And so the Catholic Family Fun Club was born.”
Although Yount is its founder and coordinator, the CFFC is a collaborative effort.
“It was founded by families, for families,” Yount said. “Our members themselves create the group as we pray together, support each other, and teach and learn together on this complicated journey toward holiness.”
The CFFC uses free social networking tools like Meetup.com “to let families know what is happening beyond just what they see in their parish bulletins,” Yount said. “Our online portal has wonderful tools such as the crowd-sourced calendar, the discussion board, and dedicated members to create our own events, such as book clubs.”
As a result, the CFFC can quickly and effectively reach busy families across the archdiocese.
“The involvement of younger families in the church is declining because people are stretched thin with sports and school events,” Yount said. “The CFFC, with its range of activities, helps them reclaim what’s important to them, allowing them to balance their spiritual, intellectual and physical needs.”
But what about those who – without the demands of raising a family – may find themselves lonely, with time on their hands?
“Join in some community events with us!” Yount urged, noting that the CFFC’s members include singles, couples, grandparents, youths and infants. “In the next two weeks alone, we have theology classes, faith-filled workouts at a gym, youth lock-ins, a Christmas bazaar and craft show, a children’s choir concert, a novena from our homes, a Latin Mass, a doughnut social, service time feeding the homeless, and parish missions.”
The CFFC’s offerings continue to expand as members create new events. For 2017, Yount is developing a family retreat, along with fun catechetical content that follows the liturgical calendar.
“I love having catechetical event ideas that my family can do in our pajamas cuddled up on the couch!” she said.
While it entertains and instructs, the CFFC ultimately draws members into deeper communion with one another. “Our members pray and care for each other, creating what we need together, sharing our hopes and struggles and responding to each other,” Yount said. “We are a community of love.”
In recognition of her commitment to Catholic family life, Yount recently received the Benemerenti Medal, an honor from Pope Francis conferred for exceptional service to the Catholic Church.
Although deeply grateful, she’s quick to point out that “this kind of love, support and company on the journey should not be the exception: it is part of what we as Catholics are called to do. Building caring communities and strong relationships should be a regular part of a parish and diocesan families, and we can all do this better. That is what this group helps to accomplish.”