Aspen conference to equip parents to pass faith to their children

Starting next year, children in the Denver Archdiocese will get confirmed in third grade to fill them with the needed graces to face the ever-increasing difficulties of living a Christian life. The change also restores parents to their rightful duty as primary faith educators of their children.

If you’re a parent, are you ready for that?

If not, Aspen Catholic, the outreach arm of St. Mary Church in Aspen, is offering a dynamic three-day conference, “Reaching Our Kids: Faith and the Modern Family,” to deepen your own faith and equip you with practical ways to instill faith in your children.

“We chose the theme to tie in with the archdiocese’s program to move confirmation to third grade,” explained Father John Hilton, pastor of St. Mary’s and founder of Aspen Catholic, an initiative to provide outstanding spiritual and leadership formation for parishioners and visitors.

“Moving confirmation to third grade is great and we’re excited about it but we’re convinced it will be successful only to the extent that we engage parents,” he said. “We’re bringing in two powerful speakers and they’re going to talk about how you can have a deep relationship with your child and help your child to have a deep relationship with Jesus Christ. It will offer practical tips.”

Set Sept. 30-Oct. 2 at St. Mary’s, 533 E. Main St., Aspen, keynote talks will be delivered by award-winning speaker and writer Jeremy Rivera and by discipleship formator John Leyendecker. Both men are husbands and fathers and have held leadership positions in the highly successful campus ministry, Fellowship of Catholic University Students.

Topics they’ll be addressing include: “Rules, Relationships and Rebellion,” “When Life Doesn’t Turn Out the Way You Expect” and “The Divine Purpose of a Family.”

Holy hours, confession and Mass will be available, as is a Kids Camp (which is free child care, 48 hours notice required).

“Aspen Catholic likes engaging people with the beauty of the outdoors,” Father Hilton said. “So, for those who’d like, we’ll do an outdoor hike and we’ll have fly fishing.”

All married, single and aspiring parents are invited.

“In the past, (the Church has) unintentionally given parents the idea they are not quite capable to teach their children (the faith),” Father Hilton said. “We’re saying, come to this weekend and what will follow is family faith formation: we’re going to equip you.”

Two dinners and two breakfasts are included in the conference cost of $75 non-parishioner individual and $149 non-parishioner couple. Cost does not include lodging. For more information and to register, visit


COMING UP: On Fathers and Christian Masculinity

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The Year of St. Joseph points us to Jesus’ adoptive father, Joseph, as the essential model for fathers. Joseph not only manifests genuine masculinity, he also images God’s own fatherhood, as Pope Francis makes clear in his apostolic letter, Patris Corde: “In his relationship to Jesus, Joseph was the earthly shadow of the heavenly Father: he watched over him and protected him, never leaving him to go his own way.” Jesus, though the Son of God, obeyed Joseph, learned from him, and worked with him, acknowledging Joseph as a true expression of God’s own fatherhood.  

God does not just use fatherhood as an image of himself, because he himself is Father, even within his own triune life. Earthly fatherhood comes forth from him and should manifest his life and love. St. Paul speaks of honoring the “Father, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph 3:15). God wants everyone to be able to see his own fatherly love and called certain men to share in his own paternal gift of bringing forth life and caring for others. Every father is called to be liked Joseph, “an earthly shadow of the heavenly Father” for his own family. 

Our culture, however, often denigrates masculinity, sometimes viewing even its proper expressions as toxic. We too often see maleness in its fallenness — dominating and selfish — rather than showing self-sacrificial service. In fact, later in Ephesians, Paul speaks of the true vocation of the husband and father: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). He also speaks of the role of fatherhood: “Do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). Paul shows us the goal of fatherhood — sacrificing himself for the flourishing of the family by putting the good of his wife and children before his own desires.   

No matter what the contrary voices of our culture say, we need strong men and fathers. God created man and woman in complementarity, and they need each other to thrive, helping the other in relation to their own strengths and weaknesses. Children need the strong presence of a father to discipline and teach, as Paul reminds us. Study after study has shown that fathers have the largest impact on the faith of their children. Christian Smith explains in his sociological study, Young Catholic America, that “the faith of Catholic fathers is powerfully determinative of the future faith of their children (125). The same can be said for general wellbeing and success. When fathers are absent or refuse to exercise their role, a moral and spiritual vacuum appears. A strong majority of felons, for instance, grew up without fathers in the home.  

St. Joseph helps us to understand the strength of Christian fatherhood. First, like any good husband, Joseph listened — not just to his wife but also to God. Woken up frequently by angels, he demonstrated obedience and trust, quickly leaving everything behind to follow God’s instructions and to protect his family. We also know Joseph for his work as a carpenter and builder, content to live simply and to work hard. Importantly, he also taught Jesus how to work, showing that fathers model and teach by drawing their children into their life and work. And we can also learn from Joseph’s humility, serving the Incarnate God and his Mother without even a single recorded word in the Gospels.  

This humility points us to the essence of Christian fatherhood. Although living with two perfect people, Joseph was still called to lead. He quietly and humbly did what was needed for his family and taught his own maker how to share in his work. Fathers do not lead in order to be in charge or to get their own way. They lead because God asks them to care for and protect their families. Fathers and mothers share in the great and beautiful partnership of family life, although fathers cannot simply sit back and let mom take the lead in the spiritual life, as they are often tempted to do. Like Joseph, fathers should act firmly and lovingly to put God and the family before self, obeying God and leading the family in the right direction. They are called to model faith, work, and sacrifice to their children. 

On Father’s Day we can affirm that masculinity and fatherhood are not just good — they are essential to understanding God and his plan for human flourishing. If our culture turns around, it will be because, in large part, Christian men stand up and fight. As Christians, we cannot give in to the culture’s attempt to denigrate masculinity and fatherhood or to pit men and women against each other. We can use this celebration to affirm the essential role that our fathers play, leading their families like St. Joseph.