Father David Mickiewicz, pastor at St. Mary’s Church in Oneonta, has developed a new faith-formation initiative titled “Bite-Size Catholic Living,” that is broken down in three sections: Lifestyle, Prayer (like a family saying grace before every meal) and Beliefs. (CNS photo)
Father David Mickiewicz, pastor at St. Mary’s Church in Oneonta, has developed a new faith-formation initiative titled “Bite-Size Catholic Living,” that is broken down in three sections: Lifestyle, Prayer (like a family saying grace before every meal) and Beliefs. (CNS photo)

Father David Mickiewicz, the pastor at St. Mary’s Church in Oneonta, has started a new faith-formation initiative, one that changes the way faith is often taught to others.

The newsletter, “Bite-Size Catholic Living,” delivers faith-filled activities families can perform on a daily basis without carving out additional time in their busy schedules. Instead of teaching children facts about Jesus, parents receive guidance on how to introduce instead small activities to be incorporated every day.

As a product of Catholic education from grade school to seminary, Father Mickiewicz said this idea has weighed heavily on his mind for a while. As the coronavirus pandemic endured, he saw an opportunity to restructure the way faith formation is taught.

“I think there are a lot of blessings hidden in the pandemic, if we are open to seeing them and discovering them,” Father Mickiewicz said. “And I think one of the great treasures and possibilities is a return to the domestic Church. Pope Paul VI spoke of the family of the domestic Church; there on Sunday morning is a gathering of domestic churches forming a larger entity, the parish.”

Rather than completing a checklist — faith formation, serving, confirmation, etc. — ­Father Mickiewicz said it’s crucial to have a relationship with Jesus. By setting an example as a parent with small gestures on a daily basis, such as blessing children with the sign of the cross and saying grace, the transition from an education model to a lifestyle becomes seamless.

Each newsletter is one-to-two pages and organized into three sections: Lifestyle, Prayer and Beliefs.

The first newsletter sent out — Feed the Hungry — included for its “Lifestyle” portion the activity of bringing children to the grocery store and being sure to draw attention to buying a few extra cans of soup or tuna to be dropped off at the food pantry during Sunday service. The “Prayer” section suggests blessing children with the sign of the cross once a day and saying grace before every meal. Lastly, the “Belief” section is filled with two parables: one was from the Gospel of Matthew (25: 31-46) in which Jesus outlines what the most important qualities and activities are for a Christian, followed by a reflection question which asks: “Who are the ‘least’ of Jesus’ sisters and brothers in your life?”

By completing Catholic rituals every day, a relationship with God can become ingrained, similar to knowing the ritual of celebrating a birthday, from the singing, to the blowing out of candles atop a sweet treat, Father Mickiewicz said.

“Have we thought about what that means? Why is it something sweet? Because life is sweet. Why is there a candle? This person has brought life into our lives. And you share it; that’s all Eucharist,” Father Mickiewicz said. “Well, how do you learn this on Sunday morning for a far more complex ritual? You come every Sunday and do it. No one needs to sit you down and go through it.”

Father Mickiewicz offers another comparison to Christians living out their faith every day when discussing his own use of the popular language app Duolingo.

Over quarantine, Father Mickiewicz has practiced learning both the French and German languages. Going on Day 132 and counting, every day he participates, even if it’s just for 10 minutes to keep his streak going. He says the same repetition can be done with prayer.

“Prayer with the family I think should be quite simple. A grace could be just going around and everyone saying one thing they are grateful for that day, as well as blessing the food,” Father Mickiewicz said.

Another activity for families to do involves taking pictures, oftentimes via cell phone, that embody Pope Francis’ “Care for Creation” message to be submitted to the church and displayed.

“It’s small, it’s daily and it’s taking what they’re already doing hopefully in daily life, but making them cognizant that this is what it means to follow Jesus. It’s about a lifestyle,” Father Mickiewicz said. “Is there a place for the educational part? Yes, there is, but I think secondary or tertiary or somewhere down the list.”

By completing small tasks daily, Father Mickiewicz said, families can foster a relationship over the course of a lifetime.

“When I was teaching many years ago about the power of liturgy I spoke about the Great White Cliffs of Dover, and I said, ‘Think about how many centuries of waves came crashing, day after day, week after week, year after year, millennial after millennial to create the Great White Cliffs of Dover,’ ” Father Mickiewicz said. “That’s what liturgy does. You go every week and you let the words and the texts and the images and the sounds and the rituals crash over you week after week after week your entire life. And hopefully by the time you’re my age, at 65, (you say), ‘Oh my God, I ­finally realized what this is all about.’ ”