Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Sunday, June 24, 2018

HARTFORD – When Patricia Keck was growing up, her family ate every dinner together. "It was every meal, every dinner, even through high school," said Ms. Keck, assistant director of the Archdiocese of Hartford’s Office of Religious Education.

Ms. Keck is also the coordinator of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University’s "Family Day – A Day to Eat Dinner with Your Children," which Archbishop Henry J. Mansell has proclaimed for Sept. 26.

"We used to sit at the table for hours," Ms. Keck said. "It was a lot of listening to my father talking about the job and what happened during the day." This, she said, helped the family keep the lines of communication open.

"We didn’t have the same number of activities," she said. "Even in high school, if you stayed after school, there was a late bus; you were still home by 5 o’clock." Even when her father had evening commitments and could not eat with the family, the rest of the family ate together – "but it was never in front of the TV."

It was a time when children helped prepare meals and helped clean up afterwards, she said. "Of course, there were no such things as cell phones," she said.

As Archbishop Mansell pointed out in his column in The Transcript in August, CASA has sponsored studies showing that "the more often children have dinner with their parents, the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use drugs, and that parental engagement fostered around the dinner table is one of the most potent tools to help parents raise healthy, drug-free children."

Archbishop Mansell has instructed a committee to create a packet of information to be sent to every parish, which pastors will share on Sept. 18, eight days before Family Day. Ms. Keck pointed out that Sept. 18 is Catechetical Sunday, and its theme this year is "Do This in Memory of Me."

Sept. 18 is also when some 2,000 young people are expected to gather at the Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield for the Catholic Youth Spectacular. Shawnee Baldwin, coordinator of that event, is planning a short skit to be presented on the Family Day theme. Archbishop Mansell will touch upon it in his homily at the event as well, exhorting teens to help their parents observe the occasion on Sept. 26.

Family Day committee member Deacon Arthur Miller, director of the Office for Black Catholic Ministries, said he grew up in a large family where dinners were always eaten together.

"In my household, my mom would always have an extra place setting in case somebody needed something to eat. We didn’t give them food; they ate with us. They wouldn’t come to the back door and ask for food [to take with them]. If they did, my mom would say, ‘Come on in.’ And many families did that back in the day."

Deacon Miller continued, "This is a step in healing a community, but it is a step that cannot be missed. It is a foundational step to community.

"You know, back in the day you never called anybody during dinner time. We just didn’t call anyone between 6 and 8," he said, adding, "We eat dinner together, period, and we turn off the stupid television. We eat dinner together. No cell phones. My children eat dinner together at their homes, and they don’t think that you don’t do that. It is a norm."

Information about how to participate in Family Day will be announced in parishes Sept. 18. For additional information, visit www.archdioceseofhartford.org and www.CASAFamilyDay.org.