WHY WAS 52 SUNDAYS CREATED?
The Archdiocese of Detroit is in the midst of a missionary transformation under the leadership of its chief shepherd, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron, and guided by his pastoral letter, Unleash the Gospel. The family is at the heart of the archdiocese’s efforts to unleash the Gospel.
Unleash the Gospel calls families to display a strikingly counter-cultural way of living: grounded in prayer, sacraments, and Scripture. It calls families to embrace their role as the domestic Church and seek the spiritual and social renewal of its neighborhood, schools, and places of work. However, today’s families face unprecedented challenges and need support and accompaniment to attain this vision. For this reason, the local Church in Detroit has committed a major portion of her resources to support families in building the domestic Church and equipping them for mission. (Unleash the Gospel, Guidepost 7)
A clear starting point for this work is to help families reclaim Sunday as a day set apart for the Lord. To help all families reclaim the Lord’s Day and grow in the habits of discipleship, the Archdiocese of Detroit created 52 Sundays, a weekly resource that provides a structure for living Sunday in a distinctly Catholic way.
The 2024 edition of 52 Sundays is accessible to families in English or Spanish for free in a digital format. The option to print entries as PDFs is also available. Sign up here to receive the weekly prompts to access and download the content.
WHAT'S UNIQUE ABOUT THIS YEAR'S EDITION OF 52 SUNDAYS?
The 2024 edition of 52 Sundays introduces families to some of the martyrs of the Church via the “Meet Our Extended Family” section. The word “martyr” comes from the Greek word for witness. They are called witnesses because that’s exactly what they were doing through their deaths: witnessing to their love for God and their fidelity to him. The stories of these men and women are incredibly inspiring.
The weekly stories span every age of Christianity and touch on all corners of the world. Some of the stories are well-known and others are not, but each leaves a powerful legacy of faith and fortitude. These stories are recommended for upper elementary-aged children and older, as the act of martyrdom is included in each story. Parents are invited to preview these stories and adapt them to the developmental level of their children.
The history of our Catholic faith can be intense and frightening at times, but it is important not to shy away from these parts of the story, lest we get an inaccurate picture of the world. It is important to help disciples of every age to understand that bad things do happen in this world, but God has a plan that extends beyond all the bad -- a plan to restore his Kingdom to the way it was intended to be in the beginning, with no more sadness and no more tears. The thousands of men and women who approached their death filled with the joy and love of God in the power of the Holy Spirit, tell us something huge about life with God. It tells us that his promises are real, and in the end, even death cannot separate us from his love.
Today, many people have rejected faith in God because it is, in their opinion, too restrictive, too hard to understand, or too boring. The lives of the saints attest to the fact that the Christian life is certainly not boring, especially those who are featured in this year’s edition of 52 Sundays. Their lives were filled with adventure, drama, and heroism. We live in a culture that is often hostile to Christian principles and ideals. As disciples of Christ, we are called to stand up for our faith and live in imitation of our Savior. While it is unlikely that any of us will be called to give our lives for the faith, every disciple is called to a daily dying to self and witness to the Gospel. It is our hope that the stories of the martyrs will inspire virtue and a more fervent desire to put ourselves under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and live as his witnesses in the world.
WHAT DOES 52 SUNDAYS INCLUDE?
52 Sundays contains unique content for each Sunday of the calendar year. Families can determine how much of the content to use based on their family’s interests and needs. Below is a description of each section of the content.
EXPLORE THE SUNDAY GOSPEL
52 Sundays contains the Sunday Gospel for each Sunday in 2024 as well as the biblical citations for all the readings of the day. Here are some ways that you can explore the Sunday Gospel:
- Read the upcoming Sunday Gospel a few days before the weekend for reflection. Listen to what God is saying to you personally and consider how the Gospel story relates to your life.
- Select a part of the story ahead of time and share it with your children before Mass. Have the children listen for this part when the Gospel is proclaimed.
- Discuss the Gospel as a family after Mass and compare your insights.
- Read the Gospel as a bedtime story to your children, using a children’s Bible if necessary, helping to make a connection with God, the people in the story and your child’s life. Help your children encounter God through the stories.
- Consider reading and discussing the First and Second Readings or the Psalm. Discover how they relate to one another and how they relate to the Sunday Gospel.
MEET OUR EXTENDED FAMILY
The saints are members of the Church who are with Christ in heaven praying for those in the Church who are still on their pilgrimage of faith on earth. Saints help us see how our ordinary lives can be lived out in extraordinary ways. 52 Sundays makes it easy to get to know our extended spiritual family by featuring one saint each week. Introducing this saint to your family can be done in several ways:
- Talk about the saint throughout the week.
- Take time to get to know the saint of the week by reading their story at bedtime. Consider getting a book of Catholic saints for children and reading more about the saint of the week.
- Read, watch movies, or listen to stories about the saint of the week or other saints that inspire you. Take time to understand their life and journey of faith.
- Preview the saint stories and adapt them to the developmental level of your children.
TAKE TIME TO CHAT
52 Sundays provides discussion questions on the Gospel passage and the featured saint to foster discussion within your family. Discuss these questions at a time that works best for you (i.e., in the car, during a meal, at bedtime). These questions may stimulate curiosity and lead to more questions. That is a good thing! Parents often feel anxious when children ask questions that they can't answer. However, not having all the answers is an opportunity to listen better, allowing the child to explore and ask more questions. Children's curiosity is possibly the greatest player in their drive to learn. Here are a few pointers that might help navigate faith conversations:
- Be docile to the Holy Spirit; the Spirit will prompt you with the right thing to say!
- If you don’t know something, be honest. Tell your child that you will research the answer. Remember that questions do not lead to disbelief. Rather, questions lead to deeper belief.
- Avoid responding with trite answers such as “because that’s what the Church teaches” or “because it’s true.” Take the time to research and formulate a good response to your child’s question.
- Don’t answer a question they don’t have. Be mindful not to respond with too much information. Wait for a prompt to offer more details.
- Ask them questions. That will help you discover what they really want to know.
Family fun is an integral part of building a strong family identity. When families have fun together with Christ at the center, it creates a holy bond that can last a lifetime. Therefore, a family activity is included each week to help you carve out some intentional time to have family fun! Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Plan activities ahead of time, especially if it is an excursion. Check hours of operation, ticket prices, etc.
- Collect supplies needed for craft projects or games ahead of time.
- Consider doing activities with other families from your parish or neighborhood.
- Do the activity listed on the website or brainstorm other alternatives as a family.
- Always keep Jesus at the center of all family activities. Take time to pray together and give thanks.
RECIPE OF THE WEEK
There are so many benefits to sharing a meal. When families eat together, children get the message that family is important and that they are important to the family. Make Sunday meals a sacred time as your family reclaims the Lord’s Day. Mealtime also provides the perfect opportunity to observe different seasons and feasts of the Catholic Church in our homes, and 52 Sundays provides some new and exciting recipes to help you do just that. Some of the recipes have a connection to the Gospel, featured saint, holiday, or season. Others are included because they are super easy or fun to make. Either way, the recipes will add some variety to your meal rotation and provide an opportunity for the whole family to pitch in and help. Here are some things you may want to consider:
- Plan ahead! Be sure to have all your ingredients ahead of time.
- Involve the whole family. Subdivide tasks so that everyone can take part in preparing the meal.
- Create a festive atmosphere by playing music during meal preparation.
- Make Sunday dinner special by setting a lovely table. Flowers and cloth napkins can dress up the table.
- Pray before your meal using the family prayer provided or your own prayer.
- Make clean-up a family affair! Many hands make light work.
Prayer has the power to shift the spiritual atmosphere in your home dramatically. It’s also one of the best ways to help your family thrive. When you pray together, each family member learns what it means to be intimate with God. When you see answers to prayer, you experience God’s love and presence in your daily lives. Home life can sometimes be filled with chaos, tension, and stress. Praying helps to restore peace and change perspectives.
Families that pray together stay together. 52 Sundays provides a Family Prayer each week. These prayers will help your family learn new ways to pray. Families are encouraged to set aside time each Sunday for family prayer. It may be helpful to create a dedicated prayer space or to light a candle to create an atmosphere of reverence. Choose a time that works best for your family, such as before Mass, a shared meal, or bedtime.
Each week’s liturgy link is a way for kids (and adults) to engage better at Mass and become more aware of the church environment. Consider asking the liturgy link questions immediately before or after Mass. If you can’t easily find the answer, don’t hesitate to ask your priest or a parish staff member.
Each week, families are challenged to put the Gospel into action by extending radical hospitality, reflecting on Scripture, performing works of mercy, practicing virtues, or doing random acts of kindness.
Fun Facts include some fun Catholic and secular trivia for the given day or week.
Share how your family celebrated Sunday! #52Sundays
Engage with 52 Sundays online. Families are invited to share their Sunday experiences through #52Sundays. Use the hashtag on all our social media channels: @UTGdetroit
52 SUNDAYS HELPS TO BUILD THE DOMESTIC CHURCH. WHAT IS THE DOMESTIC CHURCH?
At different moments in the Church's history, the family has been called the "domestic Church," a term that describes the character and mission of the Christian Family. The domestic Church does on a small scale what the Church universal does on a large scale; it makes disciples.
No human community is better equipped to do this than the family. Parents are the first to exhibit behaviors in their home that reflect Gospel values by how they love and forgive one another, stand up for what is true and good, care for aging family members and the natural world around them, and model social teaching. As opposed to parish programs that are geared more toward large groups of people, families naturally focus on the needs of each member. Families also have natural accountability structures because of how well family members know each other and how much time they spend together. In their divinely appointed role as spiritual guides, parents have a level of intimacy and trust with their children, unlike that of a parish volunteer. The family is the perfect "small group" where faith is lived out in real and tangible ways.
Parents can build the domestic Church by weaving a Catholic world around their children and creating a culture in the home that reinforces the baptismal identity of its members. Parents control the religious content, activities, and experiences in the home, and they decide how the family spends its time. Parents help children see that faith is a lens through which one engages the world. 52 Sundays helps parents build the domestic Church by providing weekly religious content, activities, and home experiences anchored to the Sunday Gospel. These activities help cultivate habits of discipleship that extend beyond Sunday and into the rest of the week. The following are some tips on how to use the content.
HOW DO I USE THIS IN A FAMILY SMALL GROUP SETTING?
52 Sundays can easily be used in a small group setting. Here are some basic instructions to help you get started:
- Pray about who to invite into your family small group. Invite 2 - 4 families who have an interest in sharing faith and growing in a life of discipleship.
- Select a meeting place. The group may choose to meet at the same home or rotate to a different home each week. When selecting a location, consider available space for both adults and children, pet allergies, and driving distance.
- Choose a start date and a schedule that works for all participants. Families may choose to meet weekly, once per month, or twice per month.
- For each week, preview content and gather supplies ahead of time as needed.
- For each week, select a prayer leader and discussion leader ahead of time. Leaders are encouraged to preview the material and prepare as appropriate.
SAMPLE SESSION OUTLINE (90 MINUTES)
1. Gather, Socialize, Share a Meal or Snack (20 minutes without a meal)
- Consider using the Recipe of the Week for the meal or snack.
- Add at least 30 minutes if sharing a meal.
2. Opening Prayer (5 minutes)
- Gather adults and children together.
- Choose a prayer leader (adult or child) for the opening and closing prayers. Select a different prayer leader for each meeting.
- Prayer leader leads a brief prayer in his or her own words.
3. Discussion and Activities (60 minutes)
SUNDAY GOSPEL AND TAKE TIME TO CHAT
- The discussion leader reads the Sunday Gospel out loud.
- After the Gospel is read, the discussion leader moderates the first three questions under the Take Time to Chat section. The discussion leader may ask all adults and children to answer each question or divide the questions between adults and children. The leader is encouraged to ask open-ended follow-up questions to facilitate more conversation. See Tips for Discussion Leaders also.
MEET OUR EXTENDED FAMILY
- After reflecting on the Sunday Gospel, the discussion leader shares the saint story. Depending on the age of the children, the discussion leader may read the story as written or summarize the story in an age-appropriate way. The discussion leader is encouraged to extend the saint story by sharing any personal insights or research that he or she may have done ahead of time.
- The discussion leader reads the last discussion question and invites the adults and children to share their answers.
LITURGY LINK, FAMILY FUN, AND FAMILY CHALLENGE
- Families are invited to share what they discovered through the Liturgy Link.
- Families are also invited to share how they will tackle this week’s Family Challenge.
- Families are invited to do the Family Fun activity together. If the activity is an outdoor activity, families may do the closing prayer before proceeding outdoors.
4. Closing Prayer with Intentions (5 minutes)
- Families can pray the Family Prayer together as a closing prayer. Alternatively, the prayer leader may lead the group in a brief closing prayer in his or her own words including a time for the participants to share prayer intentions.
- Confirm the date of the next meeting and select a prayer leader and a discussion leader for the next session.
TIPS FOR FAMILIES WHO ARE HOSTING FAMILY SMALL GROUPS
- Set up your home to be welcoming, organized, comfortable, and clean, including all spaces visitors may use (living room, kitchen, bathrooms, etc.).
- Make sure your participants know where the bathrooms are located.
- Have snacks and water or other drinks available. Consider having group members rotate providing snacks.
- Consider sharing a meal together each time you meet, having members contribute to each meal or rotate meal preparation responsibilities.
- Be mindful of allergies (food, pets, etc.) and other health concerns.
- Consider hiring a babysitter for children who are too young to participate in conversation and providing age-appropriate faith-based activities for them.
TIPS FOR DISCUSSION LEADERS
- Review and pray with discussion material in advance.
- You are not a teacher, but a facilitator of discussion.
- Listen carefully; do not interrupt.
- Give positive and genuine affirmation for everyone’s contributions.
- Avoid unhelpful tangents.
- Encourage participation from everyone.
- Ask additional open-ended questions. For example,
- Launching Questions – What came to mind when you heard the Gospel story? What stands out to you?
- Observation Questions – What effect did the story have on the people who were there? What does this passage reveal to you?
- Understanding Questions – Why is this passage important? Do you understand what it means?
- Application Questions – How does this story apply to you? What will you do now?
- Do not dominate the conversation.
- Prevent others from dominating.
- Re-phrase comments for clarity. For example, “What I hear you saying is . . .”
- Allow for periods of silence as a normal part of small group discussion.
- Maintain healthy boundaries in group sharing.
- Pace the conversation and keep it pleasing to the Holy Spirit (avoid gossip, excessive complaining, etc.).
- Start and end on time.
EXPECTATIONS FOR SMALL GROUP MEMBERS
- Members are encouraged to make the small group a priority in their schedule and to be on time for meetings.
- All members have a responsibility to set a tone and group culture that is respectful, humble, open, honest, non-judgmental, and loving.
- Members are encouraged to share while maintaining a balance of participating without dominating.
- Members listen respectfully and do not interrupt one another.
- All members agree to keep confidential anything personal shared in the group, unless there is a risk of someone harming themselves or someone else.
- Members are encouraged to pray for one another in between meetings.