Published on October 10, 2017
In October, we celebrate Respect Life Month and recognize the dignity of life from conception to natural death. In order to create a culture of dignity and respect for every human life, we must also create a culture of peace, understanding and forgiveness.
Catholic Charities’ Isaiah 43 Parenting and Mentoring program seeks to do just that. The program’s mission is to strengthen and support families to bring about change in the culture of our society. By building attitudes of respect, understanding and cooperation, Isaiah 43 is also building an inherent respect for all forms of life in families, churches and communities throughout the area.
The mentoring component connects youth and young adults ages 10-18 with a role model who addresses their emotional and spiritual needs. The mentors and their mentees work together toward a culture of respect for human life by respecting themselves and treating others with dignity.
The parenting component offers parents a supportive environment to share and learn from each other, building a network of support. Each parenting workshop is based on building respect and cooperation among family members. Topics explored during the sessions include the purpose of parenting, active communication, parenting styles, non-violent discipline, cultivating a spirit of forgiveness and more.
A small group of parents at St. Rita School in New Orleans have seen the positive effects of this program first hand. For the past three years, Isaiah 43 has been working with school administrators and teachers to hold parenting workshops there.
The school’s philosophy is to build up the whole child by educating them as well as offering opportunities to grow emotionally, socially and in their faith. Working hand in hand, Isaiah 43’s parenting workshops help parents grow in the same way. This allows families to work together, build each other up and treat each other with dignity and respect, which promotes respect and life first and foremost in the home.
Last school year, Acquanetta P. Spears, a staff member at St. Rita, stumbled upon an Isaiah 43 parenting session and asked about the program. Interested in their mission, she came to another meeting.
Now, she attends every meeting and has become the program’s biggest advocate on St. Rita’s campus. She’s learned better ways to communicate with the children, specifically to help them hear rejection without feeling rejection. The program, she says, makes families stronger by helping both the parents and the children individually.
“If I had known what this program was all about and what they could do, I’d have invited people sooner to be involved and engaged. As a parent or an adult, it’s a place where you can go when you don’t know where to go for help,” she says.
Valincia Joseph echoes Ms. Spears’ praises. Ms. Joseph is a 62-year-old single grandmother raising her granddaughter, a seventh grader at St. Rita, by herself. She also works and attends classes at Delgado to receive a degree in retail management.
“I have a lot going on, and I needed a new outlook,” she says of herself before attending Isaiah 43’s parenting workshops. “I needed to learn more about who I was so I could be a better parent – a more active parent.”
Ms. Joseph has been part of Isaiah 43 at St. Rita for three years now, and she firmly believes the program is God at work in her life. The biggest lesson she’s learned is how to be an open, active parent. Instead of scolding her granddaughter, she speaks softly, but firmly. This leads to open discussions and deeper understanding.
“She’s a teenager now so she tries me every day,” Ms. Joseph says of her granddaughter, laughing. “But I don’t turn my back on her. We’re doing this together.”
Another lesson from Isaiah 43 that she believes is vital to her success is to simply listen. “The more I listen, the more I learn and it makes me a better person, a better parent,” she says. “I still have a lot of listening to do – to my granddaughter, to these sessions, to God.”
As this 6-week parenting series comes to a close at St. Rita, Kristina Gibson, the program’s Director, hopes the parents will take what they’ve learned to heart and bring the values of understanding, forgiveness, respect and open communication into their home lives.
In this way, we can start to build a culture of peace and a respect for life one family at a time.