The Catholic Family Life Symposium is high-level gathering of theologians, social-scientists, and pastoral ministry professionals.

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July 18-21, 2019

McGrath Institute for Church Life on the campus of the University of Notre Dame
342 Geddes Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556


Despite 2000 years of Catholic tradition, surprisingly little work has been done to explore both the unique character and contributions of the Catholic family.

Thanks to the groundbreaking work of Pope St. John Paul, who did more than any other person in Church history to develop a coherent theology of marriage and family life, and subsequent writings by Pope Benedict, Pope Francis, other theologians, we can begin to understand the unique role Catholic families are called to play in building the Kingdom of God.  But many questions remain about the practical significance of these writings to the daily life of Catholic families.

The Catholic Family Life Symposium is a high-level, invitation-only gathering of about 30 professional theologians, social scientists, and pastoral ministry professionals, noted for their work and writings on family life. We will meet at the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame from Thursday July 18- Sunday July 21 to explore four key questions that cut to the heart of the unique role Catholic families play in building the Kingdom of God.

The Catholic Family Life Symposium will explore four critical questions about Catholic family life.

  1. How are Catholic families called to be dynamically different from other families?

    Recognizing the inherent diversity of Catholic households, are Catholic families, in general, called to live differently than families in the secular world or even families from other faith traditions?  If so, what are the essential, practical differences that should distinguish Catholic families from their neighbors? How can Catholic families in all walks of life best experience and witness to “the Catholic difference” in the way they live and relate--both to each other and the world?

  2. What does an authentic, domestic-church-based spirituality look like?

    Most of what Catholics think of as “Catholic spirituality” is drawn from our clerical and monastic traditions.  Because of this, many common Catholic spiritual practices do not fit naturally into the messy, busy, dynamics of family life.  How often do Catholic parents complain, “I used to have a great prayer life before I got married and had kids.” What does an authentic, “home-grown” approach to Catholic spirituality look like? One that not only fits, but makes use of, the unique characteristics of family life.  What spiritual practices are most able to help Catholic families encounter Christ as an active member of their households and experience the faith as the source of the warmth in their homes?

  3. How can Catholic families be more effective forges of intentional discipleship?

    More than ever, young adults are leaving the church.  Most of the Church’s evangelistic efforts are focused on reclaiming children who were raised in Catholic homes but have left the Church as adults.  What can be done to help Catholic households be the primary place where intentional discipleship is practiced and intentional disciples are formed?  How can Catholic families do a better job of raising up the next generation of faithful, engaged, dynamic Catholic men and women?

  4. How can Catholic families take up take up the call to be outposts of evangelization and positive social change?

    At best, the Church has viewed families as beneficiaries of pastoral services.  At worst, families are often viewed as obstacles to effective ministry and faith-formation efforts. But writings on Catholic family life post-Vatican II call the Church to see families as partners in ministry. There are many people the institutional Church will never be able to reach directly.  There are many social issues the institutional church simply cannot confront effectively on its own.  How can Catholic families take up the call to become dynamic outposts of evangelization and positive social change?


It’s our hope that, upon its conclusion, the Symposium for Catholic Family Life will be able to achieve the following goals.

  • Provide recommendations to Catholic publishers, Church leaders, pastors, family life ministers, and parents on “best practices” for forming faithful families who can serve as partners in ministry.

  • Produce scholarly writing (journal articles, books) and popular works (popular books, articles, and programs)  that will continue to explore the four questions addressed by the symposium.

  • Establish a Catholic Family Life Institute to continue the dialog about forming dynamic Catholic families and facilitate partnerships between different organization interested in supporting Catholic families in fulfilling their mission.


The Catholic Family Life Symposium is organized by the Pastoral Solutions Institute, and supported by the generosity of the OSV Institute, Holy Cross Family Ministries, and the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame.