‘Shot in the arm’ for Passionist Family Groups

Passionist Family Groups are a proven way to extend our small nuclear family circles and create a ‘family for all’, says National Coordinator Paul Traynor.

WelCom August 2023

Michael Fitzsimons

Passionist Family Groups are a proven way to extend our small nuclear family circles and create a ‘family for all’, says National Coordinator Paul Traynor.

‘We have a responsibility to build the community we are part of and create a sense of belonging. Sometimes we assume this can only really happen within our own families but our needs are far greater than that.

‘Passionist Family Groups “connect” families within a parish for support in their faith and family lives. It’s all about inviting others in, encouraging and supporting one another, trying to be like an extended family to one another.’

Passionist Family Groups began in New Zealand 35 years ago and rapidly spread across the country. Between 1988 and 1996 Passionist Family Groups were established in 100 parishes. Similar to church attendance, there has been some decline in numbers over the years, particularly with the impact of Covid on parish life. There are currently Passionist Family Groups in 62 parishes in New Zealand.

As National Coordinator, Paul’s job is a bit like St Paul going around encouraging the early Christian communities. He travels the country ‘connecting’ and ‘relaunching’ Family Groups in parishes, which may mean topping up existing groups or starting new ones. ‘We all need a shot in the arm from time to time,’ he says.

Typically, each group has around 24–40 people, including children. In making up groups, an effort is made to match children of similar ages and have a cross-section of adults so that the group represents an extended family.

What do Family Groups do when they get together? They are encouraged to gather once a month and do what families do – pot-luck meals, picnics, barbecues, games, perhaps a home Mass occasionally. 

Recently, Paul has done a relaunch for family groups citywide in Lower Hutt where over 30 families signed up and at St Mary of the Angels where more than 17 families signed up. Palmerston North have a relaunch set for 13 August city-wide. 

The best thing about the job is the people, says Paul.

‘Some people have been leading groups for 30 or 35 years. To do that over all those years is amazing. It’s been humbling. People have formed relationships and have got out of it exactly what was intended – the experience of being in an extended family. 

‘When we are invited to speak at homily time, we say to people it doesn’t matter what their background, what culture they are from, there’s a home here. The invitation has been given. It’s up to you to take up the invitation.’

For more information about the Passionist family Group Movement, contact Paul Traynor, ph 021 357933, email: paulus63@gmail.com 

Front (l-r): Charile Gribble, Mike Cotter, Maggi Gribble, Adriana vandePas, Sally van de Wetering, Debbie Cotter, Shelley Ward, Graham Ward, Martin van de Wetering. Back (l-r): Brian and Paul Traynor. All these people continue to contribute to the life and spirit of the Passionist Family Group Movement.