New 'Beyond Sunday' podcast strives to offer 'real life' advice for families seeking to incorporate faith at home, hosts say
DETROIT — If charity starts at home, evangelization does, too.
Since 2017, when Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron released his pastoral letter, Unleash the Gospel, the Archdiocese of Detroit's Department of Evangelization and Missionary Discipleship has placed a special emphasis on strengthening the domestic church by offering assistance and encouragement to families in their role as an ecosystem of faith.
In 2020, the archdiocese released 52 Sundays, a tool to help families reclaim Sunday as a day set apart for God. The resource included a guidebook that offered tips for families to celebrate each Sunday of the liturgical year with the week's Gospel reaching, a family fun activity, prayers, recipes and an introduction to a new saint.
“We realized the place to start was Sunday at Mass, and families just needed a tool to help encourage as well as help them go deeper,” Tara Stenger, family ministry coordinator and engagement support, told Detroit Catholic. “So whether a family isn’t really engaged on Sundays and is just looking to do something, or whether they were super engaged and looking to do more, we wanted to create a resource that would meet them wherever they were.”
Over the past three years, interest in the tool has grown, including from families outside southeast Michigan, Stenger said. As a result, the archdiocese has decided to release 52 Sundays 2023 exclusively online — and free of cost.
In addition, a new podcast — called "Beyond Sunday" — will accompany this year's guide to help families make the most of the resource.
52 Sundays 2023, available in both English and Spanish, will still provide the same weekly activities for families, Stenger said. Families have always been able to use as much or as little of the content as they wanted, but now families can easily pick and choose which activities are a good fit at the click of a button.
Furthermore, if families preferred a physical copy, they are still given the option to print content to use together, Stenger said.
The "Beyond Sunday" podcast will be hosted by Nicole Joyce, associate director of family ministry for the Archdiocese of Detroit, and Rakhi McCormick, mission and outreach director for Guardian Angels Parish and school in Clawson. New episodes will be released on Tuesdays, looking ahead to the following Sunday.
Joyce and McCormick, both mothers, described themselves as real people “working in the field” — which is to say, their own families.
In each 20-minute unscripted episode, Joyce and McCormick acknowledge the challenges faced by real families and offer encouragement wherever each family is on their journey.
“We want it to be real; we don't want to focus on lofty goals,” McCormick said. “We want people to be able to feel like wherever they are, there is something for them and that God is already present and working in their family.”
The podcast will pull from the hosts' own experiences, McCormick said, and will include honest anecdotes of sometimes messy lives.
“There are some true confessions of the ways that we don't even live up to the ideal,” McCormick said. “We're really hoping that it's a breath of fresh air and just life-giving for families to realize that it's not unattainable for us to incorporate faith into our normal, daily family life."
Sometimes living liturgically can feel impossible, given the pressures of daily life, McCormick said. That's a perception the podcast aims to change.
“We want to change, not lower the bar. We want to change the understanding of what it means to incorporate faith into the family,” McCormick said. “It doesn't always have to be crafts, but if your family likes crafts, that's good, too. It doesn't always have to be extra — there are things you already do daily that very much are infusing the faith into your family.”
Moving 52 Sundays completely online will help make this more achievable and accessible for families, Joyce added.
“I really love the added features on the new website where parents can just download one piece of it; you don't have to have that whole book in front of you if it's overwhelming,” Joyce said. “If you just want the Gospel, or you just want the recipe or the prayer, you can download or print just that one piece of it and use that.
“We have a lot of parishes that use 52 Sundays as part of their faith formation for their families,” Joyce added. “It's (now) something they can save as a PDF and email out to families or put in the church bulletin. It'll be easier to reach a lot more people.”
McCormick admitted that, like many families, some weeks her family uses 52 Sundays, and other weeks it collects dust. But the intention is always there, and the resource remains available even if they skip a week or two.
“My kids love it, and when we do use it, they are the ones who drive it,” McCormick said. “It empowers them as children to take the lead in having us come together as a family and take that intentional time to pray with the Gospel, to consider the questions, to try the recipes or talk about the saint.”
Joyce and McCormick emphasized they aren’t experts, but parents striving like others to bring their families closer to Christ.
“If there's any wisdom (in the podcast), it's the Holy Spirit, not us,” McCormick said. “We want this to be a place where we struggle with the real issues that our families are facing, and we help them see where God is present and see how faith is imparted within the realities of our lives, which are messy and not perfect.
“With the podcast, we want to eliminate the feeling that you are sometimes doing wrong as a Catholic parent if you're not doing all these things with the bells and the whistles," McCormick added. "You are a Catholic parent, period. You are Catholic. You are a parent. You are a Catholic parent.”
Sign up to have the 52 Sundays 2023 guide delivered to your email inbox weekly at 52sundays.com.
Listen to the "Beyond Sunday" podcast on the Unleash the Gospel website or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or Fireside.