Sorting by


Diocese of Reno

Chinese (Simplified)

☏ (775) 329 – 9274

📍290 S. Arlington Ave., Reno, NV 89501

Discipling Children: Followers of Jesus Christ

Author: Jennifer Marie Pelfini published in High Desert Catholic Magazine, Summer 2023

Every Parent Looks for Answers
Connectivity, distraction, social media, and so many other influences challenge the heartened efforts of parents and caregivers of children to ensure daily Catholic living and the message of Jesus Christ being foremost in bringing up children in today’s complex world. Let’s take a look at how two families are managing these challenges and some of the strategies they employ in everyday living in their homes to prompt con-versation and questions and to keep the family united together and the children Christ-minded. The facets of family Catholic life that follow provide a glimpse into ideas, inspiration, and the fair acknowledgment that every parent struggles to raise their children and are doing the very best to keep God in, around, and outside of their homes.


Matthew 18:2-4
He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.”


Courtney and David O’Mara were raised in strong Catholic families in Reno and are the parents of five children ranging from ages 1 to 13. David, the fourth of nine children, said, “We never missed Mass. I served as an altar boy, and we all went to Our Lady of the Snows Catholic School.” Courtney, the oldest of four, attended public schools, weekly Mass, and Catholic education classes. Both are alumni of Bishop Manogue Catholic High School. While David graduated from the University of Neva-da, Reno, Courtney graduated from Notre Dame, where she studied both philosophy and theology. Courtney and David both became lawyers, and after leaving Reno for a period, returned to be closer to their families. David claims that it was Courtney’s faith that brought their relationship from a strong friendship to what it is today. With their busy work schedules, it was hard to find time to see each other, however, David knew that the one constant in Courtney’s life was her attendance at weekly Mass. Sometimes it was just an hour together during Mass, and sometimes they were able to include coffee or other outings.Fast forward to today, both parents have vibrant law practices and keep the best balance they can in raising their five children. The family prays together, attends church together, and is involved in the Our Lady of the Snows community. They have instilled a culture in their home to talk about God, the Bible, and what they are learning. Courtney shared, “Kids ask a lot of questions, and that gives us a chance to teach our children what we believe and why our Catholic faith is so important to our lives. Our kids are curious, so we talk about anything they want to talk about. We have a good sense of humor in our home!”

On Mass

When it comes to attending Mass, Courtney and David believe it is their responsibility and an obligation to their children and the parish to celebrate the Eucharist every week. Families, especially those with young children, need to be supported and embraced for bringing their children to Mass without sitting in the kid’s room. Mass can be hectic at times as undoubtedly one or more children want to go home or play with their siblings or entertain other parishioners from under the pew instead of sitting still. David says, “We are fortunate to raise our kids in our childhood parish, where we receive confirmation and support from other parishioners. There is nothing more confirming to us as parents than to have another parishioner express gratitude that we bring our children to Mass or to tell us a story about how their children acted when they brought their children to Mass.” One of the child’s first engagements with the Catholic faith happens during Mass and other church events. While a parent might feel embarrassed or uncomfortable while their young children are learning how to act in Mass, the more you attend, the better their experience will be as they begin to feel connected to the community around them.

On Programs and Activities

Courtney and David are always on the lookout for spiritual opportunities that will provide their children with both education and fun. Courtney said, “We have a robust schedule of summer activities for our kids that are centered on God. For example, our oldest daughter enjoys going to a religious camp in Ohio with her cousins. When she returns home, our family continues to learn from her experience that she shares with us. All of the kids look forward to the Vacation Bible School Our Lady of the Snows puts on each summer, and our daughter has even volunteered to help.”

On Learning

The other children witness sibling experiences with the sacraments, and it inspires them to ask questions. Courtney shared, “Our one-year-old was not baptized until he was 11 months old. Our children kept prompting, when is our brother getting baptized? Each sacrament is celebrated as a family together.”

On Content

The content provided to a child needs to match their intellectual capabilities and comprehension of the Bible. Courtney said, “We do this by using tools that are at their level in that moment of time

For example, toddler Bibles, teen Bibles, transition to a Bible for adults. We keep a library of content for kids based on age and sacraments and celebrations, for example, a saint collection [and] Christmas and Easter season books.”

On Religious Education
It is helpful to ensure bringing the parents along in all religious education. This is happening in our diocese as we transition to a family catechesis model, which shifts to more involvement with the parents. David added, “Our children attend [Catholic Religious Education], so our involvement in the program is critical. We loved that when our son was preparing to receive first Communion, we were given a pamphlet that helped to refresh our knowledge on the sacrament. It gave us more opportunities to discuss the importance and meaning.”

Brian and Meagan are parents of five children ages 6 to 17. From a family of four siblings, Brian was raised in Omaha, Nebraska in a Christian home—his father, Catholic, and his mother, Methodist. His grandparents were a strong influence on his Catholic faith. His family attended public schools and attended Catholic Religious Education. Meagan was raised in a strong Catholic family of five siblings in Las Vegas and had a memorable influence from her grandparents as well. Her fam-ily cherishes a letter of faith written by her great-great-great grandmother when she lived in Germany unsure of her future. It’s a spiritual relic the family holds close. Meagan and Brian met at Catholic Creighton University’s dental school, where they shared an experience of a lifetime on a volunteer dental mission trip to provide dentistry to underserved people living in remote villages of the Dominican Republic. When they married after dental school, they spent time in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, while Meagan pursued further education, and they both established their careers. After the birth of their first child, they decided to return to Meagan’s home state of Nevada to be closer to family. Each of their children started with preschool at St. Albert the Great Child Development Center. “We cannot say enough about the great experiences each of our children have had there! It helps set the tone for their faith walk at a young age.” Their children attend St. Albert the Great Catholic preschool and elemen-tary school and Bishop Manogue Catholic High School. With a joint dental/orthodontic practice, Brian and Meagan are always balancing their careers with the busy calendars of the family. All of the children are involved in sports or extracurricular activities, and the family is active in the church and schools. Meagan shared, “Our day off on Friday begins with going to church and praying a rosary. Our busy day of errands and catching up starts with this gratitude.” Several families join them after they drop off their children at school. The family prioritizes Mass, eating dinner together daily, and ending their day with family prayer.

On Catholic School
Sending children to Catholic school helps them to encounter faith as normal. Said Meagan, “God is in our day, and we want them to know it is normal to talk about God. It is normal to consider the vulnerable in making decisions. It is normal to interact with priests, to go to church and to serve in the church. It is normal for them to know it is God that created education and He is the author.”

On Showing Faith

Talking about what we believe is something we can all share in public and not hide. Said Brian, “We guide our children to take up space with their faith. We pray publicly. We put faith artwork on our doors. We have a pro-life license plate. We do not shy away about speaking about our faith and our love and trust in God.” Their older children joined the Apologetics Club through Bishop Manogue Catholic High School. Said Meagan, “We want our children to understand and know how to defend their faith.”

On Content
It is important to expose children to topics that are happening in the world but in a way that is framed by our faith’s perspective. Meagan shared, “If there is spiritual value in the content, we talk about it. If there is moral risk, we address it and discuss it.” Listening to podcast content offered by Father Mike Schmitz captivates the children and sets the tone for Mass. Brian added, “We’ve decided no phones until the age of 15. They have to wait to drive because that is an appropriate age, why shouldn’t they have to wait for phones when it is more age appropriate?”

On Community and Resources
It’s a strength for parents to ask for help when it is needed. Relying on parishioners, priests and deacons, and our community only helps us all to grow. We do not have all the answers, and God does not expect us to. Meagan added, “We love that we can go to our priests, discuss topics with our schools, and rely on parents and friends that also have questions and want to know more. It encourages our children when they see us asking, because they know it’s nor-mal to not know everything!”

On Programs and Activities
There are many opportunities in parishes and across the diocese to become more involved in our faith. The spiritual retreats, programs, and activities offered by the Catholic church provide opportunities to grow and strengthen the faith. Brian said, “Our younger children have loved summer Vacation Bible School, hosted by St. Rose of Lima. We sent our daughter to Steubenville last summer, and she came back with such enthusiasm, it really deepened her faith. We are supportive of our son attending World Youth Day this year.”

Synergies We Can Learn From
There are strong themes among these parents that are helpful to consider:
  • Consistency in relaying a daily message and talking about God as a part of the day is important.
  • Having a sense of humor and being able to address difficult topics with grace and patience is key.
  • Providing children with options that include their faith in programs and activities reinforces what they are learning. It’s also a great way to support their faith in addition to church attendance.
  • Having a community of support in the family, parish, and beyond helps parents tackle the bigger challenges, answer questions, and provide stability.
  • “The family that prays together stays together” is never more true than in these and many families.
  • The presence of the parish during the sacraments helps reinforce the community that supports the children and the family.
  • The practice of gratitude in all families is helpful. It’s easy to integrate it in into any prayer. For example, naming three things you are grateful for that happened today sets the tone of, God is doing this for us.

Parents are never alone.

There are resources and people across the diocese that walk with them in love and support as they raise their children as Catholics. Prayer and God can help to center families on how they go through their days. No parent or family is perfect, and all can be relieved to know that we have much room for the grace of God.

Does your family have ideas to share on how you connect with your faith?
We’d love to hear them.Send your ideas to We will create a summary on all of the ideas we learn about across the diocese and share!