National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Precious Moments Saved

Documenting Your Family's Faith-Filled Memories and Catholic Identity

BY Laurie Ghigliotti

September 11-24, 2011 Issue | Posted 9/2/11 at 6:21 PM


Families are finding new ways to document their family history and, in the process, preserve an archive of their unique Catholic family identity.

The use of new media and other advances in technology allow families to capture memories of holy moments and everyday fun times to record the life of their domestic church, while impressing memories into the hearts and minds of their children and future generations.

Brendan Hodge and his wife Cat, parents of five young children, make sure to take pictures of important spiritual events. “We’re pretty good about documenting baptisms, birthdays and first Communions,” Hodge said.

The Hodges, members of St. Mary Catholic Church in Delaware, Ohio, instill church-based memories in their children. “We try to play a lot of good Advent and Christmas music during the appropriate season and listen to traditional Church music during the year to ground the family in those audible memories,” Hodge said.

The Mendoza family of Monterey, Calif., keeps a family blog.

“The blog is just an extension of who we are,” Juan Mendoza said. “We are a Catholic family, and hopefully that comes out.”

The Mendozas’ blog is a compilation of a wide variety of events and topics: “Anything from model airplane shows to our Pentecost Sunday at a traditional Latin Mass.”

Mendoza hopes that visitors to the family blog will come away with a laugh or two and an appreciation for the beauty of God’s creation from the photos his family has taken of places like the Grand Canyon and Yosemite, as well as an appreciation of the faith.

“Maybe someone will be encouraged to see the beauty of the traditional Latin Mass or the Divine Liturgy in the different rites of the Catholic Church, both Roman and Eastern,” Mendoza said.

The Mendozas also post their pro-life activities, such as the Walk for Life and their Christmas and Advent customs.

Mendoza believes photography can be a means to convey the faith. “When I photograph, I am careful not to disturb the faithful, but stay mindful of the subject so that I can capture the essence of the sacrament,” Mendoza said. “It is never a decision at the top of my mind, but by photography, I do hope to convey to our friends that we miss them, but also that we are living our Catholic faith and enjoying this world that God has given us.”

Suzy Roeder, a mother of nine, from St. Benedict parish in Atchison, Kan., also blogs. “I purposely did not want an overtly Catholic or evangelizing blog,” Roeder said. “Many of my friends are not Catholic. I feel my place is to draw them to God lovingly, and hopefully by example and honest sharing. Sharing a baptism or first Communion, Easter or Christmas works right into the blog.”

“Of course, family wants to see photos and hear about what is happening. But non-Christian friends read the blog, and they see our Christian way of living and learn about God and Christ and the workings of the Holy Spirit — just an honest representation and the beliefs of one family.”

Photos play an important part in sharing the faith with others, said Roeder. “They reinforce what we believe and are an example of how important the living out of our faith is. I still try to get photos into frames, photo albums and scrapbooks, but posting on Facebook gets more photos out much faster. I post fewer on the blog, but with more commentary.”

The Howe family has been working
on piecing their family history together
in Ohio.

Countless hours of research has resulted in a family history that goes back to 1635, according to Don Howe.

“I can’t begin to tell you how much joy there is in finding some document, photo or story that joins together a family memory or some part of our history,” Howe said. “Even the most insignificant detail can shed light on a memory or story.”

Howe uses the Internet, photos and DVDs to share family history with other members of the family. He also made a book, which outlines the family tree and includes stories and maps.

A member of St. Paul parish in Akron, Ohio, Howe has also saved a recording
of the choir of the now-closed St. Mary’s parish singing at midnight Mass in 1985.
“I had been a member of the choir for over 30 years, so my Christmas solo for that year is also preserved,” Howe said.

Howe hopes that his work will have
lasting value to younger generations.
“I would like to think that my nieces and nephews will recall the family gatherings at Christmastime, especially at Grandma Howe’s house, my parents’ home where
I grew up,” Howe said. “I hope one of
them gets the ‘gene’ to carry on the family history and continue to document family events. Maybe they will look back at some of the DVDs and remember what a close-knit family we were and maybe, just maybe, they will see the love that we all shared and want that for their family.”

But documenting precious moments requires balance.

“Don’t let documenting those moments get in the way of being present,” said Alzbeta Volk from Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Northglenn, Colo., a photographer and new mom with advice
to offer. “If you take a lot of
pictures, make sure you hand
the camera off every once in
a while and be the one in
the photos.”

In the case of documenting sacramental moments, Volk recommends not always taking a do-it-yourself approach. “You don’t want to miss that moment because you were trying to take a picture in a dim church from several rows back,” she said.

For her own daughter’s baptism, Volk was not behind the camera. “Because I wanted to be very present in what was happening for my daughter and our family, I made sure another family member had my camera so that we could look back on that
day,” she said.

Back in Kansas, Megan Bickford, a professional photographer and mother of two from Atchison, believes that family life is a faith event in itself.

“It’s important to capture these moments because still-life photography captures a moment like no other medium can,” Bickford said. “You actually get the essence of whatever that emotion is, especially with children, and especially with something in the sacramental life.”

“A sacrament is an outward sign of an inward grace,” Bickford said. “With photography, you can capture the grace evident on
their faces at the moment when something true and beautiful
is happening.”

“Even something in everyday life becomes a beautiful treasure that you can have — these small moments of wonder in your child’s life.”

Bickford also makes DVDs
set to music to share with family.

“Take lots of pictures,” Bickford advised. “You can document what’s happening in the life
of your family like a storybook so it tells the unique story of the family.”

Laurie Ghigliotti writes from Atchison, Kansas.