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What is Early Catholic Family Life?

Developed by Joanne and Alan Foley with the help of the Office of Marriage, Family and Life of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, EARLY CATHOLIC FAMILY LIFE (ECFL) is an exciting parent and child program that emphasizes the importance of putting faith at the center of family life. It is an excellent way to bring parents with young children into the life of the parish and to assist them to develop the spirituality their children were given at baptism.

  • ECFL is a parent-child program aimed at an underserved but essential part of all parishes – parents with children 0-5 years old.

  • ECFL is an eight session 2-hour class. Classes can be offered weekly, monthly, on week days, weekends or during evening hours. Each class includes early childhood, faith-based and fun activities for families.

  • ECFL consists of a Parent-Child interaction component, a Circle Time, a Children's Time and a Parent Discussion time.

  • ECFL gives parents an opportunity to learn more about their Catholic faith, discuss faith with other adults, and build supportive relationships within the parish.

What does each session of the ECFL Program look like?

“This Class was a great experience. It really helped us open up and talk about how we are going to live out our faith with the kids.”


During the first hour of each session, Parents and Children interact in Faith-based activities. This play-together time ends with a teacher-lead circle. During the second hour of the session the children and the parents separate. The parents take part in the Parent Discussion Time while their children continue on in the early childhood classroom with a trained adult volunteer leader and assistants in The Child Play Together Time.

How do I start a program? 

The Early Catholic Family Life program is designed to be simple and straightforward for parishes to implement. 


Facilities - It's easily offered in parishes using existing spaces, such as a Parish Council meeting room for parents' discussion and a children's room, usually a parish's preschool or Sunday childcare program space. Other parish spaces can also be used to offer the program.


Training - Training is an essential element of successful implementation and is required for at least 2 leaders: a parent discussion leader and an early childhood leader. Training is strongly recommended for a third person from the parish or school. This third trainee will be responsible for coordination, oversight, and sustaining ECFL from year to year.


Training is hands-on and fully prepares trainees for implementation. It also covers recruitment and promotion and provides the tools needed, such as flyers, posters, video (Facebook) clips, and more.


Training for Early Catholic Family Life is regularly offered and can be easily scheduled by the program's creators, Joanne and Alan Foley. (See below for newly offered on-line training for ECFL)


Curriculum - The Early Catholic Family Life program manuals are detailed, comprehensive easy to follow.  


ECFL curriculum manuals include:

  • A Parent Leader's Guide

  • A Parent Workbook

  • An Early Childhood Leader's Guide and

  • A Training Manual


Early Childhood Classroom Materials and Props - The early childhood classroom space, like most preschool programs, is set up in various learning stations. These stations, some of which are specific to our rich Catholic faith - like vestments and chalice to play Mass, change from lesson to lesson. After training, the materials and props needed for the lessons are assembled by the program leaders. Instructions received in training include hands-on practice with the props and materials and how to gather them. Photos of these materials and a list for each lesson, are provided.

Training is an essential element of successful implementation.


ECFL has been implemented in more than 130 parishes and schools in the Twin Cities area. Parishes and Diocese' from these additional locations have also been trained in the program: New Ulm, St. Cloud and Winona Diocese' of Minnesota; Georgia, Kansas, Colorado, Wisconsin, and the Archdiocese of Toronto. 


​The primary source of the curriculum for the Early Catholic Family Life program is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. ECFL has earned the Imprimatur and the Nihil Obstat designations.

ECFL now features a second set of seven Parent Ed lessons, so that parishes and schools that have already implemented the program can offer a second round of ECFL classes for their parents. The original children's lessons 1-8 are re-used with the new Parent Ed sessions. Contact us via email or call us at 612-925-1203 for more information.


Early Catholic Family Life has received its designation as a non-profit in the state of Minnesota and its status as a 501c3 organization is now pending with the federal government.


We are very excited about these three new features of the Early Catholic Family Life program:


1. ECFL in Spanish - the ECFL program has now been translated into Spanish, and we are excited to partner with a Diocese or parish that has a significant young Spanish speaking component, to pilot the new offering. Please contact us to discuss!


2. ECFL for Grandparents - we have recently successfully piloted a new ECFL curriculum that is aimed at grandparents and their grandchildren. Its focus is to help grandparents to bring the Catholic faith to the next generation.


3. On-line training for ECFL - Beginning in June of 2020, Early Catholic Family Life training can be accessed online. At the request of many, we have developed a way for individual parishes that are not able to attend a "live" training to become trained and to implement Early Catholic Family Life. 


Alan and Joanne are native Minnesotans and have lived in Minneapolis for many years. They are graduates of the University of Minnesota. Alan earned his MBA at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. They are members of St. Peter's parish in Richfield, MN. Alan and Joanne are graduates of the Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute. They have 4 children and 9 grandchildren.

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