Little Hearts Playgroup is the English version of the faith awakening program La P’tite Pasto.
La P’tite Pasto was created and developed by Christiane Boulva with the help of a team of parents from St. André-Apôtre Parish in Montreal. It was originally tested in collaboration with the Faith Education Office of the Archdiocese of Montreal.
Without the help of these parents, Little Hearts Playgroup would never have seen the light of day: Sylvie Beaulieu, Nathalie Boisvert, Debbie Bouillon, Michèle Boulva, Véronique Bour, Céline Carrière, Isabelle Duquette, Marie-Christine Herlin-Gervais, Luc Letendre, Josée Létourneau, Line Mallette, Ann Palmer, Geneviève Raymond, Anne-Marie St-Jacques, Fleurette St-Jean, Claude St-Jean and Francine Venne.
In 2012, Martha Dorotik volunteered to graciously translate the first year of the program. As a result of her dedication and hard work, Year 1 of Little Hearts Playgroup is now offered to a much wider public. The following people also joined in the translation effort: Michèle Boulva, John Gubany, Natali Boulva, Christian and Lizanne Perrault, Susan Shaughnessey and Joe Vinski.
Thank you to all these volunteers.
The author of this program, Christiane Boulva, is married and the mother of four grown children. Through her volunteer work in her parish, over a period of more than 20 years, she progressively discovered families’ true need and desire for places where they can meet and live significant and unifying experiences.
Convinced of the importance of the parental “profession”, Christiane is also enthused by saint John-Paul II’s call to all the baptized to enter into a New Evangelization.
She has but one hope: that Little Hearts Playgroup will introduce parents to their vital role as transmitters of the faith, and lead to the creation of networks of “friend-families” who share the same Gospel values. She was the recipient of the Prix Georges Perras 2003 , a prize that highlights the remarkable contribution of a Quebecer to Christian education.
Isabelle Duquette has been involved in the creation of La P’tite Pasto since the year 2000. She works in close collaboration with Christiane in the editing and distribution of Little Hearts Playgroup resources. Her organizational skills, her great efficiency, her tireless work, her confidence and enthusiasm have been essential to the implementation of this program.
Artist Ann Palmer generously agreed to put her drawing talents at the service of LHP. Her illustrations very effectively convey to the little ones Jesus’ love and his invitation to love each other.
In 2012, Martha Dorotik volunteered to translate La P’tite Pasto into English. It is an enormous task and we are most grateful to her for her generosity, courage, perseverance and dedication.
Natali Boulva, John Gubany and their daughters, Charlotte and Claire, accepted to unite their voices for Little Hearts Playgroup! Their generosity and their joy of singing as a family permit the activity leaders to discover the songs which will enchant both children and parents. Mikaël, their son, gave us his talents, time and patience as a Sound Technician.
Where Are We Now?
La P'tite Pasto is currently implemented in over 125 French parishes in 18 Dioceses in the province of Quebec, and also in the provinces of Alberta, Manitoba and in Yukon. Families in Belgium can join La P’tite Pasto in more than 20 parishes.
The Archdiocese of Luxembourg is currently translating the Little Hearts Playgroup program in German.
This evangelization tool has been received with much enthusiasm and the demand never stops growing. So it is with great pleasure that we introduce Little Hearts Playgroup to you. It is the fruit of a lot of love and hard work! We hope that many others will answer the call to join in!
Awards for Little Hearts Playgroup
Christiane Boulva receives the Prix Georges-Perras
The Prix Georges-Perras was awarded to Madame Boulva in 2003 for her work in creating the Little Hearts Playgroup program. This prize is named after Sulpician priest Georges Perras to commemorate his remarkable work in the field of education.
The developer of Little Hearts Playgroup was chosen to receive this prize because of her great involvement in the education of the faith among youth and adults. The award is meant to highlight an important contribution to Christian education.
“Méritas” Prize of the “L'amitié n'a pas d'âge” Association
“L'amitié n'a pas d'âge” Association awarded a Méritas Prize to the Little Hearts Playgroup of the Vimont-Auteuil area, in Laval, for the excellence of the program which leads to inter-generational bonding.
In that area, the local team of Little Hearts Playgroup decided to ask for the help of grand-parents and teenagers to facilitate the program that already involves parents and young children. All generations are therefore working side by side. A beautiful initiative!
A Word from Father Jacques Grand’Maison
The wonderful “Little Hearts Playgroup” experience is a true delight for me as a parish pastor. Like many of my confreres, I find it extremely difficult to celebrate so many christenings which seem to have no future.
Years ago, I met Christiane and her husband Jean-Francois at the time of their wedding and of their first child’s Baptism. We then lost contact. I did not know that they were pursuing their spiritual journey through different pastoral commitments.
Christiane re-contacted me to let me know about her latest project and invite me to participate in it. For years, I have dreamt of seeing lay people pass on the Christian faith and I now discover that the Holy Spirit is actively multiplying more “life-giving shepherds” than I could ever imagine.
Many parishes and environments have implemented great evangelization resources, of course, but follow-up to Baptism and pre-school faith awakening activities – where the seed of the grace of God can start growing – were seriously lacking.
Yet, we know the crucial character of early childhood and of that period of time for family life. Think of the extended parental leave that is now granted to parents in order to help them devote more time to the latest newborn in the family. Each family is a priceless human bedrock made of amazement, passionate love, great yearnings for happiness, strong motivations, sustained emotional commitments and new demanding challenges. Along with this may also come for the family the temptation to isolate itself.
With its fascinating approach, Little Hearts Playgroup fits right into the dynamics of young families.In our urban and modern culture families like to share their experiences with their peers, and they also seek support from the grand-parents. In a very positive way, Christiane has built on these two resources to develop a very pertinent pedagogy of Christian initiation.
She targets mostly young parents who have distanced themselves from the Church and speaks rightly about the necessity of a progressive mutual taming.The days when the heritage of faith was known and transmitted from generation to generation are over. It seems that we now have to start from scratch. Christiane finds her inspiration in the New Evangelization promoted by saint John-Paul II:
"Today in particular, the pastoral priority of the new evangelisation is the duty of all the people of God and requires a new ardor, new methods and a new language to announce and witness the Gospel message."
These words spoken by saint John-Paul II are meant to address the reluctance of many Church leaders before anything new: new language, inculturation of the faith, renewal of its content. Yet, all along the history of evangelization, similar events took place: from the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) to the gospel of John, and the gospel of Paul; new and different interpretations of the Greek and Latin Fathers. I could give many more examples of this fascinating history regarding methods and content of evangelization up until today.
The admirable Little Hearts Playgroup initiative not only follows this important process in the history of evangelization, but it also reaches the modern, expressive urban culture, so different from the time when memorising the catechism was done from generation to generation. It would be a shame if we did not realize that the process suggested by Little Hearts Playgroup takes root both in the best tradition of the Church and in the modern, urban culture of today.
Here is another historical reminder: in the early Church, during the first 250 years, it was the lay Christians who were the main transmitters of the faith. Today, we find ourselves in a historical situation where lay people are again called to become the main transmitters of the faith. Are we really preparing ourselves for this?
One of the Holy Spirit’s great works nowadays is to bring Christian parents to work in this direction. Christiane makes a beautiful comparison between the building up of a family spirit and the work of the Holy Spirit who renews all things in different languages, with new beginnings, resurrections and unforeseen and unexpected pentecosts. Let us not impede the workings of the Spirit who blows in places that are ever new and unpredictable. Many new evangelization inroads in the Church's history happened beyond her walls, clergy and codes. Is that not what Saint Paul said to those who insisted that Cornelius and other pagans like him become Jewish in order to become Christians?
This original and fundamental conversion reappears at each important turn, including ours presently. In that spirit, let us welcome, support, develop and spread the promising experience of Little Hearts Playgroup.
“Let anyone accept this who can”, said Jesus of Nazareth (Math 19, 12).
Priest, Theologian and Sociologist
Recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal