Catechist Corner

It's all about sharing the faith.

Weekly Roundup x 2

The last two weeks have been crazy, to say the least. Religious Education classes are underway, I had my last session for my Introduction to Catechesis course last week, work has been busier then usual and home life has been action packed as well. So, I am once again behind in posting here on Catechist Corner and I will try to capture two weeks into one post.

As you may know, 6th grade Catechesis focuses on the Bible, mostly the Old Testament with ties to the New Testament to show how the old foretells and connects to the new. The first week’s lesson is about what the Bible is. The first reaction of my students, of course, is that it is a book. I like to point out that is is not a book, but a library of books and I explain why that is the case. I also like to ask how many students know if they have a Bible at home and where it is. I’m generally disappointed by the result of the informal poll. This year, two kids knew they had one but didn’t know where and one knew where his Children’s Bible was. To be honest, that was better then last year so I can take comfort that we are trending up.

We also review what the purpose of the Bible is as well as the different types of writing that can be found within the books of the Bible. I’m still amazed at how many different writing styles are utilized, but my students aren’t as excited about that as I am. Maybe it’s because it’s the first class and they are being cautious? Anyway, before class ended, I handed out a letter for my students to take home to their parents, the parent interview I spoke about last week and a small prayer sheet with some basic prayers they would need to learn if they didn’t know them already. Lastly, I showed the class one of my favorite videos about the Bible. It was a fun way to show the different things we would learn this year.

For week two, we started class reviewing the results of their interview. A couple of them forgot to bring it and one I think forgot to do it, but since I wasn’t collecting them, that was disappointing but incidental. We started with discussing if anything surprised them about their parents’ responses. Since shyness fell upon the class, I started going around and asking for responses to the specific questions. Most responses were straight forward, but I think it was a valuable exercise in getting the child and the parent talking about some faith topics. I think I will tweak how I do this next year, but the concept is a keeper and may even send another interview home later in the year … maybe around Lent?

This week’s topic was the Creation Stories. This is a good way to start because it is something that most of them are already familiar with. We discuss what happens in each story, how the stories differ, what the stories tell us about God and what our roles are as human beings in relation to the rest of creation. I love how this concept of stewardship ties into the one of the Church’s social teachings. Even at 6th grade, these teachings are relevant.

During class, we got into an off topic discussion on Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. I don’t remember how we got there, but there were a lot of questions around this topic, and I mean a lot:  “Who goes to heaven?” “What is Purgatory?” “Once you go to Hell, can you ever get out?” “How long do you have to spend in Purgatory?” “Do animals go to Heaven?” “What do you mean squirrels don’t go to Heaven?” “If I die with my dog, my dog doesn’t go to Heaven?” I’m expecting some hate mail from the animal responses, but we’ll see how it goes. That being said, it was a lively discussion and it gave me a sign. There is interest on their part and there are questions that they are looking to have answered. That means that there is hope in enhancing their faith forward this year if I go about it the right way.

Before class ended, I handed out rosary beads to all of my students in honor of October being the month of the Rosary and a small pamphlet on how to pray the Rosary. I’m hoping this may spark a devotion or two at home. I found out as I was leaving class, that a few of my students asked our Pastor to bless their new Rosary so I have hope that there is interest and that the seeds that I plant may bear fruit after all.

Until next time, keep sharing the faith.

All Parents are NOT Created Equal!

While most people would think that the statement in the title is obvious, I never appreciated just how “not equal” parents can be.  One of the biggest disappointments I found from teaching this past year was seeing that in some cases, what I was teaching in Religious Education class was not actively supported or practiced at home.  So, when I saw a post on the OSV Daily Take blog about one parent’s reaction to what her daughter was told by a friend, I wasn’t all that surprised.

Any teacher will tell you that the best way to foster real learning is by having parents partner with them in teaching your child.  It is important for parents to support and reinforce at home what is taught in school because it adds validity to the subject and makes it more practical.  Religious education is no different.  As a Catechist, I go into my classroom with the expectation that, since parents cared enough to have their children learn the faith, this education must be important to them.  While at the end of the day it may be important to the parents, that message isn’t making it to the student, most likely because it is not openly reinforced at home.

I asked my class how many of them had bibles at home, whether their personal one or a family one.  Of my 14 students, 3 raised their hands.  I’m sure more families had one, but the student didn’t know it and that likely means that it’s not used much.  How many them pray everyday?  3 raised their hands.  How may go to Mass every Sunday?  5, and reasons for not going included parents going to Mass too early for the student and sporting events conflicting with Mass.  When I asked why they don’t just go to Mass on Saturday night or a different Sunday Mass, I got blank stares back.

Now, I don’t mean to imply that parents in my area don’t care, don’t believe, or don’t want to participate in their child’s religious upbringing.  I see many parents with their children at Mass on Sunday.  I hear them answering their children’s questions about the readings, etc.  What I am saying is that one hour a week on Sunday by going to Mass isn’t enough.  Sending them to Religious Education classes isn’t enough.  To get the message across, they need to practice their faith at home in full view of their children.  Children take many queues from their parents.  If Mass isn’t mandatory then it must not be important.  If children don’t see their parents go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation often, then it must not be necessary.  If they don’t see parents praying, then it must be a waste of time.

Parents, please show your children just how important your faith is, because a Catechist can only succeed if they are an extension of you.  As for me, I will go into next year with my eyes wide open and prepared to hit this challenge head on.  It’s time to get the creativity mojo working and getting the message through.