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In God's Own Time

I’ve been teaching religious education classes off and on for close to twenty years now. Throughout these years I’ve come to realize that without a solid foundation in the faith built at home, our little CCD classes are woefully inadequate. In the early 1990’s I discovered the book Keeping Your Kids Catholic by Bert Ghezzi. Here was the book that could guide me through being a Catholic parent. I wanted to share this book in a structured format like a discussion group or class. The book comes with discussion questions at the end of each chapter. But I also was sure I was not the person to lead this. My oldest child was in his early elementary school years. What did I know? I was just a beginner parent.

I had been humbled when I had my first child. I was already a doctor and had been giving parents advice for a couple of years when my oldest was born. I had read my pediatrics textbook. How hard could it be? Within a couple of months I was convinced that the author of my pediatrics textbook had never had children. I was so embarrassed. Here I had been speaking with such authority to parents and I realized I didn’t have a clue. I wanted to call all the parents of my patients and apologize for my arrogance. They were the real experts.

Not wanting to put myself in that same position with regards to Catholic parenting, I waited. But I still kept rereading that book and it still kept speaking words of wisdom to me. A few years ago, as my nest began to empty, I decided it was time to share the treasure of this book. The need to support parents in passing on the faith seemed even more dire than it had when I first read Keeping Your Kids Catholic. I was sure the time was right. I went to the DRE of my parish and asked to offer a class based on this book. Her response took me by surprise. It went something like, “That sounds very nice but what I really need is someone to teach seventh grade CCD.” Didn’t she see that if we educated the parents our job as CCD catechists would be so much easier? How could she refuse? I’ve been waiting fifteen years to teach this class! I went home and prayed about it… Fine. I will teach the seventh grade class.

The next year we had a new DRE. She was young. She was energetic. I again brought my proposal to teach a class on Keeping Your Kids Catholic. What was her response? “That sounds very nice but what I really need is someone to teach seventh grade CCD.” Arrgh! The catechists perennial lament is that the children are getting no faith formation at home. How can we not teach the parents? I prayed…Okay. I will teach seventh grade but I want to bring in the parents for some of the lessons. That strategy was extremely successful. And the religious education office began to push the idea of adult education.

In the last year, the adult education program at our parish has blossomed. I have taught a course on The Apostles by Pope Benedict as well as Introduction to Theology of the Body by Christopher West. Others are teaching a study of the Cathechism based on Catholic Christianity by Peter Kreeft. There are multiple opportunities for Bible studies. We had a lecture series focusing on Pope Benedict’s writing in order to prepare for the Holy Father’s visit to the United States. We have another lecture series that is ongoing looking at St. Paul. And beginning next Wednesday…trumpet fanfare please…I will begin teaching a six week series on Building the Domestic Church and Keeping Your Kids Catholic. If you live in Northern Virginia, you can call the religious education office at Holy Spirit Catholic Church and get all the details.

So why did it take so long? Because God knew that I wasn’t really ready. I had one book that had served me well. But there is so much more. In the last three years I discovered this presentation on the five pillars of a Catholic family by Cardinal Arinze. I discovered the book Catholicism and Society by Rev. Edward J. Hayes, Rev. Msgr. Paul J. Hayes, and James J. Drummey. I discovered the Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris Consortio by Pope John Paul II. And now I know how to use PowerPoint! I must be ready.

Patience is a virtue. I know I am trying to follow the path God has laid before me. I just have to remember to trod it at His pace, not mine.


EbethW said…
Oh, how wise you are! and patient. Thank you, Denise.

Denise said…
I can't wait to learn the details!
Michelle said…
Congratulations, Denise. I wish my husband's hours were more agreeable to evening pursuits. I wish you success.

And I'm grateful for your reading list.

Your story of telling parents how to be parents without any practical experience reminds me of my Lamaze instructor back with my first pregnancy. When I had her, she was a mom, but she had been teaching about handling labor since before that. I thought that was insane, and was glad that I was not in one of her classes back then. Practical experience is worth ten textbooks always.
Sarah Reinhard said…
If you ever move to Ohio... :)

You inspire me so much with these stories, Denise. Thanks for keeping us updated about the progress.
Barb, sfo said…
That is awesome! I'd take that class if I lived in your neighborhood. Our "adult education" in our parish leaves a lot to be desired.
RAnn said…
Sounds like a wonderful idea. What I'd like to know is how did adult ed take off? When are the classes? Is a committment required, or is it come if you want; we'll be here?

A year ago our parish started what sounded, on paper anyway, to be a great set of adult ed classes. I understand they flopped big time. They were on Tues. nite at the same time as CCD. I didn't go because of home responsibilities.
Catholic Mom said…
I would be curious to know what the parish considered "flopped". At first, it is best not to get too hung up on numbers. Most Catholic parishes have no culture of adult education so you have to be patient and grow things slowly. Be prepared for only half a dozen folks to show up for a class. But that is something. Most Catholics in the pew don't know there is more to learn. They got the Confirmation certificate so they must know it all.It takes slow committed coaxing on the part of both the clergy and the religious ed office to draw out a few new faces to the programs.
RAnn said…
I know that some of the catechists didn't like the program because they met in the church (I don't know why they used that rather than an empty classroom since the school was open already) so the catechists couldn't use the church for tours, prayers etc. and I know one of them said one week they only had two people in there. I know they had outside speakers scheduled some weeks, and videos other weeks, and that by the end of the year the speakers were cancelled, so I figured that the numbers weren't there.

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