Skip to main content

A little bit of catechetical ranting

Religious education classes have started all over the country. I know because this post with a catechist letter to parents has suddenly become my post popular post. It happens every fall. Once again, I too have started teaching a seventh grade class. This year looks like it will be a pretty good year. How do I know? I surveyed the class and all but two students said they go to Mass most Sundays. This is a change from last year when I only had two students in the entire class who said they attend Mass most Sundays. The young ladies are all fully clothed. Last year I was constantly having to ask the girls to put on their sweatshirts or jackets because they were revealing way too much skin. Also, unlike last year, none of my students declared themselves atheists on the first day of class--a declaration made to the priest who visited the classroom. Yes, this is definitely going to be a better year.

Teaching religious education can sometimes feel like an exercise in futility. How on earth am I supposed to teach the faith in one hour per week over the course of the school year when the lessons are not reinforced at home? What I have realized, is that I am not supposed to do that. I am supposed to do what I can to supplement what the parents do and what the Grace of God provides. I do what I can to teach the basics, make the Faith relevant, and offer it all with love. Offering it with love does not mean watering down the Church teachings or seeking warm fuzzies. It does mean offering the Truth. I cannot judge the fate of anyone's soul, but I can faithfully pass on what has been revealed as the path to salvation.

Another perennial catechist's lament is that the CCD program is treated as the unwanted stepchild of the parish if the program shares facilities with a parish school. The school may hold its fund raisers but the bulk of the operating budget, facility maintenance, and tuition subsidies comes from the general parish funds. All of the parishioners support the school. Therefore, when I walk into the school and the Smart Boards are covered with drapes to keep those unwashed CCD students from benefitting from their use, the remotes for the televisions and DVD players are locked in the teacher's desks to keep the CCD classes from using them, and the chalk boards are covered with writing with big "DO NOT ERASE" messages leaving me little options for visual aids while teaching, I have to wonder if the parish school understands its purpose. The parish school educates only a small fraction of the students of the parish. Its purpose is to provide a wholly Catholic environment for education. While the school is expected to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic its raison d'être is to foster Catholicism. This is the same mission of the CCD program and the CCD program reaches many more children than the parish school. So why should a sliver of the parish youth population receive the bulk of parish resources while the primary education program of the parish youth receives the dregs? Truthfully, I am not sure that is how the resources of my current parish are divided, but if you speak to those affiliated with the school, that is how they feel it should be divided.

The parish school building should be a parish resource. School teachers should prepare their rooms to accommodate CCD on the nights religious education classes are held. CCD teachers should ensure the classroom is left ready for the school children arriving the next morning. We should be on the same team, not competitors. The children who attend CCD are no less part of the parish family than those who attend the parish school. We should not treat them and their families as "second class Catholics".


Karen said…
It's nice to know that our parish school isn't the only one that selfishly covers the boards with things that are not to be erased. We have smart boards at our school too and we were told we are not to touch them because they were funded by the state and are not to be used for religious purposes. As a catechist, one has to wonder why the parochial school teachers are so uncharitable towards the children and volunteer catechists who are involved in the CCD program. It amazes me that they can't share. I realize it must be frustrating to have to share your classroom with six different classes, but these teachers had to know when accepting a job at a Catholic school that they were going to have to share their classroom.
RAnn said…
Yea, I'll join your rant--those "do not erase" signs always ticked me off.
Barb, sfo said…
How about blackboards that are so covered with "stuff" (calendars, posters, projects, etc) that they cannot be used for their intended purpose? I used to be a "roving teacher" in an early-elementary school. Out of the 14 classrooms in which I was teaching, only 2 had blackboards I could use.

So it's not just a plot by classroom teachers against CCD instructors. It's just classroom teachers doing what they do. Public school teachers are just as guilty.
Denise said…
Barb, point well taken. However, as I have traveled around the country it is not just blackboards that give the impression the Catholic parish schools do not welcome the CCD program. In one program, we had to bring in our own trash bags because the school did not want us utilizing their trash cans.

What I think should happen in my parish is that on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (CCD classes on Sunday night) teachers should acknowledge they are sharing the room. They should erase the boards and instruct the students to make sure they put away their belongings because others will be using the room at night. It would be helpful to have a desk or podium clean enough that I can set up my notes. Why not offer training to interested CCD teachers on how to use Smart Boards? I use one when I teach at the community college. It is really not that difficult.

The CCD teacher has a responsibility to make sure the school students' and teacher's property is respected and taken care of. He/she should not make use of the parish school supplies like pencils and papers.

There must be an understanding of what is shared property. Can you share trash cans, chalk, TV, other video equipment?

Bottom line is the parish school and the CCD program should have a cooperative relationship to further the nurturing of the Catholic faith in all of the parish children.
Maia said…
You captured a part of the frustration that is leaving me a little deflated this week. Here at our little overseas post we are having to find room on post (currently at the school) and I'm running into all the problems you mention. Oh the rant I want to have!
bvenden said…
I am a Catholic school teacher who shares my classroom with 3 CCD classes a week. I do try to be accomodating to the CCD classes. I usually try to meet the teachers who share my room. I have no problem with sharing my classroom as long as the CCD classes are respectful of my belongings. The majority of the items in most classrooms are the teacher's personal property, not the school's. I have had holes bored in my bookcases, drawer fronts broken off my desk, sticky desk tops that I have to clean, and many things stolen or broken. I have my desk at the back of the room so there is no need for anyone to back there, but they still are. Twice a week I spend anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour prepping my room for CCD and then the next morning another 30 minutes putting my desks back, erasing the board, and picking up papers. The teachers at my school don't complain because we do understand that we are part of the parish and appreciate their support. Regarding Karen's post about teacher's being charitable, it's tough to be charitable when you feel that your belongings and home (at 8-10 hours, 5 days a week, my classroom is my home) are being vandalized. What I don't understand why the CCD teachers seem to have such a chip on their shoulders and why they can't be respectful of my belonging and adequately supervise their students. I do understand I have to share, absolutely no teacher I have ever worked with minds sharing the facilites at all. It's the theft of teacher's and student's property, vandalism of personal and school property, and lack of respect for our classrooms that has left many teachers bitter.
Just wanted to share the other side of topic.
Denise said…
Wow! If I had to put up with such wanton destruction and inconsiderate behavior, I would resent sharing my classroom too! However, in my 20 years as a catechist, I have never seen such behavior. I suspect these events are rare exceptions, not the rule in most parishes. Your parish may be different. Perhaps the "chip on the shoulder" of CCD teachers stems from Catholic school teacher attitudes that the public school students are mini barbarians. We were asked by the parish school to have our CCD students use hand sanitizer before they entered the classrooms so they would not bring those public school germs into the Catholic school classrooms. Honestly, we don't have cooties.

As I said in the final paragraph of the post, there should be a cooperative relationship between the school and the CCD program. It should not be "us" vs "them". CCD teachers and parish school teachers should be working together to make sure each is fully supported in their mission to teach the faith.
Aaron said…
This is a great post. As a former teacher I used to be amazed but the most amazing thing was not being able to use the trash cans for the purpose of trash. A rule I broke. I used to sweep and mop if I had to until the day I got the call we hadn't mopped properly. I told the custodian he was correct I would never make that mistake again. I was true to my word I never mopped again. His loss with the snow and mud that came in with those unruly religious ed kids. I even had a pastor tell me he didn't come to the religious ed program because those were not his kids. Wow, if that doesn't make your priorities apparent. Good thing God's grace covers all us humans.

Popular posts from this blog

Parent Letter from a Catechist

I am going to be teaching seventh grade CCD this year. We do most of the preparation for confirmation during this year since Confirmation is usually scheduled for the fall of the eighth grade year.I have composed a letter to the parents to try and keep them active in their children's religious education. I thought I would post it here and get your feedback before I send it out in a couple of weeks.

I am privileged to be your child’s seventh grade CCD teacher for the 2006-2007 school year. This is a very important year. We will focus on your child’s preparation for confirmation. Of course, you have already been preparing your child for this sacrament for many years. You are the primary catechist for your child. You show how important your Faith is by making Mass attendance a top priority and by family prayer.

Confirmation is one of the Sacraments of Initiation. It is a beginning. It is not a graduation. This year we will work to solidify the foundation of your child’s Catholic Faith.…

United Breaks Guitars

This guy is really talented and what a creative way to get your message across. I think he captured the "indifferent employee" perfectly. They don't just work for airlines. I think I ran into them at Walmart on Friday!

Dispelling the Myth of the Travel Dispensation

One of the fun things about having a site meter on my blog is I can see which posts garner the most attention. I can also see how people find my blog. One of the most read posts from my two years of blogging is this one that discusses finding Mass while traveling. I would like to think this post is so popular because it is so well written. The truth of the matter is that it generates so much traffic because I use the words “travel dispensation for Mass”—as in “There is no such thing as a travel dispensation for Mass.” I would guess that nearly a dozen times every week, someone googles “travel dispensation for Mass” and finds my blog. I wonder how many of these folks are poor souls trying to assuage their Catholic guilt with evidence of a justification for missing Mass while on the road.

I know that when I tell my seventh grade CCD students that attending Mass every Sunday is a commandment (one of the top ten!) and not just a pretty good idea they are amazed. Missing Mass has become so …