They Really DID Learn Something!

This past Monday, we gave an end-of-the-year assessment to our 8th graders that covers all of the basics of the Catholic faith: the Sacraments, the Ten Commandments, parts of the Mass, and so on. First, we spent the week before reviewing, especially the Ten Commandments, which far too many of the kids seemed fuzzy on. Then, we gave the assessment, and, I’m happy to report, they did very well on. There were a handful of perfect scores and most were only 1 or 2 items wrong. Only 3 students did below average (although still a “passing” grade). I’m happy to see that some things “took.”

During the review, I reminded the kids about the importance of knowing our faith. I told them that a class full of Muslim kids of their age would be learning Arabic and memorizing the Koran while a class full of Jewish kids of their age would be learning Hebrew and memorizing the Torah. I told them that in a few years, when they go to college and enter the work force, they will encounter people of many faiths and, unless they understand their own tradition, will feel lost. They seemed to respond well to that notion as it is very real. I know far too many young adult Catholics who resent not knowing how to talk about their faith because of a lack of solid formation in their childhood and youth. The best strategy for healthy ecumenical and interreligious dialogue is for Catholics to know their own faith well enough to be able to talk about it intelligently with those unfamiliar with it.

About Joe Paprocki 2736 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at

4 Comments on They Really DID Learn Something!

  1. Last night I showed a video to our catechists, at a formation session that relates well with this message. The video title is “Dust.” The video series (15+ so far) is from a Michigan company called Nooma. It was created by an area Pastor and is a good reflection tool.

    In the video Rob Bell explains that in Jesus’ time, it was common for those who were following a Rabbi would memorize the Old Testament, in its entirety. Only the top students continued that far, but elementary age students would have memorized the Torah. Only aspiring Rabbis would continue throughout their formation.

    It’s important to remember, also, that Jesus chose disciples who were not going down the path to be Rabbis. He chose people who were in other jobs or apprenticing other jobs. He took anyone and everyone… and still does today.

    Working in an area with a small Catholic population, it’s amazing how much I hear from students that their peers are saying they aren’t going to heaven because they are Catholic, etc. We really need to help them build a relationship with Jesus and respond to that relationship with a desire to learn about Him and the faith that he passed down to us.

    Thank you for your reflections!!


  2. Dave, those of us who live in large Catholic populations forget the challenges that folks like you and those you teach have living in small Catholic populations. I think that one of the reasons that some of the young people I teach (as well as adults in the community) take their faith for granted is because they rarely encounter anyone who is not Catholic and are rarely challenged to think about what they believe in…it’s all just part of the culture they live in. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Jill, the assessment was provided by the DRE…I presume it is based on goals set by the parish program. In other words, it was a “home-made” assessment.

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