I hate the phrase “catch-up” catechesis but you know what I’m talking about…kids who come to R.E. programs having missed some years of R.E. and having missed reception of First Penance, First Communion, or Confirmation. Think this is a small problem for DREs? Think again. I recently asked a number of DREs to share some thoughts on this issue and here is a glimpse of what I got. You’re welcome to add your thoughts and suggestions for how to best deal with these situations.
· I deal with it constantly. I have 125 kids in my program about 15% of them begin in first grade and go all the way through. Besides the kids who have no background, we also have kids who take four years out between communion and confirmation prep.
· VERY prevalent at my parish as I have a large Latino population requesting “communion classes,” with students entering the program at various ages with little to no catechetical formation.
· Every few years I have a small group of high school students that have for one reason or another missed one or another sacrament and need “catch-up.” The parents bring them of course only if there is the need for First Eucharist or Confirmation.
· Currently we have 8 junior high and 1 high school student in this situation. That’s been pretty standard for the last 3 years.
· Our staff had a major discussion about this last night. We have a list with at least 10 children who are entering the program at different stages of catechesis. More often they have no formal religious training, parents want them with their peers and the kids are anxious to belong.
· What I’ve found thus far is that we have a huge number of Hispanic families who leave after their children receive First Communion and then return for Confirmation. I had spoken with the Hispanic Ministry office at the diocese about this and they explained to me that this is a cultural issue. This is the way the Hispanic families receive the sacraments in their home country. They are only prepared for a few weeks or months. We explain the way we do it in this country, but they have great difficulty understanding.
· We began an “Initiation Class” about 4-5 years ago. If children come to us who have not had any RE and need to “catch up” and prepare for FR, FC, they go in this class. We’ve even had a couple prepare for baptism, confirmation and communion.
· This happens very often, for a variety of reasons, especially given the transiency of the local population—lots of people relocating here after difficult life experiences and in that turmoil, lots of faith formation and sacramental preparation “falls through the cracks.”
· Situations requiring “catch-up catechesis” are definitely becoming more common. Fourteen years ago, our average “Sacramental Preparation Class” was comprised of approximately five young people. Today, we have eighteen enrolled in Sacramental Prep. Though there is a slow but evident increase in the need for “catch-up catechesis” , conversations with other DREs lead me to believe the need is much stronger in parishes that are more heavily Hispanic. Thus, as our demographics change, I anticipate even larger classes of young people falling into this category.
· we have 28 second graders preparing for First Reconciliation and Communion. We have 54 students grades 3 through 10.
· Every year between 4-6 middle-schoolers and several teens (who stopped after Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist) return and/or move in from assignments in other countries and require “catch-up” catechesis.
· All ages from grades 3-7
· Every year we have more and more families who come to us after missing a few years or never having been in religious education at all. I just registered a new family with children in second and fifth grade who have never been baptized.
· I am not surprised to hear that you are receiving such inquiries regarding this type of catechesis. We are dealing with it too along with an increase in the number of ‘special needs’ children. There seems to be a definite rise in the number of children who need ‘catching up’.
· I have 13 students this year (six 3rd graders, three 4th graders, one 5th, one 7th and two high school Confirmation) All but one needs the First Sacrament of Eucharist and all but one needs comprehensive catch-up to their appropriate age/grade level
· Yes, it is an issue. It is an RCIA issue. Those who have not been to the table should be in RCIA. This should be a program in addition to RE program. But that is so difficult.
· We have students every year who are out of sequence. They really need to be caught up. They need to know and understand the language. I have a few kids each year…. some just coming for communion, but right now I have one 7th grader who was baptized and doesn’t even know what the nativity is. We have about 4 third graders who haven’t done anything and they need to be caught up. Sometimes a divorce keeps parents from getting their act together, they just can’t handle one more thing…. But they could do a simple home study program with their child…. And think of how much they are learning too.
· There are two different situations that arise because of these different situations. There are children who are in third through eighth grade who are not in the sequence to receive the sacraments because:
o The family moved
o A parent/child had a long illness
o The parent was not going to the church
o Family was out of the country
o Divorce situation
o Parents are coming back to their faith/ have changed their faith
o Kids were being raised a faith other than Catholic by the non-catholic parent.
· The first group is families where the kids were baptized and they may have had some kind of Religious Education or sometimes no Religious Education. So now when the kids are older than second grade and you just place them into a let’s say a fifth grade group how will that child feel with no background. The curriculum in fifth grade will not prepare the child for sacraments and kids do not like to be placed in a group with a textbook and kids geared to Grade Two (Which is the level sacramental prep is geared). There are about 10 kids a year that fall in this area.
· The second group is families where the kids were never baptized and they are older than seven and now they will receive all their sacraments of initiation at the same time. They have not been going to church and have had no Religious Education. There are no materials that I have found to help with this situation. The RCIA materials are geared to adults and the adults in the RCIA program are not trained to work with children. So the children are referred to the RE Department for their formation. Just to begin using a textbook at the child’s grade level doesn’t give a good starting point, it assumes they have a background in the prier books. There are about 2 kids a year that fall in this area.