On the Other Hand…

26901EDURGB600Yesterday, I provided a rather glowing summary of Monday evening’s Confirmation Intensive. Indeed, the evening overall went very well and was a positive experience. On the other hand, there are always a few moments that provide sobering reminders of the troubles that some of these kids have.

The Confirmation Intensives allows me the opportunity to catch a glimpse, so to speak, of each of the five 8th grade classes. For the most part, each of the classes was very cooperative and the kids well-behaved. One class, in particular, was a handful, mainly because of one young man who seemed like he could care less about Confirmation and unfortunately, influenced others in his group.

During the 10 minute session, this young man paid little attention, didn’t open his book, and engaged in side-talking throughout. At one point, I noticed that he had taken the little foil croziers they had just made in a previous class and was shredding it. A few moments later, I saw that he was stuffing the pieces of foil in his mouth. Holding a wastebasket, I confronted him and told him to spit it out and to pick up all the pieces that were strewn about him.

A few moments later, as we were reading some brief sections of the text, I went over to stand by him since he was side-talking, not reading along, and laughing. I told him that he should think twice about laughing at the Holy Spirit whom we were talking about. He said he wasn’t laughing at the Holy Spirit but at what his friend was saying, and in a very unrepentant attitude, asked: “You mean to tell me that you wouldn’t laugh if you heard something funny?” I responded, “Not if I was supposed to be paying attention to someone and something more important.” What I really wanted to say was, “Where did you learn to talk to your elders like that?!”  I stood over him (he was seated) and leaned in and said in a calm, soft, but stern voice, “You should think twice about what and who you’re paying attention to and the fact that if you’re listening to your friend during class, you’re ignoring the Holy Spirit.”

He eventually opened his book and unenthusiastically followed directions for the activity we did (making the mini-mobiles of symbols of the Holy Spirit) all the while procrastinating as much as possible.

I was saddened by the experience of encountering a young person who was passing up such a wonderful opportunity to grow as an individual and to deepen his relationship with God. Some kids are just not there. Some are carrying baggage that prohibits them from opening up to God’s grace. I know that his catechist is experiencing this challenge on a weekly basis and he (the catechist) is a fantastic role model for this young man. I hope and pray that he and all of us who come into contact with this young man and others like him can make an impact through our words and actions.

What kind of difficult moments like this have you faced?

About Joe Paprocki 2742 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 www.catechistsjourney.com.


  1. Joe:

    Thanks for sharing your classroom experience. This year I too experienced some class room upset that necessitated the removal of four students from my Confirmation class. My co-teacher, a high school Junior, continued the remaining classes with the other students. I focused on the four who exhibited far too much enthusiasm for anything other than the reception of the Holy Spirit. While I too was saddened and ideed upset by the experience of encountering young people who elected to pass on the opportunity to grow as individuals and deepen their relationship with God, I was somewhat thrilled that I was able to learn more about these young men and their efforts at learning “who they are” and “who they want to become.” One of these fellows, though, fit well with your “just not there” label. I feel that, in such situations, it is best to believe that one’s efforts as a catechist may prove to be benficial in future such that he will be open to God’s grace and all the joys that such acceptance brings to one’s life. As you indicated, I hope and pray that others may make an impact on this fellow through oppropriate words and actions. Interestingly, I found him to be a “leader” of sorts which also was most bothersome. The greater joy is that I had the opportunity to become closer to some of my students and reinforce my view that much of this catechist “work” does have some impact!

    Pray Always!

    John K

    • John, thanks for sharing your story. I’m glad that you were able to get to know some of these students better. As you said, we can only pray that our efforts will have an impact somewhere down the line!

  2. I’m in the Northeast and Confirmation takes place in Grade 10. I find that more and more young people fall into the category of failing to see faith as important in their lives. The number of families consistently attending Mass weekly is falling rapidly and we are seeing the results of lack of Eucharist. In a group of 60 I have maybe one or two who will act out and/or be silly but mostly they are dismissive by being apathetic. They may follow along but the heart isn’t in it. I love this blog and Joe’s work because the creativity is a wonderful pedagogical tool to engage some of the kids who are “tuning me out”. It isn’t fully the young people’s fault. Families and society have put faith in a little box in the corner and the young people can’t be blamed for seeing faith as secondary if that is what adults around them are modeling. We are approximately half way through our catechetical year and thanks to good ideas like Joe’s and the enthusiasm I’ve put into it, I see more eyes with some light behind them than I did at the beginning of the year. With the help of God we go forward.

    • Mary C. thanks for sharing your experience. It sounds as if you are making some great strides in the midst of some real challenges. You’ve inspired us all! Thanks!

  3. I get right in the face of disruptive kids. I tell them I will not allow them to interfere with other kids learning. If they don’t want to learn they should be bored quietly, that’s ok. If they persist in distracting others I will throw them out, and they can explain to their parents why they aren’t going to get credit for the year and won’t get confirmed.

    I’ve never had to throw anyone out more than once.

  4. Caution to all CCD teachers:
    I had an incident this year with a student who was very disrespectful to the point of arrogant. Finally I had enough and brought him to the DRE. He starts crying hysterically and says I humiliated him in front of the class and called him names. This never happened. I spoke with him on several occasions prior and always with another adult present about respect and attitude and never in front of other students. The DRE confirmed this with my witness who was with me every time and the outcome ws the student being transferred to the other class we have. So much for accountability on the part of the students. Never speak to a student alone. What if this person had said I pushed him, laid a hand on him, or somethig else.

    • Phlem, this is very good advice. Thank goodness you took the precautions you did…that was very wise. Thanks for sharing.

      • That is good advice. I had one student who has been consistently bad in class (bad attitude). The teacher sent her to me. Then she went home crying to her mother. The mother then called me threatening me because it was the teacher’s fault… so I had this student transfered to another class. I later found out this student has had out of school detention and lots of problems in school! She’s a problem in the new class. I am quite annoyed that parents can’t take responsibility to discipline their children. Sometimes I think the real problem is how to deal with the parents who don’t set rules for their children.
        If parents don’t teach the faith, or teach rules at home, what can I do as a DRE?

        • Jenn,

          You are right about parents that don’t teach the faith, or teach rules at home. This is so commonplace today. I feel as though the parents do not know how to discipline or they are just too lazy to set rules. It is a real problem with today’s students.

  5. I have been a high school confirmation catechist for four years. In our diocese, in the Northeast, we confirm at the end of the 10th grade.

    I have seen disruptive behavior like this and I have learned that it is an opportunity to be a real witness to what faith is all about. When this happens–which is not often–I now stop the class and ask everyone who or what is the most important thing in their lives. I get various answers. I don’t directly criticize the person who is disruptive. I then say that the most important thing in my life is my releationship with God and making sure I have that relationship forever, that I really believe this stuff, and that that is why I am in class with them rather than watching Sunday’s football game. (One girl once said she thought catechists got paid, like teachers, and that it was a job. I wish!) I say we are talking about the ultimate reality. Is there really a God? Will we somehow really live forever? Do I plan on being with God forever and ever? If so, what am I doing about it? Or don’t I think these things are worth caring about?

    That generally does the trick. This is not the attitude some of these kids see from their parents. Even those who don’t believe (and I privately think we confirm a lot of agnostics and possibly some atheists just because their parents think they ought to be confirmed as a rite of passage) seem to respect those of us who say very publicly that God is the most important thing in our lives and that we want to talk about God with them.

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