Thrown a Curveball

This past Monday, as I prepared to teach my lesson on the Sacraments of Initiation using Learning Stations, I was thrown a curveball. As I entered my classroom to get things set up, I saw that the school teacher who uses that room each day had decided to totally re-arrange the classroom!


I had been mentally visualizing exactly how I was going to set up my learning stations only to find that the furniture was completely re-arranged. Luckily, I had arrived 45 minutes ahead of time and was able to adapt without too much panic! To top it all off, the beautiful table that I’ve been using as a prayer center was gone…vanished…nowhere in sight! I had to adapt here as well (a couple of desks put together) since the prayer table is a big part of our learning environment.

Ah, the life of a catechist! What’s a curveball that you’ve been thrown and needed to quickly adapt to?

About Joe Paprocki 2648 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

12 Comments on Thrown a Curveball

  1. Twice so far this year, I’ve shown up for my class and it turns out I have a new student! Making sure they have all of the books and papers and whatnot that they need can sometimes be a scramble there.

    • John, this is a common curveball that I forgot about, occurring often in the early part of the year. “Scramble” is a good word for what we do to react to these situations! 🙂

  2. I too use a classroom that is shared by other Faith Formation classes through out the week. Last week when I came to class my room was also totally re-arranged. Usually I will leave the tables where they are but last week, I arranged the tables in a horse shoe pattern with a small table in the center for our advent wreath. At the end of class I made sure the class was set up in a reasonable fashion. Like you said, good thing we arrive early…just in case.

    • Josie, when rooms are used by a variety of groups, it can be hard to figure out exactly how to leave the room arranged when you’re done!

  3. Here’s a comment from Irene:

    One day a few years ago I had gotten to religion class later than usual. I didn t think this would be a problem. I picked up all of my materials, gathered it in the classroom, and went to the cabinet to pick up my prayer table materials that I store there each week. I opened the drawer only to find it gone. GONE! What a panic I was in! I felt I would be letting the class down by not having a prayer space as they walked in. I calmed down after a quick prayer and looked around the room. Nothing came to my mind so I decided to have the kids create a prayer space.

    The children came in and didn t even notice the prayer space was missing until it was time to pray. Some began to move toward the prayer table, stopped, looked around, and finally, noticed it was missing. They asked what happened to it.

    I simply responded by posing the question of what should we do about it. So we created one. They went around the classroom finding items that could represent prayer a couple pebbles, a statue of a saint (we never did figure out which saint the statue represented), a prayer card with a thanksgiving picture, and that s about it. We didn t have anything that represented the word of God so someone thought about using our religion book opened up to a scripture reading. The children got together to make signs with Christian symbols and passages. These were added to what we already had in the prayer space. It actually turned out to be a beautiful prayer space and the fact that the children created it was fantastic. A holy card of a deceased grandparent, some fake flowers, small pebbles, and a battery-operated candle were brought in by four different children the following week for our prayer space. We put these items on the prayer table along with a Bible, and our signs. After that almost every week one or two children would bring something to add or change in that holy space. We hid all of these things in our special space in the classroom. We never lost anything the rest of the year. It was a God-send because the children took ownership of that prayer space and made sure it was put up and taken down each week without me reminding them to do it. It was awesome!

    Irene Skarban, Coordinator of Child Ministry, St. Thomas More Parish, 1810 N. McDonald St., Appleton, WI 54911,, 920-739-8172

  4. thank you for the inspriration. a few weeks ago i threw a curveball at catechist without any intention and not even realizing. I received very hurtful words. After apologizing, the other catechist did not offer a response in return. That is something i will have to live with. Just reading all the responses makes me realize we might be miles apart but we are all one in the spirit. Indeed these are the joys of being a catechist. Each challenge should make us stronger and we become better people.

    • Ally, thanks for sharing this moving story…these things DO indeed happen in our ministry. The important thing is that you apologized which is all that you can do at this point…that’s always the first step toward genuine reconciliation. Hang in there and thanks for sharing.

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