Stories on the Journey, Week Four: “Oopsies! I Goofed”

Welcome to Week Four of Stories on the Journey! Thanks for all of the great stories you’ve shared so far! Betty from Arizona sums it up pretty well:

Thanks for sharing these inspiring stories that keep me motivated to continue facilitating adult religious education at my parish!

In case you missed the stories, here they are:

Our topic for Week Four is “Oopsies! I Goofed!” Share a brief story (in the Comments box below) – just one or two paragraphs – describing a time when your lesson plan didn’t quite work out as you planned and what you learned from the experience.  Then, return each day this week to read others’ stories and to comment on them if you wish. You can also go back and comment on stories from previous weeks.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you! I’ll start the parade with a story of one of my less-than-successful moments below.

* All stories posted become property of Loyola Press and may be used in future publications


P.S. Here’s a prayer request from Betty who commented above:

I live in Sierra Vista, Arizona.  Since Sunday afternoon over 15,000 acres have burned.  As of Weds. p.m. 40 houses were destroyed.  People have been evacuating daily depending on the wind conditions.  Please pray we get a miracle of rain eventhough our monsoon season does not start until July.  We are so grateful for the firefighters and those extending shelter and other basic necessities of life.  Thank you.  Betty

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


  1. When I was teaching high school religion, I put together a video montage of clips from TV shows to introduce the topic of sexuality. The images I put together simply showed how TV programs treat the topic of sex so casually. It worked very well with the high school students. A year or so later, a DRE friend of mine invited me to do a talk for 6th graders on sexuality. I figured I would show the video I had assembled. BIG MISTAKE! The 6th graders were completely incapable of handling the subject matter. They giggled and hooted throughout the video and never were able to enter into a serious discussion about sexuality. I had totally misjudged their level of development. I learned the hard way how important it is to know your audience. Luckily, the DRE gave me another chance the following year. I brought in a box full of building blocks and invited each child to come to the center and to build for 20 seconds or so as long as they respected what the others had built and didn’t knock anything down. When they were all done, we talked about how human beings need to be treated with respect and how easily we can be damaged. It made for an appropriate introduction to the topic for kids that age and they were able to handle it much better.

    • In treating with sexuality (Confirmation class) we got a facilitator who began one session with a game of “catch” using a firm but ripe banana. Needless to say, after some dropped catches the banana was in a sorry state and had to be dumped. She made the same point above – human beings must be handled with care and no one wants damaged goods! I will never forget that lesson!

  2. During Lent this past year I planned a guided meditation for my seventh and eighth graders. I was really impressed with the responses I got back from the students, as I only received one negative response! Unfortunately the meditation did not last as long as I would have wanted it to. Thankfully, my DRE had our Living Stations props nearby – so we each took turns carrying the cross through the church hall. Still with time remaining, we had the children seated in church. Big mistake! Despite the fact there were two catechists present – it was more like herding cattle for the final 20 minutes of class as the students did not treat church the way it was intended!

    Learned two lessons that will help me in the future….plan longer lessons, its better to run out of time than to have too much time left over – and it gave me the opportunity to build a lesson plan for proper church behavior – outside of the Mass!

  3. Your stories are funny and inspiring at the same time. We have to thank teachers like you who put in the time and effort for these lesson plans. It’s a tough challenge to bear everyday.

  4. It was a nice and I decided to take our lesson out of doors. A lovely shade tree was very inviting. Eventhough I brought towels for the children to sit on. Even with a talk of staying together and sitting down for the lesson the children as soon as they hit fresh air scattered in all directions. After gathering them all we went back insided and tried to finish the lesson. If I ever do this again I am going to draft one of the parents to stay with me.

  5. I teach 3rd graders (almost 10 years now) – I made two mistakes this year – not really mistakes – you be the judge:
    In October, our workbook have a chapter about Mary and the Rosary, the mysteries…I thought it would be a good idea for the children to make their own rosaries – MISTAKE – I ordered simple crafts (Oriental Trading) which included various colored and sized beads along with the string to place them on. Well, it seams out of a class of 11 – only 3 knew how to make knots/tie! The reason they had no clue about this? The shoes the children wear are Velcro – no need to learn to know/tie. We completed the rosaries – and placed them on the statue of Mary we have in the class – and, in May, we said a decade and had her crowning and the children were able to take their “created” Rosary home with them.
    Fool that I was – I thought but December we would be in a better spot – so I thought making wreaths with images the children drew of Christ’s birth as the centerpiece would be a good thing. Well, we make the wreaths with hangers and baggies – again, tying a knot. Never again – unless I conduct a survey of who can tie shoelaces or are in Girl/Boy Scouts!
    In both cases, everything turned out well – but they were lessons learned. ☺

  6. A long time ago my wife & I were put in charge of teaching RCIA. We’d run the adult class for a couple of years, had a lot of informed, motivated Catholics. Anyway, I would teach the first RCIA class, and figured we’d start with some basics: Faith & Reason/ Fides et Ratio by JP2. We’d studied it in the adult class, no sweat.

    But with the RCIAers, what a disaster! They all had that deer in the headlights look, and after about 15 minutes I could see that Fides et Ratio wasn’t a good intro for the novice crowd even if the veteran Catholics had liked it just fine. I said, “sorry, this ain’t working,” and spent the rest of the time answering their assorted questions about Catholicism.

    For the rest of my catechetical career I’ve tried to be sensitive to what a class already knows and start gently from there.

  7. Towards the end of the catechetical year, I was reminding my students (15 yr olds – their last year in catechism) that just because they’re going to stop attending catechism classes, their spiritual journey/quest for the Truth does not end. I mentioned if they had doubts in faith later on to contact a good priest who could guide them. To which one popped the question, “How do we know who’s a good priest?!” While I was scrambling for an apt answer, the same boy said he would check with a Fr. F in the parish. Phew! Me and my adjectives!

  8. I’ve been pretty blessed with the kids…its the parents that I keep getting in over my head with! Biggest mistake ever at a parent meeting…at the end of the most perfect year ever for Sacramental Prep…I asked for comments/suggestions to “continue building the program”…..(did I mention CCD kids meet in Catholic School classrooms)….well…we learned never to do that again…as the CCD vs. Catholic School issue raised its little head! God is Kind and Merciful…many parents came and hugged me afterward….now we simply remain in control of events and handle special questions/issues one on one vs. in a group (mob) setting! lols! Graciousness is key!!!

    • Parents! Yes, they do drive us nuts sometimes. But without them, we won’t have our little darlings would we?

  9. Young & inexperienced catechist that I was, I thought it was a great idea to begin my Confirmation class with the Rosary. After all, I wanted the kids to get to know & love Mary and to be familiar with this Marian prayer. So at every session, we would start with the rosary. Bad idea! It took me some time before I realized that some folks were deliberately arriving late to class to avoid praying the rosary! Now my students can never tell how our class is going to start!

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