Some time ago, a catechetical leader shared her comments here about the total revamping of the catechetical program at her parish. I invited her to update us which she has done. Some interesting and innovative approaches:
Dear Joe,I shared with you how we completely revamped our religious ed. program. You invited me to share more, so “here goes.”I had been a catechist for about 16 years before I became the Director of Faith Formation (about 10 years ago). I loved the classroom and it was that experience that, hopefully, made me more sensitive to catechists. We had a good program but I knew that we could do better. Each year I heard two things repeated from the catechists:1. “These kids don’t go to Mass”2. “These kids never see a priest”As the Director of the Program I agreed and had other problems which ‘haunted’ me:1. Some catechists are wonderful, faith-filled and creative. Unfortunately, some weren’t (and we can’t clone ….so…how could we help them?)2. Where is the family involvement??? Without the support in the home we are 60 min./week vs. THE WORLD!!! I even designed a ‘family activity’ for each grade level. I bought tote bags, decorated them and each week a different child brought the bag home to do the ‘family activity’. These worked well…everyone like them….but it wasn’t enough.3. Some catechists move up with their class – so many times I heard, ‘I know I taught this to the kids but with each new year it was like starting over!’4. They don’t know the Old Testament – and how it connects with Jesus and our Church.5. Programs from 5:00 – 6:00 pm were not that effective. Kids were tired and hungry – AND SO WAS I!6. How can we make our program more like Vacation Bible School which the kids love.So….with a team of ‘retired’ DRE’s (if you can ever really retire) and a very willing pastor, we set out to address some of these issues. This is what we came up with:1. No longer is it CCD – it’s needs a new contemporary look – a make-over. We decided on EDJE (Everyday Jesus Education) for grades 1-6 and Cross Over 2 Jesus for grades 7 and 8. We created logos and had pocket folders made for each kid.2. All sessions would be on Sundays and each would begin with a Teaching Mass – gr. 1-6 in the morning, gr. 7 and 8 in the evening.3. Each session would be 2 1/2 hours.4. For the EDJE Program each session would be – Mass-Class-Blast (Bible Learning and Story Telling).5. Mass – the kids would sit with their classes. The Altar is on wheels and Mass is said in between the first pews. The kids can really see what is going on. Fr. Chip (our Pastor) does the Readings from the Children’s Lectionary and always ‘makes the connection’ between the OT Reading and the Gospel. We also have a ‘What’s Up With That?’ section during the offertory where our Parochial Vicar comes in and explains something in the ‘environment’ of the Church. The music is ‘kid friendly’. We even hired a graphic artist to design Mass Books for the Children to follow along. We thought the ones available were either too wordy or outdated. I would love to send you a sample if you’re interested. The kids love them!!!6. Classes – like before – focus on reviewing the Gospel (that they just heard!!!) and Church Doctrine, following the CCC.7. BLAST – all the kids gather together in the gym and I tell them one of the OT stories. We’re marching from Genesis to Jesus – keeping the story going of the Chosen People. And then we play a game (with 150 kids) where they get to shout, run around, etc. But…each game is designed to ‘drive home’ the story that they just heard.8. We give them a snack and send them home – with big smiles on their faces.Since we only have space for 1/2 of the kids we divide up the grades – gr 1-3 one week, and gr 4-6 the next. On their ‘off’ weeks they have a packet to complete at home and hand in – they can attend the Mass of their choice but it counts as a class. This summer I am putting all of the home packet material online so that the kids can complete the work and submit it online. They will really like that.Our 7th and 8th grade programs are designed a little differently – but…I don’t want your head to explode – if by chance you are still reading this…..If you’re interested I will be happy to share that with you as well.The changes to the program caused a huge uproar in our town and we lost about 200 kids to neighboring parishes. Our classes conflicted with sports schedules, etc. and that’s fine. We had parent meetings to introduce the changes and we were met with some real hostility and anger – which verified that the once a week programs could be better. We were hearing the voices of the parents who were mostly catechized that way.I don’t mean to criticize the work, efforts, love and faith that is shared by our wonderful volunteers, staff and clergy. We just thought that perhaps it was time to take a look at how we are ‘doing’ religious ed.Sorry for the length of this email but I’m sure that you can see how passionate we are about all of this.Let us pray for each other…..God’s peace,Andrea Woronick, Director of Faith Formation, St. Joseph Church, Brookfield, CT.