What Do You Want from Your Parish? Religious Education

What Do You Want from Your Parish? Religious Education February 26, 2014

Our weeklong series “What Do You Want from Your Parish?” continues. Today the focus is on Religious Education.

How can your parish best aid you in your mission within your Domestic Church by educating all members of your family in the faith. What great experiences can you share from your own parish, or other good ones you’ve heard of? If you were able to make a request of your pastor in this area, what would you ask for?

Please include your comments below or feel free to email me at lisahendey@gmail.com. And if you’d really like my unending gratitude, record a one minute video answering this question and email it to me. In order for our talk to be a good resource for those attending, your feedback is essential and greatly appreciated!

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  • Orthodoxy. We don’t have enough of it. That’s the number one thing I want from my local parish.

    • lisahendey

      Thanks for your comment!

  • Danielle M.

    I wish they would have fewer required extra activities. I don’t mind that they suggest activities for each season, but our family has its own traditions and activities we like to do during lent, advent, Easter, etc. Our RE program seems to pile on all these extra things, and they don’t necessarily fit in with our plans. I guess my real wish was that I could educate my children the way I want to in this area, with accountability, but not so many structured activities. The program seems to forget that not every child likes to draw pictures every day, and not every child likes to sing in front of others, etc. I believe I should be able to tailor their instruction in a way that they get as much out of it as possible, and not a one size fits all program.

    • lisahendey

      Danielle thank you so much for sharing this important perspective. How old are your children?

      • Danielle M.

        I have 3 old enough for RE, 8th grade, 5th grade and 2nd grade (so 2 Sacrament years). I do really appreciate the people who volunteer to teach, and I am grateful for the program, but the people who run the program seem to approach it from the perspective that they are the only exposure to RE the kids get, so they try to do it all. My kids get plenty of instruction at home, and I could really do without the extras (not that I don’t think some of them are good ideas, but we have our own stuff we like to do). I think a homeschool (again, with accountability like handing in assignments or testing) option would better serve our needs, since you asked :).

        • Katie

          Danielle, as a volunteer in my parish’s program, it is great to hear that you educate your children at home as well send them to your parish program. But I think you may be the exception. My children and I participate in the program as part of the parish community, not because I need someone else to teach them their faith – we live it in our home. But I don’t think most people do. Look at the statistics of how many people attend Mass on a weekly basis. I suspect your RE office, like so many others, sees that rather than the role they are intended to fulfill (formal religious education as a reinforcement to what children are taught in the home), they are all the training the children receive. So they pile on activities and by making them required, hope they’ll “stick” or flick on a switch.

          Many homes schoolers look to what Pope Paul VI wrote in Gravissimum Educationis as their justification and inspiration for teaching their children at home. I wish all those Catholic parents who drop their kids off and pick them up from religion classes understood that this applies even more broadly to how we are ultimately responsible for our own family’s knowledge and faith development.

          • Danielle M.

            I agree with you, Katie, which is why I feel that a homeschool option, but one with accountability, is a good solution for families that do instruct at home. I doubt the people who just drop off and pick up would be willing to have their kids tested, and they would continue with the regular program. I just don’t see that my kids are getting very much out of their weekly classes (I was an aide in a 4th grade class earlier in the year and not one of the 10 students could even say the Our Father – that’s 2 years AFTER FHC), so obviously, my kids are not getting very much from their classes except for worksheets, workbooks, endless picture drawing (which the boys hate) and what I consider a lot of busy work. I am thankful for the program and that it is available to those who do not instruct their children at home, but since the question was posed, what I would most like is more flexibility to meet families where they are, and not have to just cater to the lowest common denominator in terms of instruction.

          • Katie

            While flexibility is helpful, and our DRE does what she thinks is best when a request is put before her (during non-sacrament years she may allow a child or family to work on their own, as an example), I do believe that it is important for us to meet as a parish. Otherwise, we don’t even always know who else is out there! As difficult as the transition was for my family to move from the parish school to public school and weekly religious education, I’ve been blessed to meet and know so many more Catholics. And it’s humbled me – do my children know their prayers and go to Mass out of practice and an adherence to the rules? Or do these things happen because we truly love God?

            There just isn’t enough time – – – –

          • lisahendey

            So happy to see the respectful and very thought provoking nature of this conversation. Thanks to both of you for weighing in…

    • I teach 6th grade catechism and I agree. I don’t ask anything of parents beyond bringing their kids to every class. Of course even that can be asking a lot on Wednesday evenings.

    • BTW, as I tiresomely observe every time RE comes up, if classtime were effectively spent catechizing and evangelizing, few would be worried about band-aids.

  • Katie

    Hmmm……something, not sure what, but something to draw more people in who aren’t part of the parish school system. I teach 5th grade religious ed and my kids have been in our parish school as well as public schools and there needs to be something to pull us together more – there are more kids and families in religious ed than the school!

    • Yes. In my parish there are 3 groups: homeschoolers, parochial schoolers, and Sunday Schoolers. They coalesce a bit in 9-12 Youthgroup. ‘Graduating’ 8th-grade Sunday Schoolers are directly courted by the Youthgroup, which is a big help in getting them on the YG track.

  • Bonnie Engstrom

    I love that my parish offers an adult Bible study on Sunday mornings (good for parents of older kids) and a moms’ group (all women are welcome, good for moms with little kids.) I wish the men’s group wasn’t just a business meeting. I wish there was a way to educate the parents while the kids were at CCD.

    Also, since most adults learn about their faith from the pulpit I wish homilies were no longer than 10 minutes and had supplemental info in the bulletin.

  • I spent the first ten years in religious education focusing on becoming the best teacher I can be. I’ve realized in the last two years or so that being a great teacher is not enough. The more we can focus on developing our relationship with Christ as his disciples, the better teachers, servants, and witness we can be to our young students and to their parents. It’s unfortunately easy to lose sight of this fact.

    That’s the best thing our parish workers and volunteers can do for parents and children: become better disciples and therefore better witnesses.

    That often means praying twice as much and twice as hard as you did before you got into ministry. It also means setting aside what you might think is important (lesson plans, curriculum, activities, events, paperwork, etc.) and just being authentically present for those who need you the most.

    • lisahendey

      Jared thank you for this comment, which is wise beyond measure! It hold true for so much of the work we do… I really appreciate all that you do, and the fact that you’ve made time to comment today is a true blessing.

    • Katie

      Jared and Lisa – thank you for your websites. You’ve both been a huge help to me as both a mom and RE teacher!

    • Yes esp. the closing sentence. Being “authentically present” may be of more value to the kids than catechetical content.