religious ed iconSummer Program Underway

So far our first week of Summer School of Religion (Religious Education) is going very well.  Along with covering about 8-9 chapters so far this week (after 3 days of classes) students have had the opportunity to go to a music session on Monday and Tuesday, visit with one of our priests for a Q & A session, and attend a church tour.  Other exciting things coming up this week are a field trip for 6th graders on Thursday and 4th graders on Friday and one for 5th graders next Wednesday.  They will also attend Stations of the Cross on Friday and more times for music on Friday and a couple of times next week.  Students will also have an opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation next week as well as a living saints museum.

Challenges of a Two Week Program

First, it is important to note that no program is perfect.  Parents are the primary educators and what we do in our religious education program is in conjunction and in partnership with what should be done within the family.  Families should be living the Faith, talking about the Faith and sharing the Faith on a daily basis.

Our intensive two week program is the only one of its kind in our metro area.  Many parishes practically loathe the fact that we offer such a program and others love the idea but do not have the support they need from their pastor.  Many at our own parish believe it is merely a way to “get it out of the way”.   Yes, there is the potential for parents to sign up their busy child(ren) for two weeks in the summer so they don’t have to make the time for religious formation classes during the year.  However, that does not mean they are not learning and growing during the year.  We hope and pray at a minimum they are attending Mass weekly (but this is also a problem with some parents who have their children attending during the year).  Another challenge is that the great things children learn during the two weeks are not spoken or thought of 3 months later.  For example, the lesson on the Works of Mercy is forgotten about and kids forget to apply the collection they are participating in their schools or the things they are doing during the year with the Works of Mercy that they learned about in July.  Another challenge I find is that the liturgical year is not able to be celebrated in the same way in a two week period as it is from September to May.  Catechists are able to focus on so many aspects of the faith within the context of the liturgical seasons during the year, but not as much in the summer – it’s a little more abstract.  It’s challenge to talk about Advent in July when they won’t celebrate it for another 5 months.

Advantages

I believe I shared in Part I is that our program is 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM.  Most if not all of these students are not in any other educational program during these two weeks and are only focusing on their religious education.  It is very challenging during the year when kids have been at school all day and they are tired and worn out when they come to religious education in the evenings once a week.  Also, students seem to process and retain what they are learning about because they have it day after day for these two weeks instead of only once a week.  Many parents share how they believe their child gets more out of the summer because they are finding it easier for their child to connect the dots about their faith.  I think another advantage is the ability to schedule unique activities throughout the program. Although I’ve been able to do some great things during the year it is easier to schedule music for a half an hour for each grade in a 3.5 hour day verses trying to do the same thing during the year when all we have is an hour and 15 minutes.  I try to schedule at least one thing out of class each day as well as allowing the catechists to decide when they want to take their class to a short “snack break”.  In addition, I really like that during these two weeks the classrooms can be set up in anyway the catechists want them to be set up verses during the year when it would take more time to move desks around before class begins and then move them back at the end of class.  Catechists do not tend to do that as much during the year so as not to “mess up” the Catholic School students desks or put them back in the wrong order.  Neither are they able to decorate and personalize very much during the year but in the summer they are able to do that to a greater degree.

Enrichment Sessions

Since I’ve become the Director I’ve required students and parents to commit to 4 times a year for enrichment sessions (twice in the Fall and twice in the Spring).  These session are designed to build community and continue to help kids and their parents grow in their faith throughout the year.

Although I was unsure when I first began working at the parish about a summer program, I now am an advocate of the Summer Program.  I am always aware of the challenges we face at helping live the faith throughout the year.  There are many great things about this program and I am blessed to be able to be at a parish that offers alternatives and various options for parishioners.  One size (i.e., program) does not fit all.   Feel free to contact me about this program and I’d be happy to share more.

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