We just returned from the 9 a.m. Mass at St. Peter the Apostle Church, our new/old parish. My husband and I renewed our wedding vows here after five years of marriage and our two sons were baptized here. About a decade ago we left the parish for one in our hometown, largely because of the religious education program. Ironically, that is why we headed back to St. Peter's.
Years ago we were dismayed to see parents at St. Peter's dropping their children off at the CCD at the elementary school, weaving their way through traffic with the CYO basketball parents. It looked like just another extracurricular activity. We didn't see most of these parents at Mass. We longed for a sense of community. We were drawn to our hometown parish because of its Family Catechism program. Nothing sounded better than growing and learning more about the faith alongside our boys.
For years it was a beautiful program. Over time, however, the pastor decided we parents were not equipped to teach our children. He told us to be in the classroom we'd have to go through a two-year training program through the diocese. He hired one woman after another - they rarely lasted more than a year - to oversee every grade level in a single room. She had an impossible task - catechizing 30 children in a single room, preparing some for First Communion, others for Confirmation. The program became abysmal.
With our first son, we soldiered through, supplementing the nonexistent learning by cultivating friendships with devout young adults we'd met in the parish. I started a youth group with a girlfriend, teaching the teens about the rosary, the Communion of Saints. We took them hiking and ice skating and we watched a few movies. This which was great until the pastor told us we'd have to form a separate nonprofit and elect a board of directors. Meanwhile, the "religious education program" continued to devolve. Our oldest son was confirmed two years ago.
Last year, we realized L. was getting the short end of the stick, spending Sundays as a Confirmandi filling in Jesus crossword puzzles, watching videos designed for preschoolers and coloring in cartoons about Moses and the Ten Commandments.
After much heartache, we headed back to St. Peter's which by this time was being run by Oratorians keenly interested in cultivating the spiritual life of all parishioners, including children.
Today at Mass Father Tom Odorizzi, C.O., publicly commissioned and had us pray for the men and women who will serve as catechists and teachers of the parish children. He talked about how we all need to grow in our relationship with Christ and how we parents are the first and most important teachers of the faith.
After Mass, I dropped L. off for CCD at the now-closed St. Peter's Elementary School, filled with hope that this year, CCD might actually help our 11-year-old learn and grow in his faith.
It's not too late. As the Gospel tells us today:
Take your earnings and go. I choose to pay the lastcomer as much as I pay you.
Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why should you be envious because I am generous?"
Thus the last will be first, and the first, last.'