Sunday, September 18, 2011

Catechetical Sunday and Our Struggles Through CCD Programs

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.'


  1. my perspective seems to be the same as yours, Allison! Our three oldest ones all attend CCD classes in classrooms taught by people other than us. We have a supportive parish community and our pastor prayed over the families and catechists after today's mass. The Lord can speak to our children in any environment. The only requirement is faith :)

  2. Update: L. came home with a folder with a book as well as prayers. "I think I am going to learn this year," he told me!

  3. Not really all that impressed with our parish's CCD program, either. Last year was our first experience with it as my oldest entered public school. I am not sure that he learned anything. He seemed to enjoy visiting with his friends. Our pastor did hear their confessio s on the last day of class, so that was worthwhile.

    For adults, our pastor has offered several Bible Studoes from the Great Adventure series. They have been wonderful, so I asked him if we might get the teen version for use in our CCD program. He said he would look into it, and agreed. When last I asked, he said the problem was with finding someone who could facilitate the study. I offered, but I got the impression he didn't want to rock the CCD boat. But one of my offspring might have found a date for homecoming during class last week...

  4. @Karen: Ha! A nice Catholic girl to bring to the dance....It is a tricky process, hiring folks to do this work, relying on volunteers. I think it is hard to do CCD right....We can pray that with our help, the pastor, the teachers, friends, etc. our children will get a good grounding in the faith.

  5. Allison, I really hope this CCD program works for your family. I don't know anyone who has been through a WONDERFUL CCD program and has a great start on their faith because of it. that statement has yet to be said of the last few generations! But I do see a new springtime in the church and hopefully this will bring some good CCD programs.

  6. @Sarah: Thank you. I remain hopeful. The Oratory has hired a dynamic, experienced DRE. She has worked and is certified in working with special needs children as well as children without special needs. She also has a large number of children herself. (I believe six or seven) With all that experience, I pray she will guide this program well!

  7. The idea that a one hour per week CCD class can catechize our children is very flawed. The daily religious formation which children receive in Catholic Schools is the ideal model. Studies show that children who attend Catholic grammar schools not only go to Mass more often as adults, but give more money -- time, talent and treasure -- to the Church. The drastic decline of vocations to both the priesthood and the consecrated life as sisters/nuns has been shown to be directly related to the diminished number of children attending Catholic schools. In the end, no matter how dedicated the folks who run CCD programs are, the future of our Church is precarious. CCD, even with the most dedicated of parents, is a watered down presentation of our Faith to our children. Whose fault is this? Post-Vatican II loosening of traditions and expectations has led to much of these problems. The closing of the majority of Catholic grammar schools is a direct result of the lack of committment by the Church in the United States to future generations of young American Catholics. The American Catholic Church has plenty of money to sustain Catholic grammar schools and provide top notch academic and spiritual formation. The Church CHOOSES not to do so. Hence we must rely on CCD programs that may, or may not, offer just a glimpse of catechesis to our children.