While in school, simply professed friars like myself are given the opportunity to get experience in ministerial settings. Each year we’re assigned to a different ministry, and the ministry opportunities are far and wide. There have been catechists, hospital chaplains, retreat coordinators, prayer group leaders, peace and justice advocates, visitors to nursing homes and a many more that I am simply unaware of. The purpose is to get us out of our studies and into the real world, to interact with people and to hone our pastoral skills.
One of the areas that I has caught my attention over the past few years has been religious education, both of children and adults. I won’t say that Catholics don’t know their faith, as some would posit, but I will say that Catholics are much less confident in their knowledge of their faith than others because they possess a very different skill-set than our Protestant brothers and sisters. As I see it, It would not take much to give people the tools they need to be active and confident sharers of their faith, and most of all, interested to continue learning even after the requirements are over.
Thus, this year I have chosen to be a religious education teacher at St. Camillus Church, helping out with their newly reorganized faith formation program. Put simply, there are two categories of courses for teenagers and I am teaching one of each. The first category is called Confirmation Prep and it is designed for students that have been in religious education in some form for many years and are ready for confirmation. There’s a high expectation for classroom assignments, memorization of prayers and teachings, and a general grounding in faith that is meant to be matured and matured.
The RCIY (Rite of Christian Initiation for Youth) class on the other hand is for students who are being introduced to religious education or church for the first time. Because there’s no guarantee as to how much any student will know coming in, and the fact that many students are probably a bit apprehensive about being around church, this group is much less of a class than it is quality time with teenagers. In fact, for these students, I am refraining from ever using the word “class” to describe our time together as it presents a very negative image to many of the students, and it doesn’t adequately describe what it is we hope to accomplish. Ultimately, our goals with these students is to 1) introduce them to church through community building and personal relationships, and 2) provide them with a basic understanding of our Catholic faith with the hope that they will continue on in their journey, wherever it may be at the moment.
Splitting the classes up in this way helps to meet the needs of everyone involved without exclusion for sure, but from a teaching standpoint, it also offers the opportunity to have two wonderfully different experiences of faith formation. At this point, everything is very new, and there’s still a lot that needs to be worked out as far as curriculum goes, but the whole experience is very exciting. Obviously the teaching aspect will be a great test of my interpersonal and organizational skills, but the opportunity to walk with teenagers in their faith journey, whether it be a first introduction to Jesus or developing an adult faith, is a tremendous blessing. In no way am I delusional enough to think that it will be an easy time, but what worthwhile experience is? I’ll keep you posted.