When Religious Education Programs Thrive, We All Win

Today {May 5}, I am writing at the close of the day, a day in which we celebrated our third child’s First Holy Communion. A day when Father Uche delivered a homily that packed a punch – Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus? Three down, three to go, I am thinking to myself.

What made today so daggone special?

This child has always been the everybody friend – the total opposite of me and my husband as children. We would have gladly crawled under a rock than be forced to talk or – gasp! – socialize with others. Shy, introverted, quiet – these are not words we would use to describe numero tres. So, as her First Holy Communion day approached, she embraced it with her whole being. Though she is the first to be homeschooled from Kinder onward, I happily enrolled her into our parish religious education program, a requirement for sacramental years. She jumped in with both feet this year in her class and immediately made friends – no surprise. Her teachers really took to her and it was evident that she was enjoying her class.

Somewhere along the way through this academic year,

I had to pause, reflect, and give thanks over the abundant blessings at our church.

Not for one moment do I take our religious education programs for granted, or that they are thriving. I realize that there is always work to be done, ways to improve, and things will require constant tweaking to build on the already spiritually nourishing program. One thing I am thankful for, is the experience we have had; and, I’m not afraid to share it with others, whether parishioners or not. I want you to know that things are happening at my church. My time on the pastoral council is coming to a close, three years to be exact; two of those I’ve spent serving as the chairperson, which has been a source of immeasurable spiritual growth as well as joy in working with our parish priests, getting to know the staff and their programs, and watching our pastor come back from sabbatical, ready to take us from Maintenance to Mission.

My church, St. William of Vercelli

But what does that have to do with her First Holy Communion, you might be thinking? Well, we were meant for community: to be in communion with each other. We are also meant to be in communion with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. When we are baptized, we are welcomed into the Father’s family. When we are welcomed to the Eucharistic banquet, it is through the loving sacrifice of the Son. And when we are fully initiated as the church militant, it is through Confirmation that the Holy Spirit is stirred in our souls, like chocolate syrup mixed in a cold glass of milk. Do you like that visual? I always love it when Noe talks about the Holy Spirit at our Adult Faith Formation classes and uses the chocolate milk example.

You might still be scratching your head, wondering where I am going on this long drive before I eventually make my point. Yes, parents are the primary educators of the Faith. We do the bulk of the rowing of our own spiritual boat, but it is always appreciated when those we commune with week after week at our parish help lighten the load of steering the boat. As a parent, I – along with my husband – are always at the helm, making the primary decisions in the education of our children, but I am immensely grateful for the solid leadership of our priests, unwavering in the Faith, unafraid to speak the truth in love…always in love, but always the truth. I am also grateful for the staff at our parish who are an amazing example for others. Their dedication to helping our parish realize the vision of Maintenance to Mission is nothing short of spectacular. And our religious education teachers. The ones who help ease the load of faith formation for our children. Volunteers who jump through all kinds of hoops, hoopla, and hugs from our kids – and you know they do it to see those little faces light up when something clicks.

 photo CatholicNerd43.pngI enroll my children in our religious education programs because I know it is a wonderful supplemental experience to the foundation we provide at home. I envy my kiddos’ enthusiasm of going to RE when each Wednesday and Sunday night rolls around. I sometimes laugh to myself when threats to remove privileges sometimes has to include their not being able to attend SWYM or Triumph {our high school and middle school youth ministry programs}. Our programs are seriously just that good. And I’m glad my children have access to programs like these – because when I stop being cool {ok, who am I kidding…I haven’t been cool for a while now}, they turn to their peers who are also immersed in these programs. And then they school me when I make an incorrect reference to Vatican II.

And I just wouldn’t have it any other way.

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