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Last week, we tackled the Sacrament of Confirmation. We started by talking about the Holy Spirit and Pentecost. We emphasized that the Holy Spirit is God and that aspect or person of God that stays with us daily. We told the story of Pentecost and then showed a short video to reinforce the concept.

We transitioned into a discussion of the role of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation. We discussed the idea of confirming their basic beliefs as Catholic. We broke them into pairs and asked them to list some of their core Catholic beliefs. We gave them some hints, like “Think of the Apostle’s Creed.” It went OK.

We discussed the role of Confirmation as a major milestone on their growth as Catholics. Most of them weren’t asked if they wanted to be baptized, but when they approach young adulthood, they do get the chance to decide and confirm their faith. We compared it to other young adult ceremonies in other religions, like evangelical protestants’ “born again” or the Jewish Bar Mitzvah.

We returned to the text and asked them to read a page silently and look for the answers to a few questions.

Why does the Confirmation sponsor place his or her hand on the shoulder of the candidate?

How does the bishop anoint the candidate?

Why does the newly confirmed offer peace to the bishop?

We spent some time talking about the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and completed a match-game exercise.

We finished up with a game of Hangman. Unfortunately, despite going through nearly the entire alphabet, they weren’t able to solve “Pentecost.” Too bad.

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We started the class a little differently this week. We have had a small problem lately with classroom behavior. It hasn’t been terrible, but some of the antics have been distracting, both to the rest of the class and to me. We usually go through this about this time every year.  Mrs. Hanzel has not been able to help out since the Christmas break, so I have been on my own. I realize that the CCD class comes at the end of a long day for them. Their regular school is their “job.” Our class is like overtime.

So I asked the class for their cooperation. I don’t expect or want them to just sit there with their hands folded. We want a lively class with a lot of exchange, but we need some better focus. I try to present lessons that, while not necessarily entertaining, are interesting. We engage in activities like role playing that break up the routine. That doesn’t work when several students are trying to make themselves the center of attention. I asked them to work with me, pay attention and avoid activities that disrupt or distract. For the most part, it worked. I did have to call out two young ladies, who ironically, were late for class and didn’t hear the message. When I was making a point, one who was sitting in the front row, stood up, turned around to her friends and used both hands to point to herself. I addressed her and told her about my talk before she got to class. I told her and the class that was exactly the kind of attention-seeking, distracting activity I was talking about.

For the lesson, we finished our discussion of the Eucharist by focusing on the Mass. Most of the class agreed that they really didn’t understand what was going on. To start off, we compared the structure of the Mass to visiting some friends with their family. In this case, we are visiting in God’s house.

— We start a visit by going to the door and being welcomed by our hosts. This is like the introductory rites.

— Typically, we visit and chat with our friends. This like the opening prayers and the readings. We talk to God and God talks to us.

— And since we never show up for dinner without bringing something, we do the same at Mass. This is the offertory and presentation of the gifts.

— Eventually, we and the host prepare the meal and we sit down and eat. This, of course, is the consecration, Eucharistic prayer and communion.

— And finally, we say good bye and go home. The same at Mass.

We passed out a one-sheet outline of the Mass. It included a column indicating when we sit, stand and kneel. Typically, we stand when we are praying, sit when we are listening and kneel during the most sacred part of the Mass.

We played a video that covered a lot of the same information, but it reinforced the lesson. These Catholic Central videos are energetic and interesting. They may be slightly advanced for 5th graders, but not by much. The class seems to enjoy them. You can watch the one from this week here.

We finished up by passing out the missals/hynmals we use in the church, and showed the class how to use the missal to follow along with the Mass.

Next week, we will begin a two-week lesson on Confirmation.

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This is a way-late update for last week’s class. Being partially retired with two small (23 mos and 8 mos) grandchildren is busier than working full time.

We began our coverage of the Eucharist. We talked about the Passover and how the first Eucharist, at the Last Supper, was a Seder meal. The class was quite surprised to learn that Jesus and his followers were all Jewish.

If the class got anything out of the lesson it would be the concept of “real presence,” our belief that Jesus is truly present in the host and wine.

We had the class team up with a partner and read a passage from the text that explained the Eucharist as being a memorial, a sacrifice and a meal.

This week, we will finish up on the Eucharist by looking at the structure of the Mass and explaining how to use a  missal (hymnal) to follow along.

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We continued our coverage of the Sacrament of Baptism. We emphasized that everyone is called to be baptized. And a Baptism in another Christian church is usually accepted by the Church. We then had volunteers read the first page of Ch 5 in the textbook. We had written questions on the white board for them to find answers in the text which we discussed.

  1. Does everyone get baptized at the same age? (No)
  2. What do we call adults or older children who are preparing for Baptism? (catechumens)
  3. Who helps prepare people for Baptism? (the entire Church community)
  4. What do Godparents do? (multiple answers)
  5. What is the best day to be Baptized? (Sunday)

On the issue of godparents, we did make a distinction between what it means in the Church, as opposed to a common lay meaning. Outside the church godparents are often considered the intended guardians of a child if both parents should die. Within the Church, that may or may not be the case. We explained that frequently godparents are not a couple, and may be married to other people (eg: an aunt from one side of the family and an uncle from the other.) Within the Church, the godparents stand up for a child during the ceremony and answer questions in his or her place. They are also expected to be involved in the child’s life, especially their spiritual life. I am not sure even broaching this topic was a great idea. It caused quite a bit of confusion and questions along the lines of “What happens if my parents die and….?”

Then we came to the fun (risky) part of the lesson. We divided the class into three groups of three and had them role-play a Baptism. One student was the priest, one the catechumen and one the godparent. We had water, but didn’t have oil, a white garment or a candle – the four symbols of the Sacrament – so we faked those. We gave them a few minutes to prepare and then had them walk through the process. I let the “priest” say the prayers and anoint with make believe oil, and dribbled the water.

The exercise did not go totally off the rails. It actually went fairly well. The students really got into it. Hopefully, by acting out the Sacrament, they may actually remember it.

This week, we will start our coverage of the Eucharist and the Mass.

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We barreled into our first class of 2020 full throttle. Between all the holidays, Penance service and the Christmas pageant, it’s been nearly two months since our last “regular” class session.

Our topic was the first of two classes on Baptism (Ch 4 in the text.) We started off with a short video that provided a broad overview of the Sacrament. You can view it here.

One element that was in the video but not in the rest of our lesson was that the Church recognizes the baptisms from most other Christian denominations. We discussed this.

We then asked the students to read page 44 and highlight key points. These included:

  • Baptism is the foundation of Christian life.
  • Baptism frees us from past sins. We discussed infant Baptism.
  • Through Baptism we establish a connection with God and become a part of the Church.

Volunteers read page 45 aloud. It presented the concepts of original sin (which we did not do a very good job explaining), incarnation and salvation. We emphasized that the Sacrament of Baptism opens the path for us to have a relationship with God.

We finished up with a game of “hangman” using words from the lesson. The students really got into this, so we will do it again in the future.

Next week, we hope to finish up our coverage of Baptism, with more on the specifics of the sacrament, and some role playing.

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This will be a short entry, as there isn’t much to say that I haven’t already said. Last night, we had our second rehearsal for the Dec. 18 Christmas Pageant. We have ten students who are narrators and four who are shepherds, angels or biblical royalty.

No class next week for Thanksgiving.

The parish Advent Penance Service will be held on Dec. 4 at 6:30 pm. (That is the correct time.) Please, come with your child(ren). If you want to sit with us, Mrs. Hanzel and I will be up near the choir. Last night, we did spend a few minutes going over the procedure for a confession. I distributed some “cheat sheets” with the step-by-step process and the Act of Contrition. I collected them back,however, and will bring them on Dec 4.

Dress rehearsal will be Dec. 11. Drop off and pick up at the church.

Christmas Pageant on Dec. 18. Please have your child at the church by 6:15 at the absolute latest. Students coming in late and sliding in under the tag just causes chaos for all of us, including the other students.

Mrs. Hanzel and I hope you have a great Thanksgiving and we’ll see you in two weeks.

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We started rehearsals for the CCD Christmas Pageant last night. Before we did that, however, Mrs. Hanzel had a short quiz on the material about the sacraments we have been discussing for the past several weeks. We were a little disappointed about the poor retention. We were somewhat surprised at how many of the students could not name either one of the two priests at our church. (“I don’t know who they are because I don’t ever go to church.” What? Seriously!)

As in year past, we are providing the narrators for the presentation while the third grade provides the “actors.” We have nine or ten speaking parts depending on how we divide it up. Last night we had eight volunteers to read and two who preferred to abstain. There were four students absent last night. I suspect we will pick up one or two readers from that group next week.

The class did very well. We have a few who need to speak up, but generally they did well. And they were so well behaved that Mary Zimmer, the music director who was preparing for choir practice, came over to compliment them.

So here is what our schedule looks like for the next few weeks.

11/20 – Drop off and pick up at the church.

11/27 – No Class

12/4 – Parish Penance Service. Attend with family.

12/11 – Dress rehearsal. Drop off and pick up at the church.

12/18 – Christmas Pageant. Please have your student at the church no later than 6:15 pm.

12/25 and 1/1 –No class

1/8/2020 – Back to work.

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We had a lively class last night. And that’s not “code” for ill behaved. The group was just energetic.

We started with a follow up to our tour of the church last week. Ms. Hanzel distributed a pre-class exercise that asked the students to match various items in a drawing of the interior of a church to a list of common things, like an altar, pews, etc. After the students worked on it on their own, we went over it. Most of the class were successful with most of the questions. We then redistributed the scavenger hunt sheets that had riddles about objects in the church. Some of the riddles were a little “out there” but, again, the students did pretty well.
Scavanger Hunt 10-2
We changed gears about half way through the class and finished up the chapter we started two weeks ago. We divided the class into four teams of three or four students and assigned them a handful of paragraphs from the text. They were to work together to read and understand their assignment and plan a way to teach that section to the reminder of the class. The four topics were…

Disciples and the Kingdom of God
Parables and the story of the mustard seed
The church

In the past, this has sometimes gone well and sometimes fallen flat on its fact. Last night, it went fairly well. Three of the four groups showed some imagination, which isn’t bad.

Next week we move into our coverage of the sacraments, which will be the main theme for the rest of the year.

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After promising to be diligent about posting updates, I missed the very first class. Oh well. Here we go for last night’s class.

We had a pretty good class last night. Ms. Hanzel and I teamed up with Cindy LeMay and the sixth grade class for a “field trip” to the church.

Before we went, we prayed the Lord’s Prayer together. That was a bit of an eye opener. I think one focus of our instruction this year will be on memorizing some of the basic prayers.

Mrs. LeMay lead a tour of the stained glass windows. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the students picked out images that I had difficulty seeing. Did you know the windows on the left represent stories from the Old Testament, while those on the right are from the New Testament? I didn’t.

Mrs. LeMay also prepared a “scavenger hunt.” She had a sheet with cryptic questions about various objects in the church. The students had to find or answer them. The class really got into it although they were mostly asking the teachers for the answers. We preserved their answer sheets and plan to go over the questions and answers in next week’s class.



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This was our second to the last class for the CCD year. We are charging towards the finish line.

We opened the class with a short review of last week’s lesson on the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. Then we moved on to the main topic of the class, the Sacrament of Matrimony, including the outlines of a Catholic marriage and family. Sometimes this can be a sensitive subject, so we started off with a warning. I don’t know the details of all our students’ families, and don’t really need to. However, it is quite likely there are students in our class who have experienced divorces and/or other unusual family situations, with their parents or other members of their family. I emphasized that while we would be teaching the Church’s position on marriage, the students should not take anything as a criticism or judgment on any particular people or situations.

Some of the key points we discussed were:

— Jesus thought enough of the importance of marriage to perform his first miracle at the wedding feast at Cana.

— Marriage has been part of the human experience since the very beginning – ie: Adam and Eve.

— Boys and girls, and men and women are different but equal.

— A Catholic marriage is intended to be a permanent commitment. We talked about some short-lived celebrity marriages and the popular concept of a “starter marriage,” but indicated the Church believes you should enter into a marriage fully aware and prepared and with the full intention of making it a life-long commitment. We discussed the concept of a covenant.

— While the Catholic Church makes it difficult to get out of a marriage, it also makes it difficult to get into it. Priests and other non-Catholic clergy frequently screen couples and can decline to marry them.

— We discussed the difference between a promise and a vow. A promise is made between one person and another. A vow is a promise made to God. The marriage commitment is a vow.

–The difference between a civil marriage and a religious marriage. A wedding before a judge may cover the legal aspects of marriage, but is very different than a religious marriage, where two people stand before God and promise to maintain a life-long commitment. A Catholic marriage covers both the civil and religious aspects. We were asked whether you could have a civil wedding and then later have a religious wedding. We gave several examples of how this happens.

From there we said that Matrimony forms the basis for a Catholic family. We talked about responsibilities within families, including the responsibilities of children. We drew two columns on the white board and head one “adults” and the other “children.” We first asked the class to name responsibilities of the adults or parents in a family and we got the set of answers you would expect – cook dinner, financial support, teach children, etc. When we asked about the other side of the chart, the going was a little more difficult. Aside from household chores, the idea that they might have some responsibilities towards their parents was a little strange.

We introduced two concepts. (Parents, you can thank us later for this.) The first was to respect their parents; to listen to them; and to try to fulfill their parents’ wishes and expectations. In other words, “Don’t make your parents’ job of raising you difficult.”

The second concept was to give their parents the opportunity to spend time with each other. Don’t be so needy and demanding of their parents’ every waking minute that they never to spend any time with just them.

Next week will be the final CCD class session. Monsignor Costigan will be a guest speaker to talk about his life as a priest. We will have a pizza snack and drinks.

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