Random Musings: On Children’s Catechesis (or What is Wrong with CCD?)

Disclaimer: This reflects my personal views and experiences and is not a reflection on the situation as a whole.

CCD. The Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (didn’t know that was what it stood for til last year lol). It brings both good and indifferent memories.

When I think of CCD, I’m reminded of the boredom I experienced once a week from 4th grade to 8th grade (fun fact: after moving here from the Philippines, my parents didn’t know how one receives the Sacraments, which is why I got my First Confession and Eucharist in 4th grade and not 2nd grade) and the two times I taught CCD.

Of course, there were some exceptions to the boredom. When I started classes for my First Eucharist, I had personal lessons from a Sister at my parish since it would’ve been weird for a 4th grader to sit in on a 2nd grade class. I can also attribute part of my decision to stay with the faith after Confirmation to my CCD teacher (Mr. Matt DeVito, may he rest in peace).

For the total CCD experience however, I can honestly say I did not learn much. We colored, read cheesy textbooks that were the basically same each year, memorized prayers, and well, that was basically it. There was no substance. Everything taught in class merely scratched the surface of what it meant to be a Catholic.

I was bored. My classmates were bored. We did it because we were told to. No one understood the Mass, and class wasn’t interesting enough for kids to be pushed to ask questions about it. After all, if all you do is spend an hour a week being told to be nice to each other and then coloring pictures of events from Scripture, well, that’s all you’ll expect.

8th grade was different because Mr. DeVito actually pushed us to live an authentic Catholic life. I was moved by his faithfulness and after Confirmation, I hoped that one day, I can teach CCD and move more students in the future to actually love being Catholic. (Unfortunately, out of my Confirmation class of about 40, only 3 of us go to church regularly today)

My senior year of high school, one of my best friends asked me if I wanted to help him teach CCD at his parish. Our town had 2 Catholic parishes, and he switched over to the smaller one and that was where we were going to teach.

It was a class of six 3rd graders. During our first day, the deacon went up to us, gave us the textbooks and just said good luck and have fun. In other words, we didn’t have a set plan, other than make sure they knew the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary, and the Act of Contrition.

We then took a quick scan of the textbook and said it was useless. We then told our class that they only had one homework assignment each week, which was to go to Sunday Mass then come back to class with either 1 sentence on all three readings or 3 sentences on the homily. My friend and I knew they weren’t going to go for the readings since it meant paying attention to three things, so they ended up giving us 3 sentences on the homily. Basically, it meant they ended up paying attention in Mass, which was our goal. (prior to winter break, the deacon came up to us and said, “Your students are taking notes at Mass and asking me questions about the homily. What did you do to them?”)

We then taught them prayers, what they meant, and how to find Bible verses. By the time the school year was over, they knew how to do a proper Confession and 3 boys ended up becoming altar servers. For high schoolers, I think we did a good job.

The next time I taught CCD was the summer before my junior year of college, and this time, it was 2nd graders preparing for First Eucharist. This class was tough because they didn’t go to Mass and neither did their parents. Once again, I didn’t use the textbook. Instead, I told them to bring beach towels and I taught class under a tree. We tried to discuss how God worked in our lives and how the Mass worked. I tried telling them the importance of Confession and the Eucharist.

Perhaps the most important time I had with this class was when I was helping out with a First Confession workshop which included their parents. I gave six  30 minute talks on how to do Confession and why we should do it. At the end of the day, one of the mothers went up to me and said “I haven’t been to Confession in 30 years, but now I feel like I need to go.” I smiled and told her that she should go after her daughter, that way her child can see her mother Confess and see that it is important.

By the time I finished teaching, about three families started going to Mass regularly. It wasn’t everyone, but it’s a start.

In the end, I don’t know what is the best solution to fix catechesis. Parents are blasé about it. Kids aren’t interested. Perhaps the best place to start is to live authentic Catholic lives loving God and each other. Then when we become parents we give that love to our children. And then pray that we spread the love to everyone around us. Let’s not innovate and cater to the changing whims of the world.

Let’s teach by glorifying the Lord by our lives.

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