What I wish they had taught me in CCD

What I wish they had taught me in CCD

Jason at the PPK blog has started a new meme: What I wish they had taught me in CCD. His offerings are more highbrow than mine. He must have had better CCD teachers.

I went through CCD mainly in the late 70s and the first couple years of the 80s so my experience was the very worst of what religious educators were experimenting with then. So here’s what I wish I had learned:

  1. That there is more to Jesus than that He is my friend.

  2. That there is more to being a Christian than just being nice to others.

  3. Prayers: I didn’t learn the Act of Contrition until I was an adult.

  4. That the Church has a cultural heritage of amazing art and music.

  5. That the Church has an amazing history of saints, heroes and villains, bravery, courage, and sacrifice.

  6. Any systematic understanding of Catholicism and Catholic teaching.

  7. The Rosary, the Baltimore Catechism, how to read the Bible.

  8. The assume true nature of the Eucharist.

The embarrassing reality is that I didn’t know diddly about my faith until I started reading on my own when I was 21 or so. I’m really embarrassed to reveal how pathetic my knowledge of my own faith was when I began studying theology at Franciscan University. The first year was an accelerated course to make up for what I should have learned in Grades K-8.

So, what do you wish you had been taught in CCD? (Maybe you should include the time period you were in religious education so we can get an idea of what that era’s CCD was like.)

  • Oh, I forgot to add:  the Archdiocesan Schools Office, headed by Sister Kathleen Carr, CSJ, got protest letters from the parents and myself.  These letters asked for specific action.

    To date, their response has not arrived at my mailbox.  As Howie Carr says, “When the phone didn’t ring, I knew it was them.”

    There’s no oversight vis-a-vis orthodoxy.  Don’t kid yourself.

  • Anyone know anything about the independent Catholic school for Ste. Marie’s in Manchester, NH.  Fr. Mark Montminy mentioned it during last year’s Catholic Charismatic Conference…

    Seems up there, they have to be independent to be orthodox.

    I still hold true that the only real Catholic education is a education in a Catholic HOME SCHOOL!

  • Speaking of Home Schooling Catholic Kids (the only true Catholic education), my six year old asked Jeanne to stop teaching her CCD at home, because when she goes to institutionalized CCD next year, she doesn’t want to know everything already.

    This is the case with my eigth grader, who had to teach her teacher how to say the Rosary.

    Such problems.

  • OK Dom, you are getting very close to the target. Look at everything going on in the Church and tell me if you disagree with me. All I see is one example after another that tells me that religious education (in english) has been a total failure for decades. I am referring to poor texts and poor catechesis and good volunteers who work with this junk.

    Did I tell you about the people who believe they can baptize their child in any church as long as they bring him up Catholic? Hello!!!!

  • Hi, Dom:

    I’m 36, so I too was raised pretty much at the nadir of Catholic catechesis. I always went to Mass, but didn’t really get that interested in what the Church teaches til my early 30’s. Pretty much what you said sums it up, but I guess I’d include some simple apologetics, along w maybe going through the parts and prayers of the Mass and what the significance of each is.

    There was also a woman, Leila? I think her name was, who went to BC and is sort of a Catholic revert. She wrote a good column on our generation’s (lack of) catechesis. It’s sort of long, but it was good – I’ll see if I can dig it up.

    Best –

  • Fr. Clark,

    Even a cursory knowledge of the RCIA could have told her that more than three months is required to enter the Church

    Is that really so?  Doesn’t the faculty to receive penitent former Catholics back into the Church belong ordinarily to all priests in the Archdiocese?  Don’t you think that at least one of our priests would happily bring a man fitting exactly the profile you described back into the Church on a moment’s notice?  Or maybe one night’s notice?  Especially if it would help that man get a job teaching religion at a Catholic high school?

    As far as that Nigerian Protestant minister goes, he really doesn’t sound Nigerian. 


    They recently put a labyrinth at BC High, too.  It’s a replica of the famous “Chartre Labyrinth” and was featured in the Pilot.  Anyone who went to the Men’s Conference a couple months ago would have walked right over it.

  • We had an audio tape sex Ed lecture by Father Curran in my CCD class.  This was around 1977.

    I did not know what the Immaculate Conception was until I was 30. 

  • catechesis? What’s that?

    Really, my experience is only marginally better than what you describe, Dom. We learned our prayers, and memorized some stuff, and we had one teacher who was willing to be strong and tell us that things like abortion is wrong and you have to go to church every sunday, and not a whole lot more. I was very embarassed when I got here to college and realized how very little I had learned at my Catholic school in the late 80’s, and I learned not a single thing in the confirmation class I took in the early 90’s. My best friend and I played cards quietly in the back of the room while the other students memorized the Hail Mary.

    I’m sick and tired of meeting people who left the church because they didn’t know what she teaches. They thought they did, but what they thought they knew was nonsense. What a sad reason to leave, and shame on us. This is an issue I want to do something about, if only I knew how.

  • seamole—According to Canon 1364, an apostate (someone who publicly abjures the faith—which this guy did by accepting ordination in another church) incurs a latae sententiae excommunication, which can only be lifted by the Ordinary (Archbishop O’Malley in this case). 

    The problem is, the stupid principal (and equally stupid Superintendent of Schools) didn’t even both to vet the guy.  A simple records check would have found out all this, but they were so eager to embrace false ecumenism and because a gay man wanted to teach religion at their school that they leaped at the opportunity to hire him.

    And, yes, there’s a labyrinth in the new pavilion at BC High.  But I have VERY good reason to believe that the newest Jesuit head of the place is fixing many of the problems that have been going on there for years.  Let us pray for him….

  • Fr. Clark:  Don’t local priests often tell those who “excommunicate themselves” that everything is OK.  I can think of many divorced and remarried Catholics, who “Sans-an-annulment” by an ordinary or a board, receive communion every week, because a local priest has told them its OK, or its been long enough.

    Doesn’t having an abortion, etc.. fall under the same scrutiny?

  • You didn’t memorize the Hail Mary until high school?  Wow, I didn’t realize it had gotten that bad.

    Most of what you talk about I learned in elementary school.  Back in the 60s the CCD program at my parish had the reputation of students getting into trouble on CCD night.  My mother took a look and said “no thanks.”  So I didn’t attend CCD. 

    There was no sex ed in elementary school in the 50s, so there was time to teach the important stuff—prayers like the Angelus, the Memorare, the Hail Holy Queen, the Acts of Faith, Hope, and Charity.  In 8th grade we studied Church history.  What I was most curious about but not able to learn much about back then was Byzantine Catholicism.  It was mentioned briefly in the history class, but we got the impression it was a dirty little secret no one talked about.  Questions went unanswered.  The Baltimore was good for teaching the basic stuff and we used it every year.

    Abortion was not mentioned.  Nor birth control.  That came later.  We studied the Mass in all its parts and had to know the vocabulary that accompanies it, like the names of vestments and Mass implements.  We studied the Commandments and the Commandments of the Church.  Memorized them in fact.  We read about the lives of the saints and talked about their feast days.  We knew about apparitions and talked some about the Popes.  It sounds as though my elementary school Catholic education was better than later CCD classes.  How sad.

  • I was quite well catechized in the early 1960’s.  By my Catholic friends.  I was a Lutheran.

    Now that I am Catholic I am appalled by the way CCD has failed my children.  (I’ve had a lot of my own work to do with them.  What the heck, the last two aren’t even enrolled…)  The Lutheran Church did a better job with teaching me the Creeds and the ten commandments than CCD ever did with my children.  In fact, the Lutheran explanation of the difference between transsubstantiation and consubstantiation was more cogent and helpful than the crap my children learned.  And what I found in the texts during my years as a CCD teacher.  So I brought along my own Baltimore Catechism.  Boy, the DRE really loved that.

  • Fr. Clark,

    IANAJCL, but latae sententiae excommunications are not as automatic as they seem under the current Code of Canon Law.  Canons 1323-1324 are gigantic loopholes for those who are looking for loopholes. 

    It’s required for the Archbishop to delegate to one priest the authority to absolve latae sententiae excommunications (can. 508).  A chaplain also has this authority within his jurisdiction, even a hospital chaplain (can. 566).  A bishop can do this within sacramental confession (can. 1355 s. 2).  And any priest may postpone a latae sententiae excommunication for a month (can. 866), but only in the internal forum, so that probably wouldn’t count, although the priest is allowed to make application for rescript on behalf of the penitent, seemingly anonymously. 

  • I shall soon be 35 and went through CCD about the same time as you, with the same results, of course.  There really is no good reason why I should be a Catholic today.  We learned nothing at all—NOTHING!  We either colored pictures (5th grade, mind you) or we read idiotic vignettes about the poor and oppressed.  Yadda, yadda, yadda.  Yet somehow, through the grace of God, I took interest in the Church and read everything I could get my hands on.  My smallish Catholic high school hadn’t bought many books since the late 60s, which was a boon for me.  I went to a Jesuit university in the northeast.  Again, no reason to be Catholic there.  There were NO courses in anything resembling systematic/dogmatic theology.  It was all scripture classes (and not very good at that).  I managed to rack up 27 hrs in theology.  Since I refused to take “Modern Theology,” I missed a major by a hair, though I did have a double major in philosophy and classical languages.  The philosophy department was stuck in the 60’s; the only worthwhile professor I had taught the “Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas.”  He was a fantastic prof. (a bit on the eccentric side) who taught me much, esp. how to suffer a white martyrdom with grace amid looney fanatics, which came in handy many times.
    I am the youngest of seven.  Only my oldest sister and I are practicing Catholics (hell, Catholics at all!).  I attribute my fallen siblings state directly to the years of poor catechesis in the CCD programs and the Catholic high school we all attended.  God have mercy on us.

  • I’m older than all of you ;-D; and suffered through 12 years of ‘traditional’ catholic education at the hands of many well intentioned but determined nuns who resorted to whatever was convenient to maintain strict control in classrooms packed to overflowing.  The average class size was 55; inter departmentatl education had not yet been invented.  Like Pavlov’s dogs, we responded to ‘bells’ and ‘clickers’.  The Baltimore Catechism was THE golden rule!

    I wish I had been taught that Jesus was a Jew; that He was born, died and resurrected in the Middle East; that He never went to Rome.

    I wish someone had explained to us that Jesus spoke Aramaic, not Latin and that there are other Catholic Churches in the East that retain His words and language for the Consecration and other portions of their liturgy. 

    I wish someone had told us about the authenticity and liturgical reverence of the Eastern Catholic Traditions. 

    Since no one imparted this to me back then, I more than happily share it with your, dear readers.  If you have not yet done so, I would encourage you to discover the Eastern Catholic Churches that are in full communion with the Magisterium.  You can learn more about these traditions at this link:

    Catholic Rites and Churches:  http://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/catholic_rites_and_churches.htm

    To locate an Eastern Tradition in your community, click on this link:

    Eastern Catholic Churches in the US:

    Rod Dreher, who often reads this blog, will certainly agree.  Hearing the Qadeeshat (Trisagion) chanted in Aramaic is a moving experience. 

    “The Eastern Churches are the Treasures of the Catholic Church” – Pope John XXIII

  • Hi, Papaefidelis:

    You said it well – what this is really about being given the answer to WHY. Why be Catholic? If there’s poor-to-no catechesis, we just don’t have that answer, and hence all the CINOs around us who feel that anything is okay as long as everyone is “okay” with it.

    Best –

  • Dittos on the Eastern Churches (NOT rites)…I transferred over to the Melkite Church after attending Divine Liturgies for almost 10 years…and it is a beautiful liturgy as are all those in the East. No fads or experimentation. Just Heaven on Earth.  Maybe Benedict XVI will bring back the great liturgical tradition of the West…

  • No Carrie, you misunderstand. Perhaps I did not state it clearly.

    I went to a Catholic school from Kindergarten to 8th grade. At that school I learned my prayers, and we memorized a lot of things, and learned odd bits and pieces, such as the parts of the Mass and what have you, but no real solid theology. I memorized a lot of things, but we never learned the reasons behind things. I did not go to a Catholic highschool and therefore I had to take a regular confirmation class. All the other kids, who had not been at Catholic school from K-8th had to memorize things which I had learned a long time before. My friend and I knew that all already, so we played cards in the back, but we had to attend the classes anyway. I myself have known the Hail Mary so long, that I don’t even remember learning it.

    High school is the age when we really ought to be delving deeper into the faith, and ought to be taught to start dealing with faith at a more mature level than “Jesus loves me this I know” and other very happy but rather shallow stuff. But unfortunately, CCD classes for these kids had evidently been so bad that they were still at a level of learning the basics. Therefore I learned nothing there, I was never taught by them to deal with things at a level above that of a 10 year old. Which is why so many people I knew back then have left the Church.

  • seamole—you asked whether a priest friend of this gay educator could receive him into the Church overnight so as to facilitate his hiring by the school; the answer is “no,” even though someone could pretend to do so.  None of the ‘loopholes’ you cite would be applicable in this case.

    Fact is, this fellow was not of good character and should never have been hired by ANY school, much less a Catholic one.

  • BTW, does “IANAJCL” mean “I am not a Johnny come lately” or “Jesuitical Canon Lawyer” ?

    [rhetorical joke question]

  • I’m 39, but an adult revert who had a secular education. And a very weak RCIA experience in my mid-20s mostly with people “fixing” mixed marriages or preparing thereto. I didn’t help by allowing the RCIA director to be cavalier about the rules.

    I have a good confessor, but to be perfectly honest the last couple of years I have been hanging around St. Blogs have been as good of a Catholic Education as I’ve had. Sad but true. I wrote the following to Victor Lams in some private correspondence last year:

    Dude, it was only a couple of years ago that I even learned that Sundays aren’t part of Lent, and so you could put your fast on hold (though I have done so only once in three Lents and vowed never again; it just felt icky and unclean, like cheating on your wife based on an indulgence).

    Despite appearances at St. Blogs, Victor, there are a LOT of details I don’t know, largely because of my peculiar life history—lapsed upon emigration from Scotland at 12 (the year before confirmation started), confirmed at 25 after being in RCIA class only from January to Easter (rather than September), and have been basically a nomad my whole adult life because of my profession (newspaper editor) and so have never developed strong ties to any city, much less parish or priest. I try to live the Catholic faith as best I can, in as comprehensive, rigorous and orthodox a manner as I can, but any lifelong Papist around whom I could run intellectual circles on just about anything, could run circles around me.

    I’ve often reflected on this, and it’s come out in sharper relief in the past year I’ve been reading St. Blogs, but the habits and structures of my mind are VERY Protestant. I don’t have much of a sacramental imagination, e.g.

  • I will be 40 in 2 weeks and getting more grey every day wink

    I’ve commented on this blog before about the poor catechesis that existed and still exists at St. Mary’s Faith Community in Hales Corners WI.

    I think THE most important thing that I didn’t learn was the REAL PRESENCE of Christ in the Eucharist.  After turning 18, I basically stopped going to mass – why? why not!  Mass was boring, same old thing every week.  Nothing special about it.  Nope.  Nothing special at all.  In the following 18 or so years, I searched on and off for Christ.  Little did I know . . .

    People leave the Church and look for Christ.  How utterly shameful!!  Not shameful for the well-intentioned person who left the Church, but shameful for US – all of us for not screaming at the top of our lungs CHRIST IS HERE!  In the flesh!

  • theresa wrote:
    “unfortunately, CCD classes for these kids had evidently been so bad that they were still at a level of learning the basics”

    from my experiences with teaching CCD, I can guess that part of the problem might have been that some of these kids didn’t attend any classes between their first communion preparation and their confirmation preparation. At least this is what seems to happen around here. Parents want their kids to receive the sacraments but don’t place any value on the education. Cultural Catholicism with no substance.

    As far as what we can do to change this… We can volunteer as CCD teachers so that the next generation of kids doesn’t suffer what we did.  We can help to create adult education programs in our parish to recatechise the lapsed. We can pray for our priests and DREs and for all parents, they have a monumental task ahead. We can support Catholic parents by giving them and their kids good books such as bibles, lives of the saints, church history, children’s missals, etc. so that they can learn about their faith outside of CCD. Maybe we can even donate such books to CCD programs at our parishes so that teachers can give them out. I know we’d like to do more at our parish but we are always strapped for cash.

  • In Milwaukee, there are FOUR independent Catholic schools—all K-8, and one of them now has a small 9-12 group as well.

    None of them may use the appellation “Catholic” by order of Rembert Weakland, by the way.

    They are all parent-governed, to a greater or lesser degree, and each one of them was established to do two things:  1) provide a genuine Catholic education—not only using the Ignatius and CCC (catechisms) but also the ‘holistics’—like Mass a couple of times a week, confessions every two weeks, and adoration on a daily basis…  and 2) provide a rigorous and comprehensive ACADEMIC experience, including Latin and algebra in the grade-schools, not to mention classic Western literature (Dickens, Lewis, et al.)

    Works for us, even though it’s nominally far more expensive than the parish schools—where the children are carefully instructed in sex (co-ed) in 5th through 8th grades, where the catechetical content is pastel (if it has a color at all), and where academics closely parallel those of the Publik Skrewels.

    Abp. Dolan has made it a point NOT to visit these schools, by the way.  That corresponds with his pointed failure to visit the (Archdiocesan) Old Rite Mass group.

  • CCD was for those quasi catholics who didn’t send their kids to the real schools, the catholic ones (that is what some believe, yes, not me now, mind you (is joke)).

    If they would have been sent to catholic schools, they could have gone through my experience. An excellent foundation in orthodox catholicism in the elementary school, taught by sisters and lay people. But at the 8th grade level, you can’t get too deep.

    But then, one could experience catholic high school education in the mid 70s.

    I was quickly set straight on what I had been taught:

    -there was no resurrection
    -the eucharist is a symbol
    -helping the oppress rise against their evil political and economic overlords is more important than salvation
    -there were women priests in the early church
    -all that sex stuff, well, its really OK
    -would like you some more felt for your banner?

    Thanks Father, thanks Sister!

  • This is depressing.  We’re going to be looking at Catholic high schools in eastern Massachusetts next year.  Guess I’m learning what kind of questions to ask (sigh).

  • Hi folks –

    I am 35 years old and was also enrolled in CCD during the 70’s.  I agree with you all that there was very little substance to what I was taught.  I remember being taught “God is Love” and that God is my Father.  I do not remember any instance of being told about Jesus or the Holy Spirit.  In fact, I distinctly remember brining up an Old Testament Bible story (not sure which one now) and having the teachers stare at me with blank expressions – they didn’t even know what I was talking about. 

    My personal feeling about this is that we shouldn’t lay the blame so heavily on the CCD programs as the primary locus of degerating catechesis.  Ultimately, it’s the parents fault if the faith is not handed on in a meaningful way to children.  The church has been extremely clear in the last 100 years that parents are the primary educators of their children.  Parish CCD programs cannot, no matter how good they are, make up for lack of parental witness to the faith. 

    My parents taught me nothing about being Catholic.  I learned about Jesus, the Bible and Chrisitanity from my Grandfather who was a Pastor of a small Nazarene church.  I was lucky to have his witness to faith in Jesus – it planted the seeds that have borne the fruit of my faith. 

    I taught CCD for years and we had great materials, great teachers and great support from the pastor—it didn’t make one bit of difference to the kids who didn’t see it lived out by their parents.  They couldn’t have cared less. 

    Now that I am a father of two small children I understand the pressing need to be the primary educator of my children.  I fully plan to catechize my children myself.  If my parish requires that they go to CCD, then fine—but they will not be going to learn the faith, only to prove to the pastor that they are receiving the necessary instruction. 

    I think that parishes should scrap the model of CCD that they have now and go for a model that requires parents to participate at the very same time as their children.  Make them all go to sacramental prep together.  What to you all think?

  • Many excellent ideas, Melanie!  I’m going to volunteer to teach CCD.  I work full-time so I suspect I’d be teaching the middle school kids in the evening.  That could be a lot of fun!  They’re old enough to get into interesting topics (but I’d probably need to cover some basics first).

    But my daughter is almost 14 and I’ve been looking for some good/interesting Catholic books for teenagers, especially on the lives of saints and it’s not easy.  Seems most books have been geared towards young children or grownups…

  • Back in the early 70s when I attended a Catholic high school in FL there was clearly no oversight by the diocese, and things have only gotten worse.  The football coach/biology teacher who taught his bizarre version of sex ed to freshmen later became the high school’s principal.  The school’s president, a diocesan priest and pastor of our family’s parish, expressed his opinion that a relative of mine was “frigid” because, among other things, she objected to coarse sex talk.  As I moved to other southern states, I heard from friends that things weren’t much better elsewhere.

      My dh & I chose to homeschool our children, and did so all the way through high school.  Once they were teens, we gave them the option to attend institutional school, but they declined.  If I were starting over, I’d prefer either homeschooling or a parent-controlled independent school to a diocesan or religious order school where the parents have no input and the only response to complaints is to tell the family to leave.

  • And, don’t forget about TAT… Talking about Touching is MANDATORY in Catholic grade schools and CCD programs (you can opt out, in writing).

    I remember that weird sex-ed talk from my eigth grade science class at St. Joseph’s School in Bristol, CT. Our teacher’s husband came in and taught us.

    It was strictly “biology”, no theology!

  • Although born Catholic and baptised young, I rarely went to mass as a child.  (There was that 1 year, 1st grade in a parochial school)  My CCD came in high school sitting in the Fr. Wearden’s office with a Baltimore Catechism in 1978. 

    I’ve been an assistant in CCE for the last 5 years.  We’ve used various books that the CCE director has chosen.  Many of them were too new-agey-touchy-feely-I-must-have-great-self-esteem books for my liking.  One of the books had a section on other religions like Islam, Buddhism,  Hindu.  I don’t think they are equivalent to Christianity and we shouldn’t teach our kids that they are morally equivalent.

    We have nothing for next year.  I will have the same kids as 8th graders (3rd year with this group) as the primary teacher instead of assistant.  I’ve suggested using Baltimore.  I think they need to know the foundational stuff.  I think they need to know where in the Bible Mass comes from. Why the Eucharist is soo important. I think they need to know why we have a Pope.  Why we honor Mary. Why our Priests, Bishops, Cardinals and Pope are not elected or selected the same way our Protestant bretheren do.

    I think they need to understand that sin is sin is sin and just because it’s 2005 there is nothing new.  It’s still sin. 

    I think we should teach Catholic guilt.  You sin, you should feel bad, you should go to confession, you should try to avoid the occassion of sin in the future.  (oh, I need to pay attention to that last one)

    They think I’m harsh. 

  • Michael,

    As a parish religious education director, I completely agree: the model we have now is not ideal. We can give the kids a great education, but if they’re not getting it at home (or not even going to Mass!) then it will fall on deaf ears. The best we can hope is that a seed is planted and that someday the Holy Spirit will nudge that seed into growth and they’ll have a foundation to start with.

    My brother has a good idea about relligious education. We should require that the parents come in for instruction, not the kids and that we teach the parents how to pass on the faith to their kids.

    My 12-year-old nephew is reading some saint books from Ignatius Press geared to that age group. If you start at this page and go through the list, you will find several books that tell the stories of saints for a teen audience.

  • Jaded…

    “I think we should teach Catholic guilt” – great quote! LOL

    Thanks, Dom.  I’ll check that link out…

  • Lynne,

    Might I suggest you look at Trinity Catholilc High School in Newton? Despite it’s connection to Our Lady Help of Christians Parish, I know the administrators there and it’s a good school. (Not without problems, but the mark of a good school is how they deal with problems, not that they’re problem free.)

  • I always thought the Immaculate Conception referred to Jesus – until I returned to the Church in ‘98.

    I went to Catholic schools in the 1970’s.  It was all about helping the poor.  Nothing about the richness of the Faith itself. 

  • What’s been proposed for schools of the Brooklyn diocese is having a group of parishes run a school or group of schools in a sustainable way.  This reflects a reality that one parish-one school is a model which will not be returning anytime soon.

  • Lynne, I second Domenic’s suggestion. (I was about to write it myself before I paged down and saw that he mentioned it.)
    I’m afraid I almost grabbed the book on St Thomas Moore out of my soon- to- be- nephew’s hand and paged through it. He said he’s read it several times and has quite a few in the series.

    the complete series can be found listed here: http://www.ignatius.com/category.aspx?SID=1&Category_ID=155&amp;

  • I’m 36 and my story mirrors Michael’s. I gave it a valiant try at BU at the Newman Center when I made my confirmation…but still nothing was taught.

    EWTN saved me…I watched 3 hrs a day for about a year and that gave me some sort of footing.

    We’re very weak and susceptible to heresy right now due to this lack of catechesis.

    One thing I have learned: theological liberals are either evil themselves or are complicit with it.

    The disheartening thing is to see what is proposed for my children in the form of CCD/Catholic schools today: pure Lutheranism masquerading as Catholicism.

  • In response to Joe Soucy’s inquiry concerning “independent Catholic school for Ste. Marieamily Academy at 49 Ashland Street in Manchester, New Hmapshire.  It is near but has no official connection with Ste. Marie’s Church or the Diocese of Manchester. The school’s website (http://holyfamilyacademy.org) describes as “a private, independent school teaching in the Roman Catholic classical tradition … [a] not-for-profit school …  [for] students in grades 7-12.”

    All teachers must have the necessary credentials (minimum of a bachelor’s degree) and be committed to the Catholic Church.  At the beginning of each school year they are required to sign a profession of faith and an oath of fidelity to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

  • Although this model is proposed in the Brooklyn diocese, I’m still not sure that it is a good proposal.  The schools that are thriving are the ones that are most integrated with a parish.  Removing “ownership” of the schools from the parishes seems like a bad idea to me. 
    As I commented on another blog, the Catholic institutions that have become more and more centralized, such as hospitals and Catholic charities, are losing their Catholic identity.  In fact, now that the Catholic hospitals were merged into one big system in NYC, we are now closing the only Catholic hospital in Brooklyn.  Once the bottom line starts overtaking the Gospel, the diocese becomes like any other corporation with the bishop as CEO.  Aren’t we the religion that promotes subsidiarity?

  • Regarding Catholic high schools in eastern Mass., my son just graduated from B.C. High. Overall, I’d give the school high marks. The first two years of religion class were good, the third year (morality) was questionable, but my son was able to hold his own and had no problem questioning the teacher when he was out of line. The fourth year religion elective was a world religions course, so it was about what you’d expect.
    BC High has daily Mass before classes start, weekly confession (which is promoted via announcements regularly), opportunities for hands on charitable work, and as a school, does a good job teaching. My own observation over the four years is that the campus ministry has improved, and if I had a second son, I’d not hesitate to send him there.

  • Thanks Steve!  I should have said I have a daughter.  It’s good to know that BC High is doing a good job.  I like Our Lady of Nazareth (girls only) in Wakefield but as I stated earlier, I’ve learned some tougher questions to ask. 

    Holy Family Academy sounds wonderful but I can’t head up to Manchester each day (as tempting as it may be)…

  • There’s got to be others whose conversion was due in no small part to Karl Keating’s “Catholicism and Fundamentalism!”  I was given the book by a well meaning friend, as a response to some Protestant materials I had given him.  Changed my life.

    Ever since, the institutional church (starting with the incredibly bad bishops appointed by Pope John Paul II and ending with the stereotypical feminazi sister who runs what my diocese laughingly refers to as the “ministry formation” program) has done it’s best to convince me I’ve made a huge mistake.  Some days I think they’re right.

    The RCIA group was a bunch of well intentioned kids who were in no way ready for someone steeped in the pentecostal tradition and could throw scripture at them from memory.  To their credit they rallied, researched every question and came back with (usually) the right answers.  They were totally on their own.  The DRE was truly amusing, also a volunteer, but she’d been indoctrinated by the diocese’s above mentioned “ministry formation” program.  I drove her nuts by insisting that Dorothy Day, fine woman that she was, was not the Pope and never would be. 

    None of them are still in the Church today.  In fact, out of my entire group, there’s only two families (there were about 12 of us) still at the Church.  Most, I think, were just filling in squares, never having finished confirmation as teens.  At least one left to attend a church that offers a Tridentine mass.  The only parish that offers one in America’s largest diocese. 

    So, given that stellar track record, my kids aren’t enrolled in CCD.  I’ve fought bitter fights with the parish to get them the sacraments, embarassing the current DRE to point that she once, in front of the pastor, told me “well, since you believe in hell, you can just go there!” 

    What do I wish I’d been taught in CCD?  The Catholic faith would have been nice…

  • During the few years that I didn’t attend Catholic schools I had catechism lessons from my mother (which was not a good thing – not so much because she was a convert who hadn’t learned much herself but because she was abusive.)  My high school religion classes were a joke at best and ruinous to the students’ faith at worst.

      I did enroll my dd in CCD for 1/2 a yr. before her First Holy Communion (Msgr. later said she could have taught the class & didn’t require it of ds) and I also taught CCD in the early-70s (while still a teen) and the late-80s/early-90s (pre-K for both.)  Each time we moved, I’d donate books and videos to the parish school of religion (except for a few treasures I’m saving for future grandchildren.)

      I really starting learning when my family began homeschooling.  The Keating book that wbeckham mentioned was very helpful down here in the deep South and my kids read it later as teens.  We used everything from the Baltimore Catechism to IP’s wonderful series to reprints of great old books (The Outlaws of Ravenhurst, for one.)  When my kids hit high school age they discovered Peter Kreeft in my bookcases and fell in love.

      Lynne, you may want to check out Catholic homeschooling sites for book ideas.  One suggestion is Bethlehem Books, which has some terrific historical fiction for older kids and teens.

  • I had 12 years of Catholic School education during the 50’s and 60’s.  After graduating from high school, I worked for Sadlier Publishing Company in NYC (major publisher of Catholic Religious Education materials to this day) – just in time to witness the development of the “New Vatican II Editions.” 

    I remember talking to one of the authors of there First Confession textbook and being told that she had spend the whole night trying to finish the text.  She shared the frustration of having to meet a deadline for the publisher and felt they would have accepted blank pages, as long as they met their deadline.  She was also very aware that what she was working on would have a profound effect on the spiritual development of so many children.

    Then in 1993, I gave up a nice paying job to work full time in Catechetical Ministry, after having volunteered to teach classes for the previous 25.

    What I’ve learned:

    – you cannot give a child a firm foundation in faith with catechists who have no idea what the Church teaches, yet we are forced to beg for volunteers who just do not have the time to continue their own religious education.  Try getting a catechist n the lam’ from his Episcopalian parish in Chelsea, who’d been accused of stealing money from that (Episcopal) parish, and who’d entered a consent decree with the state of Ohio for fraudulent operation of a string of nursing homes.  The man had been born and brought up Catholic, but because he was gay, he left the Catholic Church and was ordained an Episcopalian “priest.”  He left his Episcopal parish in May and was hired in August by Spellman.  When I called to question their decision, the principal told me that she had been assured that he’d been received into the Church and was in good standing.  NONSENSE!  Even a cursory knowledge of the RCIA could have told her that more than three months is required to enter the Church—especially from one who had abjured their faith and received “holy orders” in another ecclesial body!  But the good sister in charge didn’t care about that, and was ready to entrust her students to his “pastoral care.”  Great….

    And Archie Bills is incredible—a Nigerian protestant minister teaches biology.  A student in his freshman class asked him (last year) what he thought about gay marriage.  His response?  “Before I tell you what I think, I need to know which of you are gay or straight.  So, beginning with you [he pointed to one girl], I want you all to stand and tell me if you’re gay or straight.”

    When one student (a parishioner of ours) reacted, the response of the administration was to stonewall, claim that they’d “spoken to” the teacher, even though the man admitted in a meeting with the parents, myself, the student and the principal that he thought he’d done the right thing, and would do so again!!!

    By the way, this past fall that Nigerian protestant minister was promoted to head of the science department.

  • I am a MC Alumn—I graduated just a few years ago in 99.  I got a great education at MC in everything except being a Catholic.  In my first year “theology” class my teacher, the head of the department, told me the SHE had a vocation to the priesthood which the Church was repressing.  She didn’t like it when I asked her why she didn’t become protestant.  We “weeped” together over the film “Dead Man Walking” but abortion wasn’t a major topic and I am not sure that the objective disorderedness of homosexuality was ever mentioned. 

    Campus ministry had a very good program of community service, but other than teaching altruism I didn’t sense that much specifically Catholic was going on.  They did promote prayer at the flag pole in front of school each morning, but this was lead by an evangelical classmate of mine.  Once in a blue moon they had Mass, but the Mass tended to be an occasion for bad music, breaking rubrics, and desecrating our Lord.

    The high point of social life at the school was the MC dances where sexual activity and drug use was out of control. (all parents should know this)

    However, I must admit that all three of the science professors I had there (I took one twice) seemed very theistic, or at least open to the hand of God in creation.   

    All this being said I don’t think it matters at all whether a “Catholic” school is owned by the diocese or not.  Parishes are owned by the diocese and they haven’t provided moral leadership there.  Schools have been owned by the diocese, and yet still no leadership.  CCD programs are run by parishes, and yet heresy is taught in them. 

  • P.S.  Lynne, my sister went to Nazareth and it was worse than MC just a few years ago.

  • Here’s a good one:

    While with a group at MCI (prison), some one said something about how they were sure feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit in a big way…

    And of course one of the Benedictine nuns we were with said, in reference to the Holy Spirit: “I can feel HER here, too”.

    Now, I ask you, how could Mary conceive our Lord by the Holy Spirit if the Holy Spirit is female….

    I almost screamed!!!!!!!