The pastor of a Staten Island Catholic church is playing holy hardball - kicking hundreds of kids out of religious ed classes because their families aren't showing up at Mass.
The Rev. Michael Cichon, pastor of St. Joseph/St. Thomas in Pleasant Plains, used each family's bar-coded donation envelope to track attendance.
He's tossed about 300 kids from classes and told them not to reapply until next April.
Without the classes, children cannot receive the sacraments, meaning some youngsters who thought they'd be making their First Communion next year will have to wait.
1)This was not, as you can see from the rest of the article, tied to donations. The pastor says empty envelopes can be turned in - I'm guessing it's how he tracks attendance of registered members.
2) I'm a former DRE, and believe me, this is one of the most nagging and serious issues for all involved in religious ed, and it has a very practical dimension, not to speak of a theological one. Practically, when you have children in class maybe 20 times a year, and that's the time you have to teach them about, say, the Mass, and they're not going to Mass...your impact is, to put it mildly, limited.
3) However, this is the wrong tactic. (Although who knows, perhaps the pastor has tried other things and this is just the last straw) Instead of finding a better way to serve, the population won't be served, period.
4) 150 religious ed fee?
To me, this is symbolic of so much that is wrong with Catholic religious education. When I was DRE, I think I charged a 20 dollar fee to cover texts, and I would have dispensed with that if the pastor had let me. This business of Catholic churches charging for religious ed programs (of all kinds - charging to go to an adult ed session is not unheard of either) is one of the more counter-evangelizing practices out there. There are, of course, costs involved in running a program, but to charge parents, rather than say to the parish as a whole, saying, "This is your responsibility....pay up - (as in, increase your contributions)" - is just wrong and in the end, counterproductive.
I understand the pastor's frustration. The environment in Catholic parishes regarding children has become totally consumer-oriented, just as education in general has - provide this for my kid, give him the paper, so we can move on - and who knows what he's tried up to this point.
But it seems there could be a better way.