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June 27, 2005

Comments

Greg Popcak

I do agree that the $150 religious ed fee is unfortunate. But I think the pastor did the right thing.

We give children the sacraments on the founded hope that they are receiving proper formation (not necessarily catechesis, but at least formation) in the home. If this isn't happening, then we are simply treating sacraments like either cultural rituals or magical events. Education and pastoral practice is not enough to correct these misperceptions. Clear expectations and consequences must be applied.

Grace must be cooperated with. If parents aren't going to be serious about at least attempting to live their faith, then we CAN'T give their children the sacraments, because no one is forming them. No one is teaching them to cooperate with the grace they are receiving. It simply isn't just. This isn't about being mean to little kids. This is about needing to stop being cruel to them. Our past practices have been setting them up to fail.

It is unfortunate when it has to come to this, and I don't rejoice at all about this story. But I do wish there were more pastors like this man who takes his role of shepherd seriously.

GregK

I go to mass every Sunday and drop an offering in the hat, but I never use the donation envelopes and never have. I don't like having to bother with those things. So I would show up as absent by that scheme.

I agree with you that this is the wrong approach. Why kick the kids out because the parents don't come? Shouldn't the parish be glad that the kids are getting at least that much exposure? The strategy should be an upsell, not "our way or the highway."

Greg

Rich Leonardi

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.

The parents lack of - dare I say it - shame in this matter for failing to live up to their responsibilities is revealed in their willingness to complain to reporters about the priest's 'insensitivity'.

If his parish is anything like mine, I suspect that this was the last straw. Our priest first will issue a letter or make a phone call to remind parents of their obligations. Twenty bucks says this priest did the same thing.

hieronymus

Same here. I lose those envelopes easily, so I throw in cash. Do many parishes track attendance this way? And how do they account for people who may attend Mass regularly at more than one church?

Allen White

I disagree completely. I finished the entire course of Sunday school and I don't recall going to Mass at all besides Christmas and Easter.

It took a long time, but I did start going on my own, and parts of catechism class are still very powerful memories for me and important to my faith today.

I feel that any punitive tactic that involves cutting anyone off from the church and the sacraments is the wrong decision 99% of the time.

Greg Popcak

Allen,

I am glad to hear that God found you. He has a way of doing that. ;-) But there will always be personal anecdotes that say, "Hey, it worked for me." and of course, it does and it did--for you and lots of others.

But the fact is, only 28% of Catholics attend Mass weekly. Clearly, the present way of doing things isn't working. 72% of Catholics were let down by the system that sometimes works for some of us.

In any family--including the metaphysical family that is the Church--the members need clear expectations about their behavior and a clear understanding of the consequences.

The church is not a vending machine. It is a family with obligations on both sides. We need to insist that everyone do their best to contribute to the good of the family of faith.

GregP

Lauda Jerusalem Dominum

Given the financial scandals that some parishes have experienced, putting cash in the collection basket is never a good idea. Even if everything in one's parish is squeaky-clean, why tempt people? Write a check. (Checks also make it easier to track one's donations come tax time.)

A $150 fee for parish religious ed. is excessive. Children have a right to religious education.

Mary Alexander

I dislike the implication that donations are tied to attendance. Why not have the parents sign in on a sheet in the back? And who knows if the parents attend a different Mass due to work schedules or convenient Mass times, or prefer the Latin Mass or the Byzantine rite? As frustrating as it is that people do not bring their children to Mass this is the wrong tactic. Instead why not require the parents to attend meetings. Where my children go to school, the school requires attendance to a lecture series on the Faith. They are offered twice weekly- Thurs night and Sunday after Mass for a series of 8. So if the parents don't attend they may be asked to remove their children from the school. The school recognizes that although Catholic they cannot require attendance at a certain parish or certain Mass. And the whole barcode on the envelopes thing just smacks of big brother. And those things are foolproof? Come on.

amy

Mary:

the only thing you're missing is that the problem is not just that the parents aren't going to Mass - it's that they're not taking the kids.

Ian

Amy,

If you think it's not about the money I suggest you contact the families in the article. $150 is cheap these days at a lot of parishes. And don't expect *catechesis* for you money either. Who the hell submits an empty envelope? I've never used one of those envelopes in my life!

The best thing is for the religious education teacher to bring the kids to Mass. Are you trying to evangelize kids or shake down mom and dad? What about kids who don't come from Catholic families, or those whose folks are divorced/remarried and can't receive communion?

I'll bet those families who paid the $150 won't be getting it back - follow the money. It's always about the money.

Lauda Jerusalem Dominum

What about kids who don't come from Catholic families, or those whose folks are divorced/remarried and can't receive communion?

(1) Why would children who aren't from Catholic families be going to CCD?

(2) Living in an irregular marriage and being prohibited from receiving the Sacraments does not relieve one of the obligation to assist at Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. Parents who are divorced-and-remarried are still obligated to go to Mass on Sundays whether they can receive Holy Communion or not.

I'm not altogether certain that Fr. is handling this in the right way but at least he's doing something instead of maintaining the status quo.

Jordan

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.

Peter Kreeft would call that religious inoculation. By getting a little religious education the kids build an immunity to the real thing, just like a weak dose of cowpox builds up immunity to smallpox. The children grow up thinking they already know about their religion and tend to scorn anyone who challenges that simplistic understanding. Thus they are inoculated against the difficulties of the Truth.

brsebastian

Amy,
Yes, it sounds like the Pastor is trying to send a message on the seriousness of the situation. Unfortunately, it's easy for the message to get twisted into the "persecutor" and "victim" pattern.

My experience with "religious ed" is very negative. It would help if DREs supported the Church's teaching that the parents are responsible for teaching the Faith to their children. Evangelization starts at home. If parents refuse to fulfill their responsibilities to their children, "religious ed" will not fill the void. Rather, we simply enable the parents to avoid their responsibility while pretending that the job gets done. The children do not learn the Good News; instead, they learn that Christianity is a masquerade.

Yes, I know this is idealistic. However, if we do not work from the worldview that this is a parental duty and joy, we undermine their roles (often unintentionally). There is a difference between on one had doing everything we possibliy can to support and help parents and, on the other, pretending to do the job for them.

What--parents don't know enough about their Faith to evangelize their kids? Hmmm--sounds like another problem . . .

Simon

Envelopes: My parish uses the envelope system to track attendance for school admission purposes. It works fine. The pastor has carefully reminded people of the policy several times and emphasized that they can put an empty envelope in the basket. They can also mail the envelope within the week if they attend another Mass.

Fees: Religious instruction should always be provided free or at cost. Fees beyond cost are totally inappropriate.

Kicking the kids out: Having had a number of experiences teaching CCD to classes where the majority of kids came from non-practicing families, I think it's mostly a waste of time. Not only do most of the kids get nothing out of it, but they bring a cynical spirit that makes it more difficult to teach the practicing Catholic kids.

Elizabeth

This is horrible. Its treating Catholics like Children who have to sign the attendance sheet, and that patronizing attitude is what drives so many people away from the Church to begin with. Yes, it is a terrible shame that so many people don't go to mass regularly and just put their kids through the system. But at least those kids are getting SOMETHING, if only a little Catechesis and a cultural idendification as a Catholic that they may return to someday. By kicking them out, they are just being left alone to fend in a cultural and spiritual vacuum, or possibly drawn into Evangelical Churches and then turned into Anti-Catholics, which is worse than a lukewarm Catholic. And as for the family example, yes, families have obligations, but families also ALWAYS love the members born into them and never "Kick them out" for not fulfilling obligations, but gently prod them on to do better. Children born into the Church through baptism are OURS, no matter how holy they or their parents are. They are OUR children and OUR family, and they have a right to be Catechized.

Simon

If parents refuse to fulfill their responsibilities to their children, "religious ed" will not fill the void. Rather, we simply enable the parents to avoid their responsibility while pretending that the job gets done.

This is exactly right. Unfortunately these classes are often filled with children from non-practicing families whose parents seem mainly focused on the "rite-of-passage" ceremonies -- First Communion and Confirmation -- with little interest in transmitting the living Faith. Beyond "being a good person" of course.

That may sound harsh, but that's pretty much what religious ed for the culturally Catholic boils down to.

MaureenM

My parish uses the envelope system (but not bar codes) to establish whether a family is "participating" (i.e. parishioner) or not for the purpose of granting the parochial school's parishioner discount. It is very easy to keep the envelopes in a handy place and to fill one prior to going out the door on Sunday morning. One must submit envelopes on at least 2/3s of Sundays during the year (which allows for out-of-town travel etc) and multiple envelopes tossed in on a single day count as one attendance. It works for us.

I agree with Amy that the parish, not the families, should bear the burden of paying the costs of CCD.

Lori

You're right that offering catechesis costs money, and ideally it should come from the parish funds as a whole. But what if repeated calls, requests, and prayerful pleas for people to up their weekly contributions simply doesn't work anymore? My parish is strapped at the moment, as we've been regularly coming in below our weekly minimum for the last couple of years. It's probably like it is at most parishes -- 10% to 15% of the parishioners doing most of the heavy lifting when it comes to financial stewardship. I've responded to every appeal to raise my weekly contribution thus far, and I'm contributing a sizeable amount each week. I figure that since I'm single and without kids, then I can afford to pony up significantly more per week than those who are raising families. I don't have a problem with that in general, but I've about hit the ceiling at this point. I can't raise my weekly contribution any higher than it is, unless I hit the Powerball sometime soon. :)

Meanwhile, I'm struggling to put together and teach biweekly adult faith formation sessions with no budget at all. Oh, I have no doubt that the pastor would authorize some money for me if I asked for it, but with the collection as low as it's been week after week, I haven't felt right about asking. All the parish programs need money. We have a Catholic school in the parish, and we're trying to get a Ministry of Care off the ground as well to meet the needs of the elderly parishioners. I can generally work around the lack of funds for adult ed. by pulling together the presentations from scratch and making up my own handouts. It requires a lot more prep time on my part to do it that way, but it costs nothing but a few cents to run off some copies.

But every once in a while, I see a resource I really want to provide -- so I have to shell out the cash myself. I just spent $100 to buy some copies of the Rosary booklet that Amy and Michael put together, because I really wanted to pass it out to people after we spend some time reading JPII's Apostolic Letter on the Rosary.

I absolutely agree that it ought to be free for people to come to the sessions. I don't want to charge people for anything, especially since I know some of them are widows on fixed incomes. That's why I refuse to ask them to cover the costs themselves. But with the parish already stretched thin, the only other option is to foot the bill myself, which really limits me with the topics and resources I can use since I'm not made of money. And besides, I'm already giving a hefty chunk of change in the weekly collection. It's frustrating all around.

susan

As a fairly new Catholic from an evangelical background I was shocked that children were charged to attend Religious Ed classes. What is our tithe being used for? Isn't it the responsibility of the congregation to support and educate people when they come through our doors. We are asked to give money to everthing else that comes down the pike so why isn't religious education a priority? I also worry that my children are becoming bibical illiterate after looking over the material they brought home from CCD but that is another topic.From what I have seen Catholic parents need education just much as the children. You can't teach what you don't know.

Septimus

Amy, MaureenM --

About the fee.

I generally sympathize with the "don't charge" point of view. On the other hand...

Regrettably, people value what they pay for.

Also, it can be very hard generating money from the parish for religious education.

At my parish, we have a total budget of about $900,000. Well over $500,000 goes directly to the school, the rest covers everything else; this is a parish of 800 families with a small staff. Religious ed goes begging. The comment frequently is, "isn't that what our school is for?"

Also, one year I volunteered to teach in CCD (at another parish). It was 7th graders. I was glad to do it, but -- I quickly found out there wasn't much accountability. I could discipline the kids, with the ultimate sanction being sending them to the office (they dreaded facing Brother "___" -- I forget his name); but there were no grades; no one could FAIL. That seemed odd to me. The kids would have known it was real stuff if they knew they could fail and have to do it over.

Marie

I know we are having some of the same problems at my parish.

Our DRE has decided to have parents sign a contract when the kids enter CCD classes in the fall that they will attend Mass every week (he has no real way to check up on this; it is more a principled stand, I think). I believe the parents are also being asked to attend one or two meetings.

I can understand his frustration. Apparently none of the fifth graders he asked knew what the Trinity is. Although, I agree that tracking the bar codes on donation envelopes is a bit "big brother-ish."

Maureen

I was attending my parish every week for five years before I even heard that there was such a thing as "signing up" to be a "member". (Maybe because I live in an apartment instead of a house?) I didn't want to do it, didn't see any point doing it, and didn't see any particular need to do it to get a paper copy of the diocesan newspaper, either. The only reason I signed up in the end is that I got pressured by the choir folks to help get the numbers all correct.

Anyway, I haven't got a clue where the little envelopes are. I'm a cash donator. If you want another data point -- my parents also attended Mass every week, but usually mailed in a single envelope at the beginning of the month.

So this whole "attendance check through envelopes" is pretty darned dorky, not to mention being exactly the thing to put up people's backs. Especially if they attend every week. OTOH, it's probably going to be great for other parishes' attendance and donations!

Todd

A few things:

- This tactic has no hope of being effective if it wasn't clearly spelled out in advance; that is: the expectation that every child enrolled in RE be brought to Sunday Mass regularly.

- The inoculation notion has a sad ring of truth. In fact, if the parents wanted to ensure the development of religion and faith, they would take the cheap way out: attend Mass regularly and skip the RE fee.

- Even in the NY suburbs, $150 is too steep a fee if the parish is trying to develop true stewardship. Everybody's Sunday envelopes should be supporting RE. A $25 book fee would seem enough.

- Some of the excuses for non-attendance were pretty lame. A parish that size probably has at least four or five Masses. I tend to doubt most people have consistent weekend time commitments that take both parents away from home, leaving kids to fend for themselves.

However, I wonder what would happen if the pastor hired a bus with his $150 fees and offered to drive kids to church if their parents didn't want to go?

Lauda Jerusalem Dominum

I was attending my parish every week for five years before I even heard that there was such a thing as "signing up" to be a "member". (Maybe because I live in an apartment instead of a house?) I didn't want to do it, didn't see any point doing it, and didn't see any particular need to do it to get a paper copy of the diocesan newspaper, either. The only reason I signed up in the end is that I got pressured by the choir folks to help get the numbers all correct.

Registration is only paperwork. If you live in the parish boundaries and are a baptized Latin-rite Catholic, then you're a member of the parish and are entitled to all that the parish offers (including religious education for your children).

I'm a member of a personal parish so registration is necessary for me.

If you donate cash and don't use envelopes, then you might find it difficult to deduct your donations from your taxes at the end of the year. You might be keeping track of them but you're supposed to get a receipt if a one-time donation is over a certain amount ($250?). The parish can't give you a receipt if they don't know who's making the donation. It might sound altruistic to donate anonymously, but the net result is that you might wind up paying more in taxes than would otherwise be the case.

Greg Popcak

"Religious Innoculation" Yes! That's the phrase I was searching for! Elizabeth above says that "at least the kids are getting something." The reality is that in some cases, getting something is truly worse than getting nothing.

I think the fact that 40 years after religious ed has taken a more accommodating approach only 28% of Catholics attend Church weekly is a pretty poor reflection on our pedagogical approach. It isn't that it doesn't work at all, but it doesn't work nearly well enough. Any new approach can't all be about discipline, of course, but I do think that is a significant piece that has been missing. Knowing that a pastor is willing to resort to discipline when necessary will increase his ability to be effectively pastoral and appropriately sensitive.

His sensitivity will not jst seem like cheap grace.

Rich Leonardi

Todd nails it.

Having said that, I'm going to take two aspirin and lie down for at least 45 minutes.

Somewhere near St. Blog's, dogs and cats are living together.

Rick Lugari

The real shame is that these kids are presumably being instructed that missing Sunday Mass is a mortal sin and yet their parents don’t care enough to attend. The parents have put the children in a no-win situation. The children will have to either confront the realization that their parents are being “bad” or “wrong” (an unfortunate experience for a kid), or interiorly marginalize the Church’s teaching (the seed of dissent).

The priest is doing the right thing for those children, their parents, and for the Church as a whole. The parents [and their children] who respond positively to this pastoral correction will be better off for it.

Calvin

Some might think my idea on this to be somewhat warped, but I will tell it like it is. I think many parents brainwash their kids, yet are very willing to pay the $150 in an attempt to buy their way in. Just as parents should be very involved in their children's school activities, they should be even more involved in their religious education. I can see the pastor's point here, and I admire him for taking a stand.

susan

From what I have noticed, people may have attended mass weekly for all of their lives and still not understand their faith. Most of my Catholic relatives are bibically ignorant and can't explain basic doctrine. I can't say that attending mass is a substitute for religious education.

Lauda Jerusalem Dominum

From what I have noticed, people may have attended mass weekly for all of their lives and still not understand their faith. Most of my Catholic relatives are bibically ignorant and can't explain basic doctrine. I can't say that attending mass is a substitute for religious education.

That's because the Mass itself does not do a good job of transmitting doctrine and many priests are not doing a good job of transmitting doctrine in their sermons.

The real shame is that these kids are presumably being instructed that missing Sunday Mass is a mortal sin and yet their parents don’t care enough to attend.

Indeed. This is one of the things I struggled with when I taught CCD (5-6 years ago). The other biggie was the marital status of some of the parents.

Catherine of Alexandria

A major concern, it seems to me, is the morale of the religious instructors and the DRE's. Aside from serving as press secretary to Cardinal Law, I cannot think of a ministry with greater potential for disillusionment than religious education, and my last hitch was in 1972. I would never advise a young, idealistic Catholic to enter this ministry unless there was some sort of structure in place for continuity between classroom education and the life of the parish.

The main reason people do not use envelopes and/or "bar codes" is because they are ashamed of the pittance they substitute for honest stewardship. If you don't believe me, ask your parish money counters, or do as I do, slide a surreptitious glance into the basket as it goes through your hands some Sunday. What will you see? Envelopes and dollar bills. I haven't seen a president besides Washington in the basket in nearly ten years. Ulysses Grant? You're kidding.

Which leads to my third point, namely the sorry state of stewardship. Granted, the recent scandal has wounded trust, but long before 2002 the average Catholic was contributing 1% of income to the Church, in every study undertaken in recent memory, back to the 1980's, at least. Under these circumstances, charging for religious education [and for weddings, baptisms, and the like] becomes an accepted, if at times distasteful, reality.

Fourthly, this situation reflects the Church's topsy-turvy approach to evangelization and education. Jesus instructed adults and blessed children. For reasons never clear to me, American Catholicism has had a centuries old penchant for reversing a process that seemed to work well for the Founder. A wallet-sized "Ulysses S. Grant" for anyone who can defend the wisdom of reversing Jesus' model.

Ellyn

The $150 CCD fee is cheap compared to my parish.

The barcode idea makes me a little squeamish, being a cash only contributor. But if empty envelopes would be accepted, I guess that would be OK with me.

(Not that I'm too worried, since we attend Mass every week. God knows it. And I work in the rectory and we're active in other stuff, too, so the fathers know we've been here.... :) Here. I said here. That means I'm writing this from work which means I've stretched a two minute 'brain break' a little too long....)

Anna

To Br. Sebastian,

One of the parishes that I taught at, tried the idea of only having CCD everyother week, with the parents taking the responsibility for other time. I was against the idea, because I knew just how little the kids knew, and I suspected (having gone through RCIA there) how little the parents knew. You can't teach what you don't know. Nor was there much in adult education at the parish. But at least the diocese was pretty good.

I think that one hurdle that those of us who came from the evangelical branch of Christianity need to face is this. IS the purpose of CCD to make sure that the students know specific things at specific levels (which seems to be the Catholic mode) or is it to teach who ever comes, wherever they are coming from, and hope/pray/trust that what ever is learned may be useful in their spiritual development (Baptist mode).

Ian

Do any evangelical churches - you know, the ones that are *growing* - charge people to learn about Jesus? Do they throw people out of their churches for not coming regularly? No to both. They pursue people, they have the zeal of Christ. They want to spread the Gospel. It seems we Catholics are mainly interested in our tribal affiliation and our priests our money.

The commandment of Jesus is to spread the Gospel. Yep - Jesus. The Son of God who died and was risen as the ultimate sacrifice for your sins. Remember Him?

It's one thing for the parents to sin by failing to teach the Gospel to their children, but it's quite another for the priest to fail to teach the children because he wasn't getting the money or because the parents were not involved.

Did Saint Paul reject entire communities because some of their members were not observant? Obviously the answer is "no." The sins of the parents are being visited on the children in SI and the priest is not only failing to teach the Gospel but he is actively denying his priestly duty. Disgusting.

Tom

What was that someone said about the New Springtime not being measured by numbers of Catholics?

American Catholics, if you'll pardon the generalization, regard themselves as customers and their parishes as service providers. Any criticism from a pastor is taken about as well as criticism from the manager of a local pizza parlour. Imagine getting a letter from Pizza Hut telling you you had to order a pizza at least once a week, and make sure it has at least two toppings on it, or you can't ever order from them.

So yeah, there's probably a better way than Fr. Cichon took, but even the best way probably isn't very good.

Maureen

Jesus knew perfectly well that all the young boys who came to him were going through some sort of religious schooling (they spoke Aramaic and thus had to learn Hebrew), and that even the majority of Jewish women knew how to read and write and recite the scriptures. And Jesus as a child was not above a little religious discussion in the Temple. All those kids knew their prayers. All those kids were not doofuses. They were Jewish, and that meant learning that learning (and especially learning the Law) was as sweet as honey.

Honestly, people. Do you really think Jesus meant to say, "Let the children be ignoramuses" when he said to let them come to him? Or was it more like "Let the children come to me and ask me questions after class if they like, or if they're too young for that, let them be taught Truth just by being near me"?

In every age, the saints have called for children to be educated, and educated in their religion most of all. This is a no-brainer.

ajb

Does anyone know if the Pastor refunded the $150 fee? If not, that's a tidy 45 grand for him to play with. Maybe he was just trying to make more room for more $150-a-pop kids. I guess $210,000 per season doesn't go as far as it used to.

The "innoculation" theory is nonsense. Remember that the children did nothing wrong here. They have no control over whether their parents take them to Mass or not.

I'd say that having them hear enough to go home and ask why they're not going to Mass is better than not having them hear anything at all.

And with respect to the argument about Religious Ed not being worth it anyway, if that's the case the Pastor should admit that and cough up the $210,000.

chris K

As others have said, this one story may not tell all that this pastor has tried, but the path used, that is told, appears to be rather impersonal. The time to emphasize the fact that if the parents are not seen at Sunday mass, at least, then the child's formation without them will be postponed, is at some initial obliged gathering of parents and children. But there is also the chance that children will have great desires for the faith within themselves and then influence the parents. We have had parents "forced" to bring the child to adoration because of the enthusiasm of a teacher inspiring the child. The many of the parents up to then had believed the Eucharist to be only a symbol...all the while they were attending weekly Sunday mass. They changed. When exposed to the rosary or the saints, the children have also asked such distant parents to allow them to place their new holy cards out on display in the home...and asked parents to buy them a rosary. We always have that desire expressed by Christ to "let the children come to Me". How would it be for missionaries to give up on the children of the poor countries where parents have given up on their own religious connections? The Communists got a whole new thing going when they knew it would serve them best to get to the young by any means. And JPII realized the same!

Nancy

If anyone had applied this standard to my parents, I'd have been thrown out of parochial school.

So I ended up a lifelong Catholic even though my father wasn't at all, and my mom's Mass attendance was spotty at best.

And this would have furthered the message of Christ how exactly?

Maureen

Kids want to learn, to learn things by heart, and to get answers to their millions of questions. It's in their nature. Denying children the chance to learn, or killing their love of learning, is not just wrong but against God's natural law.

Dan Crawford

The pastor as little tinhorn fascist - I love stories like this. Punish the kids for the sins of the parents. That's effective. Some other pastor may remember Mark 10.13-16 (assuming he's familiar with the Bible), and invite those children to meet Jesus without a bar code.

I'm amazed this guy's being defended here.

Samuel J. Howard

The kids aren't going to Mass. Going to Mass is a requirement for the class. Therefore they're failing the class. Right?

Nancy

Hey, maybe we're being too uncharitable. Obviously this pastor thinks he has too many families or parts of families - certainly too many children - interested in the Faith. So he's trying to cut down interest and attendance.

My bet is that it will work like a charm.

Ian

The priest is being defended by those with an axe to grind against people who (a) don't go to church or (b) don't get involved with their kids' religious education. They are not unlike the "churchy" types who have issues with people who don't get involved in their parishes. Amy's posts both here and at her old blog address the mentality very well...

Guess what: bitching about the difficulty of teaching the Gospel dosn't get you any points! When you've got a few holes in your limbs *then* you can bitch. It's hard work.

If kids don't learn enough to make their First Communion by the time they're supposed to do so then they'll just have to wait. But throwing them out of class does not serve Lord Jesus' command! It contradicts it! :(

susan

Anna..good post! I expect CCD to be like Sunday school and should lower my expectations.Our diocise has changed confirmation (to be done in 3rd-4th grade) so now there is a big debate that no one will continue to go to CCD since their education is 'over'. I toy with the idea of going to Sat night mass and Sunday am Sunday school at my old church to get the 'best of both worlds'.I try to teach my children the best I can at home, but Sunday school was such a positive learning experience I hate to deprive them of it. I still can't get over being with fellow Catholics who think Joseph in Genisis is the same Joseph in the Gospels.

Nancy

How do you know the kids aren't going to Mass, Samuel? Do they have them bar-coded too? Or extract their allowance money from them at the door?

I went to Mass without my parents a lot when I was a kid, because I wanted to, and they didn't care to stop me. If the kid can get to the mall or the basketball court without his parents, he can get to Mass too if suitably motivated.

This pastor wants the $$$, and he can't get much out of a kid who comes alone. That's why he's keeping track by scanning envelopes, and that's why he's keeping track of the parents, not the kids. Follow the money.

Susan Peterson

I have never been able to get it together to remember the envelopes. They don't come in a box, they come in a thick envelope maybe once a quarter, and they get lost in the piles and piles of advertisement and medical bills and duns from collection agencies and all that other junk. Sometimes I work myself up to go through a box of old mail and find outdated envelopes. I have used them to save seeds from my garden flowers.

I put a check in the collection basket. They keep track for me for tax purposes even though I attend various of the "worship sites" in my parish. If I have been to a different parish-where I give cash, a smaller amount than I give my own parish, I try to write my checks for double to make up for the week I missed. Although, I do wind up writing "Please do not cash until [payday]" on the checks sometimes. The rare times I put cash in,like if there are no more checks in my checkbook but I happen to have a ten or a twenty in my wallet, I know I won't get credit for it as a tax deduction. Oh, well. But if that meant my kids (if I still had kids young enough) couldn't go to religious education?

I really don't think religious education should be predicated on the parent's ability to keep track of church envelopes.

Also...when I was young-age 4-I asked my parents to send me to Sunday school, when my friends started going. My parents were not believers or churchgoers, but my father drove me to Sunday School at the Dutch Reformed church every Sunday from age 4 through age 10, always at my instigation. I learned some Bible stories, I memorized the Lord's Prayer...I learned a hymn of thankfulness (For the beauty of the earth) and a triumphant hymn about the power of Christian belief and the Christian church, and the idea of the church as something bigger than a building or a local group(Onward Christian Soldiers). All of this predisposed me to accept Christian belief in my early 20's.
Should I really have been forbidden to go because my parents were not believers?

As far as the attending meetings thing...this can be abused too by power hungry self important DRE's. I am still upset with myself for not protesting the following injustice. A family had their house burn down one afternoon. A few hours later, while the fire department was still spraying the smoking ruins, the mother missed a required meeting for first communion parents. The next Saturday AM was a first communion practice; the mother dropped off her 7 year old. The DRE said to the little girl "You shouldn't be here, your mother missed the meeting." and made her wait outside on the steps of the church for the hour and a half long practice. The little girl sat out there in tears while the other 7 year olds practiced, mine included. Why didn't I walk up front, make a fuss, refuse to let things go on while that child cried out there? I was a coward and I am still ashamed of my cowardice. But I think the DRE felt perfectly justified. After all the mother missed the required meeting, and it was perfectly clear, all meetings must be attended. The priest later admitted to me that he felt guilty about it; he felt he had to support the DRE that he had hired, not publically undermine her. And, no, there isn't any possiblity that the DRE didn't know about the house fire; first of all, it was the kind of community where everyone knew such things as soon as they happened, and second, some mothers did attempt to remonstrate with her when she first sent the little girl outside, saying, But they just lost their house....

The meetings were vapid, mindless, useless and free from serious doctrinal content. Of course, so was all the religious education in that parish; my kids would have been much better off without it; as someone above wrote, it served as an innoculation against religion.

Susan Peterson

Jane

We have had many a conversion or re-conversions in our parish because of children coming to religious ed. Especially during first Confession/Reconciliation/Penance preparation. We have a mandatory parents' meeting where the Religous Ed director tackles typical hurdles many of these parents may struggle with in their faith. Basically it is a "take another look" invitaion. Many people are coming back to live a more Chirst centered life.

Those who don't participate have been told about their responsibilites to their children etc....They have eyes that don't see and ears that don't hear....It is between them and God.

The parish in the next town makes it mandatory that the confirmation candidates go to mass. They have to sign in after mass or if they are at a visiting parish, that pastor has to sign a copy of that weekend's bulletin.

By the way I have to pay a total of $250 in CCD fees for three of our children. Our youngest is too young for religious ed. My friend has nine little ones. That is a too mucha of burden!

But no child should be denied entrance to CCD. What will those children remember about their encounter with Catholism? Their parents flipping out and condemning what that pastor did.

Nancy

I can't believe anyone's defending this guy. He needs to go back to school, for a refresher course on the gospel.

Catherine of Alexandria

In response to Nancy, we have in our two-thousand year history saints, scholars, martyrs, founders, popes. But never in two thousand years has there ever been a pastor who looked at CCD as a cash cow. "Necessary evil" is probably the kindest way to sum up presbyteral regard, and it goes downhill from there.

To "ajb," $45,000 is not a tidy sum. I daresay it does not begin to cover this pastor's annual staff medical premiums.

Nancy

I find $45,000 tidy enough. If this pastor doesn't want it or doesn't care about it, he can send it to me.

Catherine L

At a PTO meeting about a year and a half ago my parish pastor informed us that he had recently heard the confessions of 7th graders from the parish school. He stated that 25% of the kids confessed that they had missed Mass. Father gave a barnburner of a lecture about how many mortal sins the parents of those children are committing. Unfortunately the parents attending the meeting were probably not the ones missing Mass, so the wrong group was addressed.

The pastor of this parish probably doesn't have a forum to reach those that aren't attending Mass. Maybe this was the wake-up call to those parents that they must do more than pay their money and (sometimes) drop off their children at RE.

Nancy

We were told recently on another thread here, by a priest, that the money we give the parish "isn't ours anymore" and that accordingly we have no legitimate voice about how it is spent.

I've seen this attitude myself. In our former parish the church was being renovated. Some liturgical "consultant" or other (who cost "us" $30,000) determined that we needed a very expensive and elaborate fountain/hot tub at the entrance. (Excuse me. Oversized baptismal font.)

We didn't want one, for a variety of reasons. So the pastor hired yet another consultant (@$45,000) to "educate" us.

We still didn't want it, so we collectively, without any rigorous organization, just didn't contribute enough money for this white elephant, which, thank God, was never built.

Perhaps if the attitude of the priesthood changed a bit about money, they wouldn't have to shake the CCD parents down or track bar codes.

Susan Peterson

The money fees shock me. I was really poor when I had all my kids. We only had a fee if you didn't sign up on time; it was for special ordering the extra textbooks and workbooks. I think it was 15 bucks. This seemed fair to me. I once forgot to sign up on time and couldn't afford to pay ($75 for five kids; it was a huge amoung of money for me then. I think I wound up paying $5 each and the priest made the money up out of some fund..or his own pocket, maybe. )

What do they do for parents who cannot afford this kind of fees? Suppose the total family income is $20,000-$30,000 and there are 5 or more kids? Some parents would be embarrassed to go to the pastor and say they couldn't afford it. Some would just stop sending their kids to Sunday school...and maybe stop going to church...or find a church...even a Protestant church...which welcomed them without making such demands.

I really think it is shocking to charge a fee for religious education.

I am sure one could use mimeographed..(I show my age here) I mean, zeroxed materials, print outs from the internet, home made stuff, rather than expensive texts with a lot of pictures. And maybe even include a lot more content than some of those texts.

Susan Peterson

John W.

I count the collection for my Parish and we ask parents who receive the Catholic rate of tuition to use the envelope system to verify that they are practicing Catholics and are entitled to the parish subsidy. Many of the envelopes are empty or have "present" marked on them. I think this is a reasonable request.

I don't think this parish should charge $150/child because passing on the faith is the "mission" of the Church. This is an expense the entire community should bear. Also I agree that throwing the children out of CCD because of the parents is not right and is cutting off your nose to spite your face.

God Bless!

James Kabala

Maybe I'm incredibly naive, but I never knew that CCD was ever anything but free. Could it be that my parents were paying a fee that I didn't even know about, or was my relgious ed (1986-1996) anomalous in its freeness? I'll have to ask my parents the next time I see them.

Zhou

COMMUNION & LIBERATION.

Got your attention?

It seems that Communion & Liberation is a very prominent thing is this parish.

Like many faithful Catholics, Lori Modica of Staten Island, N.Y., attends Mass regularly, prays and takes part in parish activities.

But in the last two years, Modica has become more fervent about her beliefs, and now participates more fully in Mass. She feels a greater connection with fellow parishioners and is more deeply involved in activities at her parish, the Church of St. Joseph and St. Thomas.
...
The Communion and Liberation community at St. Joseph and St. Thomas was begun by Father Richard Veras, former associate pastor.

“I became a diocesan priest because of my encounter with CL,” Father Veras said. “I think it is important for pastors and for all active Catholics to know that the [lay] movements are not a threat to the parish, but rather provide a mutually enriching experience for the parish and for the movement.

School of Community
In Sept. 2004, after Father Veras was transferred out of the parish, Modica took over as head of the movement’s adult group at St. Joseph and St. Thomas, which has about 12 regular members and meets once a week. A high school teacher from nearby Brooklyn took over the youth group.

The basic instrument for the formation of the movement’s adherents is a weekly catechesis meeting, called School of Community. At these meetings, members usually begin with a prayer. Then the group reads and discusses some spiritual text, often from a portion of one of Father Giussani’s books such as The Religious Sense, At the Origin of the Christian Claim, and Why the Church?

Members focus on what the text says and compare it with their own experiences. “We try to help each other seek Christ in everyday life,” says Modica, who leads the meetings.

Modica says her spiritual transformation came about largely through attending the School of Community meetings, reading and studying the texts and attending other Communion and Liberation activities.

The community at St. Joseph -St. Thomas is involved in the planning of several parish events. This year it organized a Lenten educational series, participated in a Good Friday Stations of the Cross procession over the Brooklyn Bridge, and prayed novenas from Ascension Thursday to Pentecost.

“We think [Communion and Liberation] is a great thing for the parish; the people in our community participate more in a lot of parish activities,” Modica says. “We try to relate our experience of Christ present in our lives every day.”

Other members of the group have become lectors, and some of the younger members help arrange transportation so that older members can get to Mass.

Father Michael Cichon, pastor of St. Joseph and St. Thomas, approved the movement’s establishment there after speaking with Father Veras. He says Communion and Liberation has been a welcome addition to the parish. Living a Catholic way of life “is something the Gospel calls us to do” and groups such as Communion and Liberation are proof that the Holy Spirit is working in the Church today, he said.

The movement’s members at the parish “have opened themselves to a greater living of the Catholic lifestyle,” Father Cichon said. “They continually expand and invite other people through their devotion, their study of scripture, their active ministry and the style of their life.”

He said it’s especially important that younger members of the parish be involved in movements such as Communion and Liberation.

“It’s absolutely essential, not just of for the sake of the future but for the sake of what God offers a community like our parish today,” Father Cichon says. “We are people who need the graces of our young people to meet the challenges of what the Gospel calls us to do. They have insight that comes out through their enthusiasm and their sense of freedom. We can learn from that.”

Father Cichon expects to see similar groups taking a greater role in the life of many parishes. “The future of the Church,” he said, “is going to depend to a tremendous extent on the involvement of lay people who commit themselves to these groups and participate in ministry within the context of the parish.”

Maybe they are moving to a "smaller, more committed Catholic community" model.

Personally, this would not have worked for me, as my father hated the Church and never went to Mass, and although I received CCD at our local parish, my mother usually went to Mass with my great-grandmother in a different parish.

In my current suburban parish, many of the kids in Religious Education are not even Catholic. After-school Religious Education is distinct from Sacramental Preparation. it is just a Good, After-School, (General) Religous Education program.

Nancy

At a PTO meeting about a year and a half ago my parish pastor informed us that he had recently heard the confessions of 7th graders from the parish school. He stated that 25% of the kids confessed that they had missed Mass. Father gave a barnburner of a lecture about how many mortal sins the parents of those children are committing.

SEVENTH GRADERS?!?? I'll you any amount of money, even the scorned $45,000, that those kids are doing lots and lots of things distant from their homes, without their parents, and some of them without the knowledge or approval of their parents even! So they can't get to Mass on their own???

The parents' sins are their own problem. This priest should be glad that the kids are there, going to confession, and have a talk with them about the fact (well known to them already, I assure you!) that they are not appendages of their parents or toddlers, and that they have responsibilities of their own.

Mike Petrik

I have served for many years on parish finance councils, and let me just make a couple of observations. First, in most parishes well less than half the families contribute 90% of the offertory. Second, over 95% of all offertory funds come through envelopes -- those who give cash anonymously give very little (although I suppose there are always exceptions). But folks you actually seriously tithe almost always use envelopes, if for no other reason than it facilitates tax deductions. Third, the folks who are most obsessed and sensitive regarding money matters tend to be modest contributors. The most generous givers tend to be pretty joyful about it actually.
In connection with the article at issue, I don't know what the reasonable cost of religious education materials is, and I don't know much about the general ability of the parishioners to pay, but it is quite possible that there is simply no room in the parish budget for a significant subsidy for this effort. I've said this before on this blog, but it bears repeating. Fewer Catholics tithe than do members of most other "denominations." Many of our parishes struggle to implement programs do to the lack of financial resources.

mcmlxix

Nancy, the parents of 7th grader’s are indeed responsible for their children’s 75% mass attendance.

...said calmly, without any boldface or unnecessary exclamation marks.

Nancy

the folks who are most obsessed and sensitive regarding money matters tend to be modest contributors. The most generous givers tend to be pretty joyful about it actually.

Mike,

Maybe it goes the other way. People who are happy with the way the parish is run will give more money. People who are not happy give less.

I write checks. I can't keep track of the darn envelopes, and checks work just as well for tax purposes.

Nancy

mcmixix,

1. I was taught that the age of reason, at which one becomes responsible for one's actions, is seven years. OK, a seven year old can't easily get across town, but seventh graders do it regularly and easily.

2. When does one become morally responsible for one's own behavior, if 12 or 13 doesn't do the trick?

3. Are the parents also responsible for the grades these kids get in school, the grass they smoke behind the gym, the quality of their piano playing, and their scores on the video games? Or might the kids themselves perhaps have something to do with this?

Simon

Do any evangelical churches - you know, the ones that are *growing* - charge people to learn about Jesus? Do they throw people out of their churches for not coming regularly? No to both.

For all the hysteria on these blogs about evangelicals, it's hard to remember that the Catholic Church, even in this country, continues to grow.

My parish uses envelopes to track tuition and admission policy for the school. That doesn't involve "throwing people out" of the church. It's a common sense measure in an area where demand a Catholic school far exceeds the number of spaces that can practically be made available.

As for requiring the parents of kids in after-school religious ed to attend Mass, the point here is to [b]avoid being an enabler of a fundamentally non-Christian culture in which First Communion and Confirmation and coming-of-age rituals are valued by parents who haven't the slightest interest in otherwise practicing the faith or passing it on to their children. [/b] It's not unlike the common dilemma posed by couples who don't practice the faith and live contrary to it -- but are nonetheless outraged when they learn they can't have a pretty wedding in a big Catholic Church.

Whether this pastor is handling the situation correctly or not, I can't say. Neither can anyone else who comments here. But he is at least grappling with a problem that goes to the heart of what the Church is and what real evangelization is all about.

Donald R. McClarey

A few thoughts:

1. I am surprised by the CCD fee. Catechism was free when I was growing up and has been free for my kids. Charging for CCD is a poor idea.

2. The pastor has a valid point about kids being in CCD while parents fail to take them to mass. This is a serious problem and too many Catholic parents feel they have satisfied their obligation to pass on the Faith if their kids show up for CCD. Having said that, the priest's solution of tossing out the kids from CCD is completely wrong and punishing the kids for their slacker parents.

3. When it comes to supporting the Church financially, many Catholics are MIA. No one wants to see people who can't afford it putting more in the collection basket, but plenty of Catholics who can afford it act as if the year is 1955 and their buck or three weekly donation satisfies their obligation of financial support to the Church.

Mike Petrik

I think you are right, Nancy, at least in part. Some folks give whether they get their way on everything or not; others give only if they get their way (Tom's point above); still others won't give no matter what, though they usually claim to be in the second category.
And your peculiar experience notwithstanding, I think you are naive to believe that kids will come to Mass if their parents don't go. There are always exceptions, of course, but they are just that -- exceptions.

Maureen

Nancy --

Your points are well-taken, except for this one:
>OK, a seven year old can't easily get across town, but seventh graders do it regularly and easily.

What town do you live in? I lived a good hour and a half's bike ride from my church and parochial school. But of course you couldn't get there by bike when I was growing up, as we had no sidewalks and the church was on an extremely dangerous main road full of maniacal drivers. Even today it would be a good deal easier to walk fifteen minutes to the bus stop and go downtown on the bus to attend church; but back then, RTA didn't go out that far. (And the nearest bus stop was about an hour's bikeride away, down an even more dangerous main road with even more maniacal drivers.)

Catherine L

Well, Nancy, I guess you aren't familiar with the general street situation in Houston. Many of these kids live too far from Church to get there on their own, and the public transit system in Houston is pretty lousy even on weekdays. My own 7th grader could ride his bike, but we attend Mass, so he comes with us.

Father did not share with us what he told the children in confession, so perhaps he did advise them on what they can do to avoid this sin in the future. The reason the children were at confession in the first place is that it was a school day during Lent, so they lined up and headed on over to the Church. At this particular meeting he was addressing parents so it was appropriate to talk about the sins of the parents. Of course those who aren't attending Mass probably aren't running off to confession regularly either.

mcmlxix

Do Parents abdicate their responsibility to their children at age 7? Well, mine did...even before then, and still attempt to poison continuously me, my siblins, with their "advice", example, and free porn, so maybe I’m sensitive to this. Who needed to smoke grass behind the gym? I was just admonished to smoke theirs. Etc, etc, etc.

Total moral responsibility for a 7th grader is a huge challenge when everything in society tempts and contradicts, and it’s a hella bitter pill when it’s the parent leading astray by example and attitude. Geez, 25% mortal sin rate ain’t all that bad, right?

Otherwise, I’m afraid I don’t have such a binary mindset?

Rick Lugari

As stated above, it seems to me that the priest is being responsible in his duties. I have never heard of priest marry a couple or baptize their baby (emergencies excluded) without making sure that the people were practicing the faith. Why should First Communion and Confirmation be any different? Below are some relevant canons. It seems to me that the priest is being responsible and taking actions to bring the parents in conformity with canon law. [All emphases are mine.]

Furthermore, I don’t like the idea of the $150 fee, but to accuse Father Cichon of doing this for some monetary gain strikes me as being uncharitable at best.

Can. 773 It is a proper and grave duty especially of pastors of souls to take care of the catechesis of the Christian people so that the living faith of the faithful becomes manifest and active through doctrinal instruction and the experience of Christian life.

Can. 774 §1. Under the direction of legitimate ecclesiastical authority, solicitude for catechesis belongs to all members of the Church according to each one’s role.

§2. Parents above others are obliged to form their children by word and example in faith and in the practice of Christian life; sponsors and those who take the place of parents are bound by an equal obligation.

Can. 776 By virtue of his function, a pastor is bound to take care of the catechetical formation of adults, youth, and children, to which purpose he is to use the help of the clerics attached to the parish, of members of institutes of consecrated life and of societies of apostolic life, taking into account the character of each institute, and of lay members of the Christian faithful, especially of catechists. None of these are to refuse to offer their help willingly unless they are legitimately impeded. The pastor is to promote and foster the function of parents in the family catechesis mentioned in ⇒ can. 774, §2.

Mike Petrik, tax  lawyer

Seven as the age of reason is based on psychological and contextual assumptions and necessarily limited in application. Any parent can tell you that it is very difficult for a seventh grader to think of Mass as important, no matter what his catechist says, if his parents don't think it is important. Frankly, I do not see how this point is even debatable, but I guess some people will debate anything.
As far as the fee is concerned, I agree that religious instruction for children should be a parish community concern, but most parishes have limited resources caused by inadequate offertory notwithstanding please from the ambo.

Suibhne

I think Greg Popcak nailed it right out of the box:

Grace must be cooperated with. If parents aren't going to be serious about at least attempting to live their faith, then we CAN'T give their children the sacraments, because no one is forming them. No one is teaching them to cooperate with the grace they are receiving. It simply isn't just. This isn't about being mean to little kids. This is about needing to stop being cruel to them. Our past practices have been setting them up to fail.

I have a friend who acts just like the parents Mr. Popcak describes. He and his wife no longer practice, yet send their children for instruction in the faith. Because I am his friend I point out to him that he is acting unjustly towards his children. Does he really think that they do not notice that Mommy and Daddy don't do what they are telling them it is important to do? Their poor example is more influential than the instruction they are receiving. It really is cruel and the pastor of this Staten Island parish seems to recognize this. Better to shake things up and tell people they need to practice the faith than let them continue to be lukewarm at best. Better for their children, too.

Nancy

Sorry for the assumptions, Maureen. I see that they may be incorrect. I grew up in a safe Los Angeles suburb where one could walk or bike to Church, and I now live in an urban area with a reasonably good bus system. Seventh graders in both situations were and are all over the place, more or less at will, with or without their parents' knowledge even. I do see that not all places are like that.

Like the rest of us, everything I say here is informed by my own experience. I was sent to the local Catholic school because my parents believed it was more rigorous academically than the public school. Only. My father didn't believe much of anything, and my mother attended Mass very irregularly.

I, however, was inspired by the Faith, and by the time I was in seventh grade, for cryingoutloud, it was already a sore point between me and my parents. My mother's greatest fear for me, often articulated, now abundantly realized, was that I would become "a religious fanatic." (By which she meant, I think, someone who takes God seriously.)

But hey, Mike, seventh graders in my town at least go to all sorts of things their parents don't attend and don't approve of even. The Church can't treat them as babies forever. In fact, a clever way to get through to this age group might be to say, in effect, 'We know your parents might not be into this thing, but you're getting older now, and you should make your own decisions about this even if your parents aren't exactly on board.'

pacetua

This whole discussion makes me a little sad. Like many other Catholic parents, I have decided to homeschool my children, because in my opinion it is the only way I can be sure they are actually receiving a Catholic education. I recognize that other Catholic parents make different decisions in regards to education and I completely respect them.

However, despite the fact that I am homeschooling in order to teach my children the faith, and despite the fact that we use a good religion program that some parishes also use, my children would have to sign up either for CCD or children's RCIA to receive the sacraments in our diocese. The time they spend at home with me learning secular subjects is good enough for our state; the time they spend at home with me learning their Catholic faith is not good enough for the diocese.

So far, my answer has been to seek out priests who accept our family's religious education efforts and who are willing to see for themselves if our children are ready for the sacraments. This is a temporary fix, but I'd like a more regular relationship with a parish. So far, we're registered at one, go to confession at another, and attend Sunday Mass at a third. If our children's access to the sacraments depended on barcoded envelopes, we'd be sunk.

Rich Leonardi

Fourthly, this situation reflects the Church's topsy-turvy approach to evangelization and education. Jesus instructed adults and blessed children.

Spot on. Parents are a child's primary catechist, and parish catechesis ought to focus primarily on educating adults.

In fact, according to the USCCB, the bulk of parish resources are to be spent on educating parents.

Hat tip, Steve Kellmeyer.

Nancy

Any parent can tell you that it is very difficult for a seventh grader to think of Mass as important, no matter what his catechist says, if his parents don't think it is important. Frankly, I do not see how this point is even debatable, but I guess some people will debate anything.

Maybe your kids at 13 were more docile than mine, I don't know. But I found with mine at that age that they didn't exactly take all their opinions (or any of their opinions) from me. (Not if they could help it!!) If a 13 year old can make up his or her own mind about drugs or sex (horrors!) then I don't see why they can't make good decisions too, sometimes better than their parents.

Suibhne

Parents are a child's primary catechist, and parish catechesis ought to focus primarily on educating adults.

Amen. Amen. Amen.

I don't expect Christ to judge my pastor on how well my children were catechized. He's coming after me.

Mike Petrik

Yes Nancy, I had good kids. But then, they had good parents. Moreover, I think they would tell you, as would their friends, that there is a relationship between these two facts -- a very profound and serious one.
I am willing to hold seventh-graders accountable for their poor decisions, but I hold adults much more accountable. I'm funny that way.

Ellyn

I know of a parish (OK, mine) where it has been a major aggravation to convince many of the newly confirmed and their families that they are obligated to return for Mass on Sunday when they were just here to be confirmed on Saturday morning.

Don't even get me started on the ordeal of trying to teach 2nd grade CCD students that they must come to Mass every Sunday when their parents are teaching them otherwise. (And this is in a posh suburb, not a devastated area where poor kids are left to fend for themselves while their parents busy themselves with more pressing matters.

Maureen

I have a good friend whose parents are unchurched as can be, but who is a devout churchgoer. She was taken to church/Sunday school as a child by a neighbor.

Which is what still floors me. I mean, as it happens it was a good thing for her. But be I heathen as heathen, I sure as heck wouldn't let anyone be taking my child to a religious event without me along. I mean, this is not sports or Girl Scouts or anything else that's fairly morally and culturally neutral. It's a church. (And actually, I wouldn't let my child go to Girl Scouts without me.) Why would I give up the formation of my child's heart and brain to some group run by people I don't know, or to a neighbor however nice? Freaking insane.

Re: suburbs

This is why kids in the suburbs get up to things their parents don't know about in the house next door, the woods at the end of the plat, or their own basements. Otherwise, they must recruit licensed siblings/"cool parents" to drive them where nefarious pursuits can be pursued. Of course, such people are rarely difficult for suburban kids to find.

People not raised in suburbs forget this very easily. My parents and other parents their age often asked us kids why we stuck around the street so much and reminisced about how they themselves had taken the bus all over the city while under twelve.

We were at that time strictly forbidden to go into the neighboring woods or fields, forbidden to cross the main road at the bottom of the street into the other plat, and admonished to stay within earshot of the house (not hard to do on a dead end street 1/8 of a mile long). Also, we were not to spend so much time in other people's yards or houses. But we should spend less time watching television, playing videogames, or reading, and more time outside in the fresh air.

Fortunately, now suburban kids have cable and the Internet. :)

Christine

"Same here. I lose those envelopes easily, so I throw in cash."

Yikes. If I did that I'd never remember what I gave at tax time (nor would I -- or the parish -- be able to document it). Believe me, that's not why I give -- in order to have an income tax deduction -- but it's completely legitimate to do so.

I'm in total agreement with the actions of the pastor. I've seen the wreckage of too many kids' spiritual lives when the parents didn't set the example they are enjoined by God to set.

Mike Petrik, tax  lawyer

Christine,
No need to apologize for taking a legitimate tax deduction. Because our offertory gifts are tax-deductible we can afford to give more. For many people a $50 weekly gift costs about $35 (even less in some cases), which means that they can actually afford to give $75, since the tax-effected cost would only be $50. Giving more is good.

Marie

Parents in our affluent community don't blink twice at spending hundreds and thousands of dollars each year on travel soccer, elite swimming, Irish dancing, and other essential activities; therefore, a $150 fee for CCD doesn't seem to be a hindrance. The fees are waived for families who have financial difficulties. I agree with the poster who observed that people generally value what they pay for.
I just finished my fifth (and last) year of teaching fifth grade CCD. Most of our students do go to Mass. Both the pastor and the DRE make a big point of reminding parents that they are the primary educators and that CCD is meant to assist and not to replace them in that role.If most of the kids have parents who are actively practicing their faith, the presence of a few kids from "slacker" families isn't really a problem; in fact, I have seen such children inspired by their classmates' devotion. However, if too many of the kids are from "slacker" families, that changes the tone, particularly with adolescents. It's not fair to expect a volunteer with little training and one hour a week to cope with such situations.

tim

At my parish, the school charges the Religious Ed. (CCD) program a per head fee for rent of using the building (to help balance their own budget and recoup the operating costs of having electricity running et al). This means that Rel. Ed. has to pass along the cost to it's own families.

Let's remember that in many places, CCD is still seen as the bastard stepchild for the "publics" as compared to the parish school.

Catherine L

"So far, my answer has been to seek out priests who accept our family's religious education efforts and who are willing to see for themselves if our children are ready for the sacraments. This is a temporary fix, but I'd like a more regular relationship with a parish. So far, we're registered at one, go to confession at another, and attend Sunday Mass at a third. If our children's access to the sacraments depended on barcoded envelopes, we'd be sunk."

I think most pastors are willing to talk to parents who home school. And I beleive that no priest can arbitrarily deny the sacraments to a child if the parents request this. We're making the assumption here that this pastor at this parish is rigidly requiring a bar-coded envelope in order to confer the sacraments. I'ld be willing to bet that the children who were ousted come from families that the pastor has little or no contact with.

Christine

Mike, thanks. I also think there's an entirely different culture at work in many Protestant/Evangelical churches. When I was Protestant I never felt the need to go to church every Sunday simply because many pastors didn't push it. And yet -- the New Testament states that Jesus attended the synagogue every Sabbath. And I'm still puzzled to find Catholics stating the they didn't learn enough "doctrine" by attending Mass. The Mass doesn't exist for catechesis, per se, the liturgy shapes how we pray, worship and are formed as the Body of Christ in the world.

What we need is better catechesis outside of Mass so that more Catholics WILL understand doctrine.

Mila Morales

I also would prefer that no money be involved in religious ed, other than to cover materials. But this being a consumer society, perhaps the pastor thinks that if it costs them some money the parents will make sure the kids attend--if only to get their money's worth.

My four children attended a Catholic school, and sadly I can't say that things were any better in that setting. There were boys in my sons's classes who only showed up for Mass if they were the scheduled server. Needless to say, the parents didn't go even on those occassions. Which always made me wonder, if people care that little about their faith, why bother sending the kids to a Catholic school, or to religious ed for that matter?

I don't know what the answer is. But I have felt for a long time that religious ed is aimed at the wrong group. The parents need it more than the kids. In that case, the question would be how to get the parents to come in order the catechize them.

Mike Petrik

I completely agree, Christina.
Mila, sadly I know for certain that many families view Catholic education as no more than a less expensive variant of more elite private school education. They worry much more about SAT scores than souls and view "90% as good for 60% the cost" as an exceptional education value. In this environment it is hardly surprising that many Catholic schools "respond to the market" by offering solid academics accompanied by weak faith formation. Furthermore, even good Catholic schools have a tough time catechizing kids from religiously indifferent families, though I know they try.

pacetua

Catherine,

I'm sure you're right that in general priests are supportive of home schooling. We've found that. But it can be frustrating trying to get through the "gatekeepers." In our case, I called the parish office of a parish where we were registered, and asked to make an appointment to talk to Father. When I told the secretary that I wanted to ask some questions about First Communion I was told rather curtly, "You don't need to talk to Father. Here's the phone number of the D.R.E."

In the case of Fr. Chicon, I would be glad to know that he had made a personal effort to contact the parents of the children who were "kicked out" before that happened. A phone call, maybe. Some effort to reach them and find out that maybe they do attend Mass elsewhere on Sunday, or maybe they've lost their envelopes, or something. The trouble with one-size-fits-all policies is that they don't, generally. And yes, I know there are plenty of people who send their kids for religious ed. without taking the faith seriously. But there are also Catholics who don't take their faith seriously who pay tuitions to send their children to parochial schools. If we're going to be fair, should we institute a policy that the parents of children attending Catholic schools must attend Mass on Sunday? (Or at least, the Catholic parents of Catholic students at Catholic schools?)

scotch meg

Some thoughts:

1) I homeschool my kids partly because I can't afford a house in my town plus my husband's educational debt plus parish school

2) Because I homeschool my kids I do not send them to RE classes. I did for the year we moved here (mostly because it was 1st communion for one) with the result that my 2nd grader thought he was smarter than everyone else because he already knew their stuff and my 4th grader was at risk of thinking that only her (not yet but soon to be) dumb mother was the only one who cared about this stuff. Fortunately we have a diocesan paper on homeschooling and I gave a copy to the (very nice) DRE and have met with her each year to show her my materials. I also take the parish book and use it for supplemental reading. I also teach in the RE program. All of this adds up to a good relationship with the RE people in my parish. So I don't have to pay a fee or worry about sacraments for my kids. Pacetua , you have my sympathies. I've heard worse situations.

3) Many if not most of my RE kids don't go to Mass. When I taught 8th grade I talked to them about this and taught them how to say the Rosary (none of them knew) and shamed them into it by telling them that I could get through a decade in 5 min. with my much younger kids and a (then) toddler. Now I teach confirmation and I talk to them about going to Mass. This year I think I'll try the Rosary with them, although there are only 6 classes, so it's a little more squished for time.

4) Given all of this, I do think it's important to try to get parents to Mass. Part of me feels like cheering for this pastor -- at last, a penalty that means something! Kind of like the requirement that a godparent bring a recommendation from his/her pastor. But part of me feels sad for the children who are untouched by Christ, even in the form of a not-too-well-informed-but-well-intended RE teacher.

5) Also, the fee strikes me as high even though most parishes do suffer from under-giving. Even my own suburban parish.

scotch meg

Some thoughts:

1) I homeschool my kids partly because I can't afford a house in my town plus my husband's educational debt plus parish school

2) Because I homeschool my kids I do not send them to RE classes. I did for the year we moved here (mostly because it was 1st communion for one) with the result that my 2nd grader thought he was smarter than everyone else because he already knew their stuff and my 4th grader was at risk of thinking that only her (not yet but soon to be) dumb mother was the only one who cared about this stuff. Fortunately we have a diocesan paper on homeschooling and I gave a copy to the (very nice) DRE and have met with her each year to show her my materials. I also take the parish book and use it for supplemental reading. I also teach in the RE program. All of this adds up to a good relationship with the RE people in my parish. So I don't have to pay a fee or worry about sacraments for my kids. Pacetua , you have my sympathies. I've heard worse situations.

3) Many if not most of my RE kids don't go to Mass. When I taught 8th grade I talked to them about this and taught them how to say the Rosary (none of them knew) and shamed them into it by telling them that I could get through a decade in 5 min. with my much younger kids and a (then) toddler. Now I teach confirmation and I talk to them about going to Mass. This year I think I'll try the Rosary with them, although there are only 6 classes, so it's a little more squished for time.

4) Given all of this, I do think it's important to try to get parents to Mass. Part of me feels like cheering for this pastor -- at last, a penalty that means something! Kind of like the requirement that a godparent bring a recommendation from his/her pastor. But part of me feels sad for the children who are untouched by Christ, even in the form of a not-too-well-informed-but-well-intended RE teacher.

5) Also, the fee strikes me as high even though most parishes do suffer from under-giving. Even my own suburban parish.

YIKES! Hope the whole thing gets through this time...

Papabile

Assuming that these 1400 kids were in Grade 1 through 7, and they averaged 200 children per grade, one could estimate costs of books.....

Assume a complete new set of volumes for teachers and students each year.

Ignatius Press Faith and Life Series
(Assuming NO DISCOUNT for mass orders)

Grade 1 (175 Child Eds.) $2607.50
20 Teacher's Editions $799.00

Grade 2 (200 Child Eds.) $2607.50
20 Teacher's Editions $799.00

Grade 3 (200 Child Eds.) $2782.50
20 Teacher's Editions $799.00

Grade 4 (200 Child Eds.) $2782.50
20 Teacher's Editions $799.00

Grade 5 (200 Child Eds.) $2782.50
20 Teacher's Editions $799.00

Grade 6 (200 Child Eds.) $2782.50
20 Teacher's Editions $799.00

Grade 7 (200 Child Eds.) $2957.50
20 Teacher's Editions $799.00

Grade 8 (200 Child Eds.) $2957.50
20 Teacher's Editions $799.00
__________________________________

SubTotal $28652.00

Electricity $5000.00
Administrative Costs $5000.00
Extra Paper/Pencils $3000.00
__________________________________

TOTAL $43652.00

Now, this is an extremely liberal estimate that gives planty of headroom for the Pastor......

That still leaves at least $166348 unaccounted for.

Tom

If we're going to be fair, should we institute a policy that the parents of children attending Catholic schools must attend Mass on Sunday?

My parish has just instituted such a policy, after it was discovered that an astonishing percentage of the families paying tuition at parishioner rates never contributed to Sunday collections.

Beginning next school year, Catholic parents are required to sign a covenant with the school, accepting their responsibility to raise their children in the Faith; if they're getting the parishioner rate on tuition, they promise to attend Mass regularly in the parish, and to support it financially. If they don't want to attend Mass or support the parish, they're welcome to pay the non-parishioner rate.

Mike Petrik

Tom's experience is both common and common sense. I would only add that I assume that the promise to support financially is not specific and is subject to a proviso based on ability. These conditions are necessary both from the standpoint of pastoral values as well as tax law.

Joanne

When our new pastor arrived, our parish started a children's liturgy at 5 pm on Saturdays. We also have an 8 pm Sat every week. There was some pushback from folks who resented having the kids take over that Mass slot. There are some things that might raise the eyebrows of the liturgy police, like kids invited to stand around the altar during the consecration (usually just one age group at each Mass, not a huge throng). There are props and signs, and sometimes its a little theatrical, but I think it gets their attention.

I've attended this Mass a few times, and I see that the kids and their parents enjoy it. Sometimes I see grandparents with their families enjoying it. The kids have some kind of homework to fill out and bring back next week, that gets placed in an offertory basket.
The good news is this: it seems to be working. Collections are up, and that Mass is one of the most crowded ones of the weekend. The 9 am on Sunday has mandatory attendance for the confirmandi, who have their CCD right after that Mass.

The pastor also visits the classroom to invite kids to Mass. As catechist, I really appreciate that. I hate seeing the pain on kids faces when you explain that it's a sin to miss Mass.

Kevin

The pastor was looking out for the best interests of the children and following the bible and the catechism. Sacraments are a way of life, not a one time experience.

2Peter 2:20-22

For if, flying from the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they be again entangled in them and overcome: their latter state is become unto them worse than the former. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of justice than, after they have known it, to turn back from that holy commandment which was delivered to them. For, that of the true proverb has happened to them: The dog is returned to his vomit; and: The sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.

Catechism

2221 The fecundity of conjugal love cannot be reduced solely to the procreation of children, but must extend to their moral education and their spiritual formation. "The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute."29 The right and the duty of parents to educate their children are primordial and inalienable.30

Christine

Tom, I think that's very fair. Consider that some parishes have envelopes in their packets to give parishioners the opportunity to support the parish school if they choose, and some of those parishioners may have kids who are grown and gone, I think it's not asking too much that people who DO have kids in the school help support the parish, in turn.

Mike Petrik

I understand the impulse to tweak the liturgy to make it more "fun," but it really is wrong. The liturgy is sacred and not to be trifled with as whimsy. Children's Masses are permitted certain licenses, I gather, which is fine by me. I'm a liturgy policeman not a legislator. But there is great arrogance in just making stuff up to make Christ's presence and sacrifice more entertaining. And such arrogance is not justified by higher collections.

Matthew

To back up what Mike and Tom posted, the three parishes in my town "share" a school. My pastor recently announced a restriction on any family that does not contribute an amount equal to the school subsidy payment our parish is required to make (families who are unable to contribute that amount can appeal to the pastor). Not having school age children, I didn't pay sufficient attention to what the restriction was to now recall it.

scotch meg

Mike, I agree that Mass should be Mass. Also, Joanne, why would you want to have the family Mass on SATURDAY? I'd think you'd want ALL the kids at the same time. What would I do in your parish? I have kids who range in age from 5 to 18. I do think it's great to have a Mass where the wiggly 5 yo and the toddlers are especially welcome, and in my parish that Mass includes a 1/2 homily directed at about the kids (now, thankfully, also a 1/2 homily directed at the adults).

When my older kids attended the parish school, there was a day when one came home and told me how sorry she felt for a friend whose parents never took her to Mass (she wouldn't feel sorry for that kid now). Peer pressure helps, too, sometimes.

Matthew

I should add that this new policy what put in place because of the (relatively) large number of families who viewed their tuition payment as a substitute for their contribution to the payment.

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