I went to a “stewardship meeting” at our church earlier this week, and a subject came up that hit home. Essentially, the question was, “How good a job are we doing developing the next generation of Catholics?” If my anecdotal experience is any example, the answer would be “not very good.” However, the problem, as I see it, is not so much at the parish level as it is in the family.
I have heard stories of “helicopter parents” who hover over everything their child does. I wish the parents of my 5th grade CCD students were a little more rotary-winged. Instead, they are more like remote controls.
It can be frustrating. We have the kids for only about 45-50 effective minutes per week. That is not constitute sufficient volume or repetition to have any kind of meaningful or lasting impact, if there isn’t some spiritual support and development also taking place at home. In too many cases, it is very obvious there is little or none.
This is not a blanket indictment. There are exceptions. However, in general I can see the signs of this vacuum in several ways.
1. I see a few of my kids at mass on weekends with some frequency, but if you toss out that relatively small handful, it is a extremely rare treat to see any of my current or former students there. Regular Sunday mass attendance is not a common practice among my students’ families.
2. In the 5th grade we spend a lot of time talking about the sacraments. In the Catholic Church, most of the kids received the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession) in the first or second grade. Their parents SHOULD have been taking them to confession at least a couple times a year since then. When we talk about the sacrament in class, many of my students barely remember the first and last time they received Reconcilation.
In an effort to try to engage parents this year, I created a blog for my class. Each week, I write a few paragraphs describing what we talked about. I told the parents about this in our first introductory meeting and also sent the information home in a “welcome letter” after the first class session. I suggested that it would be a good idea to check it on at least a weekly basis, if for no other reasons, to make sure they are informed of any class schedule changes.
This week we had a class cancellation. Last week ago the county public schools were out on our CCD day for a furlough or planning day of some sort. That night we had only six of our 16 students show up. The following Wednesday (this week) would be Veteran’s Day, another school holiday. So the CCD leaders decided to go ahead and cancel CCD class on that day. We announced it in class, but there were only six students there to hear it. I also posted it prominently on the class blog. In past years, I have personally phoned the parents of each of the students to inform them of the cancellation. This time, I figured that the blog and the Sunday bulletin would cover any who had been missed. How silly of me.
Last night, I ran into one of my friends, who is the father of one of my students, and he chastised me about the class cancellation. Apparently, he packed up his kids and drove them to class, only to find the “class cancelled” sign on the door.
“Poolman, it was on the calendar!”
I bit my tongue to hold back my “snappy retort.”
You don’t send your child to class the week before, so she missed the announcement.
You don’t take your child to Mass on Sunday, so you miss the bulletin.
You don’t check the blog to keep in touch with what we are teaching your child, and so you missed the announcement there.
But it’s my fault you didn’t know of the cancellation.
I guess it is. Sigh.