Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What to do after a Difficult Week Teaching Religious Education

What to do after a difficult week teaching religious education
Have you had a terribly difficult week teaching religious education?  My last class before Spring Break was just awful.  Was it them?  Was it me?  Was it a full moon?  Whatever it was, I was thankful for the break.  But before walking back into my classroom of third graders, I knew I needed to take action to improve the situation.

Teaching religious education to children can be difficult as well as extremely rewarding.  Jesus is the heart of all catechesis, so usually when I'm struggling while preparing or teaching the faith to children, I offer it up in prayer.

But this time, I knew I needed to go a little deeper than my usual prayers before walking back into the classroom.  I turned to 31 Days to Becoming a Better Religious Educator by Jared Dees of TheReligionTeacher.com for a mini retreat during Spring Break.  The book consists of short focused chapters ending in an exercise and scripture reading with questions to examine the topic deeper.

The first chapter, Day 1 is titled "Recall Your Calling as a Religious Educator." Opening the book to that chapter title after my last classroom experience was difficult.  I didn't feel called to be a religious educator at that moment, I felt defeated.  But when I hit the exercise portion of the chapter, Jared asked all the right questions to get me excited about teaching the faith again.

In the exercise, you are asked to create a "Big Why" list, so that when teaching is difficult, you can turn to this list to focus and remember your calling.  To create your list, you are to ask yourself:
  • If I had to choose just one lesson about God that my students need to hear the most, what would it be?
  • What is one belief my students struggle with the most?
  • What is one spiritual practice my students could benefit from the most?
  • If I could help my students make one change in their lives, what would it be?
  • What aspect of the faith are kids missing the most in their lives?
  • What are the biggest problems adult Catholics experience in the Church?
I sat in the carpool line (where I do all my serious reading) writing on my yellow pad of paper answering these as fast as I could.  What surprised me the most is that I knew my answers so quickly. And how some of those answers have changed after teaching third graders over the last four years and as I've experienced my own kids nearing their teen years.

Looking over my answers I realized these were my calling.  God placed the answers in my heart to help guide me in the classroom. In the midst of what I might feel is chaos at times in class, my calling is to help the kids know and love God.  And while every week might not feel like a home run, I need to trust God and allow the Holy Spirit to work through me to share His message with each student, as they need to hear it.

In the midst of teaching I'd forgotten what drives me to volunteer every year as a catechist, what I hope to pass on to the students I have the pleasure to spend time with each week.  Working through this small but powerful book is helping me become a better disciple, servant, leader and teacher.

What do you do when you have a difficult week teaching religious education?
Lisa Jones

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

#Givefor40 for Lent

Give of Yourself for Lent #Givefor40
Lent is that time for us to be still, breathe and prayerfully contemplate Jesus’ giving His life for our sins, so that we might truly be in awe of the risen Christ on Easter.  We give up or give to others as a way to model Christ in our own lives and to remind us of Him daily.  All through Lent we look to the cross, knowing what is coming, discerning what His death means for us.  We look inside ourselves and ask, “Why did He die for me?”
Jesus died for all of us because of our Heavenly Father’s great love for each of us.  We take this time during Lent to remind ourselves of God’s Love for us and re-dedicate our lives to living the way Jesus modeled for us during His life.
Prayer, Sacrifice and Giving are the cornerstones of Lent.
How we live for Christ differs with each of us, as does how we observe Lent.  Lent should leave its mark on us just as Christ’s sacrifice and God’s love leaves it’s mark on us.  So as we choose our Lenten observances, we should be honest about what will lead us closer to the Risen Lord on Easter morning.
Last year Shelly and I here on Of Sound Mind and Spirit focused on giving to others for the 40 days of Lent rather than giving up the usual things.  And by giving of yourself during Lent, we were focused outward on showing God’s love to others. Anytime you give of yourself it involves sacrifice and prayer on your part.  In the spirit of encouraging others to sacrifice and put others first, we share our ways of giving during Lent using #Givefor40 on social media. (Please join in with the #Givefor40 hashtag this Lenten season.)
My children helped me create a list of 40 Ways to Give for 40 Days last year.  Helping create the list gave them ownership in it and got them excited about looking for ways to give during Lent.  One of the absolute easiest items on the list, “Share a Smile with Someone Everyday,” is their favorite.  Such a simple idea to give someone a smile, but you never know what that smile might mean for the other person at that moment.
How do you observe Lent as a family?  Does it change you as you prepare to meet the Risen Lord on Easter?  What is on your list of Lenten Observances as a family that might involve giving of yourself rather than giving up?
Lisa Jones

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Our Priest is Moving On

Fr. John Rooney celebrating Mass at St. Angela Merici during VBS
Fr. John Rooney at St. Angela Merici
There have been three amazing Pastors in my life; priests whose homilies spoke to me in Mass, who challenged me to ponder and grow in my faith and relationship with Jesus, and who celebrated special Sacraments with me: Marriage, Baptism, and Anointing of the Sick.

One of these men is Fr. John Rooney, my current Pastor and the founding Pastor of St. Angela Merici Catholic Church. Although I only joined St. Angela’s 18 months ago when we moved from across town, I’ve known Fr. John for the past few years as Lisa’s and our mother’s Pastor.  Fr. John possess that spark which allows him to truly connect with people of all walks of life. His energy and passion spills over and warms your heart. His homily resonates in your soul, because long after you’ve forgotten the words, you remember the feeling.

Thursday morning Lisa sent me a Skype message.

“Fr. John is leaving St. Angela's”

Moments later, I opened my email to read his letter to the Parish informing us that he has been assigned to St. Mary’s Seminary as Director of Spiritual Formation starting July 1. 

When our mother heard about Fr. John’s reassignment, she wrote, “I will never, never, never forget the compassion and love he showed our family when my mother passed away and his personal attention to her and us at her funeral. He is truly a blessing. He will be fabulous as a Director of Spiritual Formation at the Seminary. But, he will be missed by all of us.”

Cornerstone of St. Angela Merici Catholic Church in Missouri City, TXThis past Sunday, he spoke at the end of Mass, telling us personally of his new calling. He told us that being our Pastor had changed his heart and our influence on his priesthood will play a part in the formation of new priests. When he mentioned that as our founding Pastor, we can’t easily get rid of him, because his name is carved into the cornerstone, I thought, “No, your name is carved in our hearts.”

Emotions tugged my heart in two directions.  The immediate sense of sorrow for losing this amazing priest at our parish quickly dissolved into excitement that he will be involved in the formation of new priests and a radiant joy in knowing that our future priests will be spiritually directed by Fr. John. One day, five, ten, fifteen years from now, we will hear a homily that rings with Fr. John’s influence, and that expectation gives me hope for the future of our vocations and the development of strong priests.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Noticing the Faceless

The highway I take for my daily commute is under construction, expanding from two to four lanes on each side.  Every morning I pass a couple hundred faceless construction workers in their bright neon yellow jackets. No matter how hot or cold the weather, they are actively working, with shovels or equipment, making progress slowly day by day. I look forward to the day when the task is finished and the lanes are open and constant traffic is relieved.

Often I get the urge to smile, wave, or find some gesture to say thank you, but I don’t. Instead I pray for them each morning.  For them to be protected from the heat or cold or from the exhaust of the traffic crawling or speeding past depending on the time of day. I pray they take pride in their work, and have a way to know that many of the drivers appreciate the work they've done.

There are great many faceless workers in our lives. Too often we don't make eye contact; we may not even notice they are there. Perhaps we simply smile and say good morning at the ones we see daily even if we do not know their names. Take a moment today and this week to notice and pray for those people who work and serve to better our community.

Monday, February 3, 2014

First Reconciliation

My Birdie celebrated the sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time recently.  Being a good mom, I started writing a blog post about how to prepare a child for First Reconciliation, how to discuss reconciliation in way for a child to understand the healing nature of the sacrament and why it is important to develop a good habit of going to reconciliation regularly.

But, in the middle of typing all my thoughts, it occurred to me to just ask my child her thoughts of making the sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time.

She DID have a big smile.  Sometimes we adults over think, analyze and worry about things.  Maybe we should learn about the healing nature of Reconciliation from the big smiles of the kids receiving absolution for the first time.

Lisa Jones

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