Local News Archive
Print Issue: May 4, 1978
Educational 'Beat Goes On'
By Thom Nolan
It has been written somewhere by one or more of our great historical teachers that once the mind is triggered its thirst for knowledge in that scope of learning will be unquenchable. To that end, the Parish of Corpus Christi has created such a welcome dilemma.
It has been reported in the Bulletin at the beginning of our Lenten Season that Corpus Christi was initiating a "From Ashes to Easter" program, which would attempt to bring together a congregation of peoples in small group sessions to underscore our commitment to our religious beliefs. It was to be a new communication, providing those that wished to attend with the opportunity to express their ideas of faith, prayer and rituals in a participating basis. Consider that such an undertaking would be difficult even in a small parish, save one of some 1600 families. We also pointed out that the parish had prepared itself well and that it would be interesting to see what response the parish might give to such a new concept. To say that it was a success would indeed be an understatement.
To begin with, there were nearly 800 adults who participated in the program with only a 10 percent dropout during the six-week period. We are then talking about 30 percent of the adults in the program. A further revelation -- among the groups there were non-Catholics who were themselves taking separate instruction to enter the faith, and those others who were simply interested in what our faith had to say through its people. One could go on and on with the amazing results; but we must revert back to one basic fact of life -- give people an opportunity to really expound upon their ideas and beliefs in this manner and you will find unbounded interest to explode the thought processes. But was that all there is?
No, the conclusion of the program was just the beginning of new adventures into religious education on this scale. But it cannot be said that Corpus Christi developed this overnight. Fortunately when the parish was born, even before it had a church, it began a religious education program for its youth. By the time the church, and later its auditorium, were built it had swelled to some 1,800 families with over 1,600 students attending elementary and high school religious education classes. Presently sisters head the high school and elementary programs. Lay teachers abound nearly seven days and evenings a week.
Over the preceding one-and-a-half years, an adult education program was developed, guided by the clergy but left in the hands of the congregation as to what they wanted. There are three adult educational programs:
"Basic Religion" -- A primer covering that which we already are involved as Catholics on a day-to-day basis.
"Charlie Brown Religion" -- Subject matter which handles such topics as divorce, abortion, and other topics with special speakers invited.
"Update" -- Covers recent changes in our religion involving subjects such as the Sacraments, marriage vows, etc.
We also have a class covering the Scriptures and their interpretation. All of this is in addition to continued education of non-Catholics into our religion, Baptismal, Communion and Confirmation classes. The 'educational beat' goes on. But how has the program been cultivated; how is it structured; who runs it; what are the legitimate goals?
Much of what has now been accomplished is due mainly to the realization by the clergy that a religious education program, to be reasonably successful, must be organized through the congregation. At the beginning, it was cultivated through word of mouth, then continued publication and announcements on a regular basis during Mass, enlightening people to the availability of such a program. Meetings were held to determine where the program was and where it was going. Those who ran the program were various individuals already involved in other aspects of the Church's responsibilities. The clergy now attend meetings to provide a focal point, guiding the group where necessary and maintaining a relaxing control in the decision-making. The future bodes well due to the response to the "From Ashes to Easter" program. There will be more adult classes, looking towards a greater emphasis on advanced theological education.
Which brings us back to "From Ashes to Easter." We have pointed out its obvious success but numbers alone in attendance are not nearly as important as the impressions received after its conclusion. A survey taken at that time requesting an evaluation from those in attendance was most revealing and astounding.
First, out of the 800 who attended, 179 answered the questionnaire; that is nearly 25 percent of those in the program. In assessing the program, the following was developed: 94 percent rated the program higher in overall assessment, 86 percent rated the program higher in its relevancy to their spiritual needs, 96 percent rated the program higher in helping their relationship with the Lord, and 92 percent said they would participate in a follow-up program.
The greatest enjoyment they received was from the shared faith (48 percent); 48 percent still felt uncomfortable with shared prayer, but 51 percent would have chosen to eliminate shared ritual.
Comments ranged from "An increasing awareness to God," to "Better sense of community spirit," and "Realizing that there is a life with God in our everyday lives."
What buoyed the minds and hearts of those running the program was the positive feelings emanating from those who attended. It brought home the point again and again that there is a great need and desire by Catholics to become more involved in their faith in a way they can relate to on a day-to-day basis. There was a willingness to explore our prejudices, to speak freely and openly with our fellow man about our doubts and our hopes. There was no doubt it was already there; but it lacked the vehicle from which it could be launched. A genuine camaraderie of ideas began to unfold to create real good will toward men that would last and remain. Corpus Christi thinks it has found it.
To understand those who have been in the forefront of this program we need only go to their last meeting. In attendance were all the clergy: Pastor Father Thomas Kenny, Associate Pastors Fathers Frank J. Giusta, Noel Neary and John Walsh, and Sisters Dolores Staudt and Rose Huber. Chaired by Mickie Ferrante there were approximately 20 clergy and lay people in attendance. The deliberations got around to the education program to be adopted for September, 1978. After a few minutes, it became apparent that adding new classes was of paramount importance due to the response of the congregation. All agreed that, in addition, parents of CCD children should also be oriented about who their instructors would be and what curriculum would follow. This might stimulate some more volunteers to the program as well. The only problem: where and when to do it all? For the program had gotten so far out in front in so short a time that already the time and space allotted was structured and stretched beyond flexibility. However, the group resolved to find a way to accommodate all requests. One could sense an air of new expectation at the meeting.
We have deliberately omitted pointing out those individuals responsible for making the program move as it has, because to do so would require that we name others. Space would simply not be adequate. Suffice to say that those within Corpus Christi Church are well aware of the unsung heroes who will remain so until the program has developed to such an extent that those within it choose to select one of their own. For there can be no second bests in this parish; all maintain a number one standing in their quest for a complete religious education program, second to none, which will bring us closer to God by bringing us closer to ourselves.