The Catechetical Safety Net
Re “It’s Time to Fix the ‘Sunday School’ Culture” (Our Take, 1/23): Thank you, editors of America, for giving voice to this all-too-prevalent problem. Having been involved in catechesis for more than 30 years, I’ve seen a dramatic change in the level of engagement on the part of parents. At the same time, I can’t put all the blame for this on parents themselves. They have a difficult job, and while the Catechism of the Catholic Church rightly considers parents to be “the principal and first educators,” the fact remains that it takes a community to raise a child; and very often, it was that community that assisted with catechesis. Prior to World War II, communities were much more close-knit. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and neighbors all banded together to make sure kids went to Mass and learned the faith while parents spent time working and maintaining the household. Furthermore, the economic model for Catholic schools was such that it was not nearly the burden for parents that it is today.
If we are going to change this paradigm, we must find ways to rebuild the catechetical safety net and engage parents with their children in their journey of faith. We must rebuild community and engage everyone in the process, and engage them at a level where they can be spiritually and intellectually challenged. Religious education has been a babysitting service for far too long.
Live Our Faith
We need to re-examine the desired outcome of religious education. Informing students about the facts of our faith is a necessary but not sufficient condition for transmitting our faith. Religious education must encompass every aspect of what we do as individuals, as family (defined as the people with whom we are living) and as church. It is a lifelong process to grow in our faith and to live our faith. We must clearly demonstrate the benefits of living our faith here and now.
The headline says “fix”; the article implies “discard.” I teach a well-attended third-grade Sunday school class, but I largely ignore the provided curriculum, which is simplistic, trivial and beneath the intelligence, education and curiosity level of my very average third graders. We badly need modern innovative curricula and better training and support for teachers.
Re “Grace Enough,” by Brendan Busse, S.J. (1/23): Thank you, Father Busse, for sharing your blessed gift of writing in such a fine interview with Andrew Garfield. I now look forward to seeing the movie with renewed enthusiasm after reading about Mr. Garfield’s experience with the Spiritual Exercises. Thanks to James Martin, S.J., for his ministry in guiding Mr. Garfield, considering his many other important responsibilities. We are fortunate to have such brothers in our church community.
(Rev.) Tom Ivory
Constancy of Faith
The Jan. 22 story, “Catholic sisters join the Women’s March on Washington,” by Teresa Donnellan presents a misleading account of my homily.
On Saturday, Jan. 21—the Memorial of Saint Agnes, Virgin and Martyr—I had the privilege of celebrating Mass at St. Peter’s Catholic Church on Capitol Hill. The Mass celebrated the great patrimony given to us by the church through our devotion to and commemoration of the saints. Among other points, I preached about Saint Agnes’ “constancy of faith," and how God protected Saint Agnes because of her faith.
The homily did not express or imply any support for the Women’s March, which happened to be on that day. As my homily made clear, this “constancy of faith” includes respect for all life and human dignity, and fundamental truths of Catholic teaching, which were sadly lacking in the Women’s March.
To be clear, I support the dignity of all people, and I conveyed that message in my homily. Overall Saturday’s March was not reflective of the “constancy of faith” and did not reflect my views on the sanctity of life.
Jordan Kelly, O.P.
Timely and Revealing
How welcome your new America is, and how timely and revealing is “Beyond the Wall,” by Ashley McKinless (1/23). As the threat of walls resound from the new president, the author reminds us of Pope Francis’ reference to walls: “All walls collapse—all of them.” Like Ms. McKinless, I have seen Guatemalans (and Salvadorans) feel the “push” of poverty, unemployment, corruption—and now even the effects of global warming—force them off their farms, into the cities and beyond to the United States. And El Norte lures people with jobs, hope and a sense of freedom, among many other “pull” factors. Thanks for highlighting this reality in your first issue of the new America.
(Rev.) James E. Flynn
Masonic Homes, Ky.
Heat of Crisis
Thank you for including Cokie Roberts’s fine article, “Bourbon and Branch Won’t Do It” (1/23). Congress needs to take a deep breath and listen to its female membership. Once they inject this respect and cooperation into decision-making, bipartisan success will rise.
St. James, N.C.