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I look at my students and see our future ex-Catholics

My post over at Aleteia today:

When it comes to teenagers, you expect a certain amount of eye rolling and apathy, but put those same kids in a faith formation class for an hour and fifteen minutes at the end of a long school day and right at the dinner hour and you’ll see a level of teenage disinterest that could make you wither on the spot. That’s what my husband and I faced when we stood before the 21 high school sophomores we teach at our upstate New York parish.

The scene was nothing new and nothing unexpected. We taught most of the same kids last year since they’re in a two-year program that will culminate in confirmation this spring. However, I’m willing to wager that their apathy isn’t necessarily related to a surge of teenage surliness but rather to a lack of foundational catechesis, and I say that while having taught many of these kids in fourth and fifth grade. I have used every trick in the book—from group activities to stump-the-teacher sessions to outright bribery through baked ziti and brownies—to get these kids to hear me when I talk about the Mass, about the Gospel, about our beautiful Catholic teachings and traditions. Yet every year, when they reluctantly return to class, I find I’m grateful if even half of them remember the Our Father.

When I look out at these kids—regardless of age, regardless of whether they’ve gone to Catholic or public elementary school—I assume I am seeing 75 percent as future ex-Catholics.

Read more HERE.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jack Polonka #


    thank you for your post and my sympathies for what you are facing in your classes. What you are facing is not really a lack foundational catechesis in the kids backgrounds but being truly blinded in an illusionary reality of the “real” materialistic world (this holds true for their parents as well). Shoveling doctrine and dogma will not crack and shatter this illusion. At best, it will create a ticket punching religiosity lacking any spiritual depth at all, as you mentioned. At worst they will be drowned by it. Usually (and some may say unfortunately) it takes a cathartic experience to wake a person up spiritually. The key is to connect spiritually to them and rouse them up for them to actually spiritually see. Let the catechesis fall into place further on as otherwise there will not be anything for it to take root in. Remember, Jesus was speaking and touching people’s spirits, not peddling doctrine and dogma. That is what the Pharisees where doing…… . As The Buddha stated, one must use spiritual skillful means tailored to the listeners for the teaching to take root, not only to be appreciated but be effective. Gimmicks and tricks will not cut the mustard seed (of both the Christian and Buddhist flavor) to get the kids on the spiritual path. Make then spiritual first and then tailor them with catechesis.

    As for the kids in your classroom issue, you need to transcend out of the “in the box” doctrine & dogma thinking and approach it from a spiritual/mystical dimension. Leverage Teresa of Ávila if you have to. As you are a yogi of many years, how would your yoga teacher (quasi Guru) approach this?? You’re a yogi. You know the Way….

    October 25, 2015
  2. Larry #

    Now wait a darn minute. The current crop of Catholic speakers and media want everyone to believe that the 70’s and 80’s were the “bad catechesis” era. Everyone is supposed to nod sadly in agreement to that. Well I’ve always known that was self-serving hooey – I was taught CCD in the 70’s by nuns and in the early 80’s by our parish priest in upstate NY, and I learned the faith just fine.

    Why should I believe you when you say 75% of current kids will leave? We’ve already had 75% leave over the last couple of generations. Now you’re saying 75% of what remains, will also leave?

    You’ve been teaching these kids since 4th grade, by your own admission. Where are you screwing up?

    October 27, 2015
  3. Jack Polonka #

    “”Why should I believe you when you say 75% of current kids will leave? We’ve already had 75% leave over the last couple of generations. Now you’re saying 75% of what remains, will also leave?””

    It looks like it is true with the latest report stating that for every new catholic coming into the church, 6.5 are leaving. The Archdiocese of New York has closed or, to use the corporate world parlance, “consolidated” little more than half of the church parishes in the archdiocese within the past year. Yes, the trend is staggering.

    The great danger is that the older kids have become so spiritually jaded and mired in the illusion of “real world” materialism (aka Maya) that one must shatter and breakthrough that illusion they surround themselves with to spiritually revive and awaken them. Burying and drowning them with dogma and doctrine will not work but make it worse. You have to take them on a more spiritual (and dare say mystical) path to get the kids to see the divine light…

    November 3, 2015
  4. Guillermo Bonilla #

    As Jesus taught and did, prayer is the essential aspect to know, discover, understand and maintain a relationship with God. We – from children through catechists – need to increase our time and quality of prayer and our time reading and meditating the word of God. Lk. 10, 38-42 illustrates the story of two sisters Martha and Mary. Both attitudes are important but they follow an order; first, learn to listen and contemplate Jesus as Mary did and then put into action the plan that Jesus reveals to us.

    When was the last time we truly prayed for our students so that they hearts could open up to Gods plans?

    Regarding the Yoga mix – that is not Jesus teachings. Please read the Catechism of the Catholic Church.


    November 12, 2015

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