This is the beginning of a child’s “formal” religious education. It includes study of their Church, the celebration of the Mass, the Bible, and the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They are introduced to God as our Father and to all his wonderful gifts to us, especially that of his Son. The children learn about the life of Jesus and begin to see him not only as God’s Son but also as our brother. The Holy Spirit is studied through scripture based stories and the children begin to see how he acts in our lives and in the life of the church.
At some point in the year, a member of the pastoral staff will treat the children to an educational tour of the church that includes an explanation of parts of the Liturgy. The students are helped to see that they belong to and are a part of the Church and that here at St. Paul they are a part of our parish family!
This year the children discover that they are part of the body of Christ. They study about Baptism, and learn about God’s love and mercy as they prepare to receive the Sacraments of Reconciliation and First Communion. The Mass is presented as the “perfect prayer”. Both the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist become more meaningful as the children begin to more actively participate at Mass.
Some of the highlights of the year for the second graders include a beautiful Candle Mass celebrated with their families and a Tasting Celebration shared with their parents. Of course, the most significant occasions are their first celebrations of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion.
In Grade 3 the students learn about the characteristics of the Catholic Church from its earliest beginnings and what it means to be a member. They study the four marks of the Church: that it is one, holy, catholic and apostolic. After they have learned about the individual parts of the Mass in the classroom, a terrific Teaching Mass is celebrated just for these students. As part of their deepening understanding of church, they are introduced to the idea that involvement is not limited to Sunday worship. Our church has a mission to the world and each of us is called to serve and to be a witness for justice and peace.
The fourth year introduces the concept of morality to these young minds. We examine our foundations in morality, the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes, and explore how these relate to their lives. The children learn that Jesus is the perfect image of God and that the Holy Spirit is sent to guide us and give us the strength to be followers of Jesus. We begin to discuss how our relationship with God is strengthened through the sacraments and by the grace of the Holy Spirit. The children learn that they are to live moral lives and be loving, caring members of their church and the greater community. The deacon usually presents a lesson to the students on the Commandments and God’s Covenant. During the month of May, the students participate in a special prayer service at the grotto in honor of Mary.
The focus is on God’s gifts of life through the seven Sacraments. It includes study of the concepts necessary to understanding the sacraments; how they strengthen us in our faith and renew us as a community. In the course of the year one of our priests will present a special lesson and personal faith sharing on Holy Orders. Within the classroom, the catechist usually does a “reenactment” of Baptism after having invited the children to bring in mementos of their own Baptisms to share with the group.
This is the year to study the Old Testament. The children’s exploration begins with the story of Abraham and Sarah. It continues with the study of Exodus, the history of the kingdom of Israel, the prophets and the period before the coming of Jesus Christ. A special highlight of this year is a Seder Meal presented by a Jewish Rabbi with a discussion on the shared roots of Judaism and Christianity. The sixth grade children also have an opportunity to engage in a special “Question and Answer” session with the Pastor.
The New Testament is the focus this year with the study of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth and early life; his persecution, death and resurrection, and the formation of the early church. Students are urged to view this study as an exploration of the person and mission of Jesus. They are preparing for Confirmation and calling themselves “Christians.” What does this mean? Who is Jesus? If we call ourselves his followers, what are the implications for the rest of our lives? What are we called to do and how are we called to live? We begin the year with a special session about the significance of choosing a name and sponsor for Confirmation. This is followed in November by a meeting with parents and students about Confirmation and a special Mass of Acceptance.
In grade 8 we work with a totally new resource which is a study of Morality. It includes an in-depth presentation of the commandments, the Beatitudes, the virtues, and then goes on to examine the teachings of the Church on moral issues so that the young people have firm ground on which to make moral decisions. One of the priests or the deacon usually lead one of the sessions so that the students have the opportunity to pose any general questions to a member of the clergy. The morality study is usually completed by the end of January and is followed by a six-unit study of the Sacrament of Confirmation. Eighth graders participate in a workshop with their parents in early winter and this is followed by the Mass of Enrollment. In early spring all students planning to be Confirmed are required to participate in a retreat.