By SHEILA OJENDYK
TAYLORS — Religious education teachers from all over the Upstate met at Prince of Peace Parish on Sept. 25 for the 13th Annual Upstate Catechist Workshop.
After prayers and hymns, Sissy Beck, a religious education staff member at Prince of Peace, shared the reflection of a young man of means who wanted his father to give him a red sports car as his college graduation gift. Instead of receiving the sports car he expected, his father gave him an engraved Bible, and the young man left in anger and disappointment. In time, the young man married, had a family of his own and became a successful business man. He finally returned home to settle his deceased father’s affairs and found the Bible he had rejected years earlier. Out of the Bible tumbled a car key with a tag saying “paid in full.” Beck relayed the moral of the story: “How many times have we missed God’s blessings because they don’t come wrapped the way we expect them to?”
After an opening prayer service, Andrew Vitale, director of religious education at St. Paul the Apostle in Spartanburg, introduced the guest speaker, Kathy Hendricks. Hendricks is the parish life coordinator at Pax Christi Catholic Church in Littleton, Colo., and speaks professionally to catechists.
Hendricks’ talk was entitled “For Everything There is a Season.” She broke the ice by asking participants to tell each other their favorite food for Thanksgiving and observed that everyone knew the answer immediately. Thanksgiving is a ritual in America, and people come together naturally for rituals. So does the church.
There are three elements to celebrating sacred seasons: the ritual itself, the symbols associated with the ritual and the story behind the ritual. Hendricks listed rituals throughout the liturgical year beginning with Advent. The rituals for Advent are preparing, waiting and expecting the birth of Jesus as well as remembering previous Advents. Symbols of Advent include wreathes, candles, calendars and the colors of blue and purple. Hendricks stressed how important ritualistic symbols are to people and said, “Don’t invent something new. We’d lose touch with the story.”
The liturgical calendar is circular because liturgical seasons cycle. Hendricks said people of faith created seasonal festivals to memorialize their cycles of belief. “Symbols and rituals connect us as people of God now and with those who came before us.”
Many families today are not as traditional as families were in the past. Catechists can help fill the gap of ritual and tradition for children by incorporating symbols of the liturgical seasons into their lesson plans. Hendricks explained that there is no need to explain traditions to young children; they catch on quickly and do not question traditions. She later led a workshop for catechists on nurturing the prayer life of children.
Marianne Tully, a kindergarten teacher at St. Mary School in Greenville, also led a workshop on “Creative Ideas for Elementary Catechists.”
Tully, an enthusiastic teacher, shared many ideas for helping children relate their immediate worlds to God and to the Church. She uses a lot of crafts in her classes and stresses the importance of having children make things in class. Children take home what they make in class and talk to their families about their projects. Tully prepared a workbook of ideas, patterns, stories to read and suggested books for each catechist to take home.