(One part printables for our new CCD year, one part brief commentary on the current Church scandals.)
This year, my parish is celebrating the 150th year since the dedication of our church building- isn't that awesome?! Our parish is a bit older and there were two other churches for short times in the 1840's-1850's, but construction began on the new Immaculate Conception Church in 1866 and was completed in 1869. We are planning a whole year of celebrations leading up to a special Mass on the dedication date next year. Because the entire parish is focusing on this, I've been working on ways to incorporate the importance into our Religious Education Program.
So our theme this year will focus on the Sesquicentennial. For those of your that have used the room signs and folder covers, etc. that I post here each year, unfortunately, our theme materials won't really fit any program but ours. I'll suggest that you check out the other themes that I have printables and decor posts for here:
Divine Mercy Theme
Built on the Rock Theme
We'll be using lots of Marian themed items, especially this Mother of the Church craft I created with the coming anniversary year in mind (the church that Mary is holding is a drawing of our church!). We'll also be tying in St. Maximilian Kolbe as a patron Saint because of his deep devotion to Mary, founding of the Militia Immaculata, and connection to other parish activities during the year.
So one thing I knew I wanted the kids to create at the beginning of the year was some kind of display to show what they loved about the church- THEIR church. I wanted them to feel ownership of this celebration as the group that will carry our parish into its next 150 years. So I made up these cute sheets for the kids to write and draw about what they love- it might be the nice lady who smiles at them every Sunday, or receiving the Eucharist, or a certain song the choir sings... or let's be honest, coffee and donut Sunday. :) I gave these different versions of the "I Love My Church" pages to my catechists to use as they want in their classrooms, and then hope to display them together in our CCD hallway and feature snippets and pictures in our parish newsletter.
I'm excited to see what the kids come up with, and tried to give some flexibility in style to fit the different ages. I've got three styles of printables:
-large illustration, short caption (could be teacher written)
-medium illustration, longer caption
-"newspaper" set up- longer article, small illustration, room for a topic list
You can use these printable with your students by clicking on any of the images of the We Love Our Church page above.
I planned this project long before the current scandal(s) broke to the media, detailing devastating and disgusting crimes against the innocent by those who should have been the first to protect them. I'm still reeling from the blow this has been to believers, the pain I feel for the victims, and the very necessary call for justice and change. My heart aches for the good and holy priests and my blood boils for the shepherds who did irreparable damage to their flock.
So this cutesy little activity might seem insensitive or wrong or something that needs tossed in the garbage. I considered that for a bit. But instead I now see that this is the very perfect time to look to the Church, the capital C Church, whom the gates of hell shall never prevail against. We do not put our faith in a particular priest or bishop or parish or diocese. We trust and follow Christ. Period. We are part of the Body of Christ. And we have a responsibility to go to battle against a very real and ancient enemy.
As catechists returning to the classroom, our utmost responsibility (after rooting out evil and protecting the innocent) is to raise up the next generation of young Catholics who love Christ and the Church. Future Saints who cultivate virtue and desire a world free of vice. Warriors ready to fight the good fight. A generation that someday, those looking back will say, "Yes. That was a terrible time for the Church. So much brokenness and rebuilding. But look at the Saints that arose in their midst."
Finally, if you haven't already been, go back and read the Sunday and Daily Readings from the past couple of weeks. A Scripture scholar could not have better handpicked passages from the Bible to illustrate our lament, God's call for justice, and the solid foundation in Christ that remains. I highly recommend Bonnie's most recent post which is reflection of these events woven amidst the recent Mass readings.
There are no better words to close with than those from this Sunday's Gospel:
Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, guide us.
Pure Heart of St. Joseph, pray for us.