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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Catechism: “Hot Dogs”

Liz and I decided that it might be fun to share our new-found excitement in life with Jesus amongst a group of children. Since both of us were practicing Catholics, who enjoyed additional times of teaching and worship regularly with a group of on-fire Believers at a small Protestant church, we decided to see what might happen in a catechism group. Giddy with anticipation, we approached Sister Mary Margaret*, principal of one of the local Catholic elementary schools. We let her know that both of us were university students who were interested in team-teaching one of their after-school catechism classes, if she still needed volunteers for the school year.  Well, her delight should have been a bit of a warning that volunteers were in short supply for a reason!

“Oh my, yes!” Sister Mary Margaret’s eyes opened wide, as her clasped hands sprung to her chest. If her brilliant smile would have been any wider, it would have left her face! “Oh, how marvelous that you young ladies will take time to teach a class. We’ll be starting next week, in fact. Hmm? You’ve missed the orientation for teachers meeting, but I’m sure it won’t be any trouble for you. Just report to Room 205 at precisely 3:30 Tuesday afternoon and I’ll give you your list of students before class begins. I’ll give you your worksheets then, too, so you’ll be all set. Oh, dear me, thank you so much!”

While Liz and I marveled at how quickly our offer had been accepted, we also worried that we had no idea how to prepare for the class that would begin in just a few days. Prayer…that’s really what we needed most. Convinced of the Holy Spirit’s leading in even making the offer to Sister Mary Margaret, we’d just leave the preparation up to Him. After all, these kids were totally unknown to Liz and me, but God knew the hearts of each of the children. The Lord had a plan, and we looked forward to following it. Taking what passed for a Day-Planner in those days, we searched for a time the two of us could meet the next day to pray for our class.

“One thing we need to expect is that the kids will need something that grabs and keeps their attention. I mean, why in the world are they asking these kids to stay another hour after being in school all day?”

“I know what you mean, Sojourner. Our catechism classes were always on Saturdays. I’m not sure we would have been such willing students at four o’clock in the afternoon.”

“Well, let’s take them outside then. It’s still catechism class, and they’ll need to pay attention; but maybe we could do it under a tree or something. What do you think?”

Liz clapped her agreement. “That’s exactly what they need…and music; kids love music. We could bring a guitar, and teach them some of the choruses we have learned; the ones with a beat will keep them engaged, for sure.”

“That’s a great idea, Liz! Let’s plan on doing that. Once we get the attendance taken, we can shift things outside, under that big tree behind the building.” Okay, we had a starting plan we could live with; hopefully, so could the kids. (Funny how we never considered if this idea would seem as do-able to Sister Mary Margaret, isn’t it? It just never occurred to us to ask for permission.)

At last, Tuesday arrived and off Liz and I went to the school for our first class, swinging a guitar like Maria in The Sound of Music. Nervously excited, we chattered at the possibilities. Once inside the building, we ascended the flight of wide, marble stairs. It proved no trouble finding our classroom, because Sister Mary Margaret paced back and forth in front of the open door.

“There you are, dear ladies!” I hadn’t remembered her voice registering in that upper octave, but maybe I had just missed it. Sister Mary Margaret had a sheet of paper in her hands, which she nervously folded and unfolded as we approached. “Here, here’s your class list. The children should be arriving any time now. I’ve left your worksheets on the teacher’s desk.”

I reached out, taking the list of thirty students from her. “Thank you. Is there anything we should know? Such as what do we do with the worksheets? Are they supposed to take them home?”

“Yes, they take them home. You just read through the worksheets with the children. Try to take the whole hour with the worksheets, if you can. It’s okay if they don’t finish, they can finish them at home, too.”

Sister Mary Margaret noticed us looking at the class list. “Oh, your class is from the fifth grade, so they’re all about ten years old. We have pupils from all of the city’s schools this year.”She turned to leave, tossing her final comments over her left shoulder as she stepped away from us. ”Just let me know if you have any questions. Good luck and may God bless you for doing this for the church.”

“Excuse me, Sister Mary Margaret,” I called after her. “What does this mean? At the top of the page, you’ve written Hot Dogs, why’s that?”

The stately nun had stopped when first hearing me call. The black skirt of her familiar outfit swooshed as she turned slightly, displaying a rather impish grin. “Oh dear, that’s because your class is made up of the fifth grade students none of the other teachers will accept. I just call them Hot Dogs. Got to run; enjoy your class!”

Indeed, God had a plan for our Hot Dogs; He used them to teach us a lot.

*Name changed.

****Catechism: Teaching Hot Dogs…Next Post

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