Dear Bishop of the Lafayette Diocese

Dear Bishop of the Lafayette Diocese in Indiana,

This past summer my 18 year old daughter asked about teaching religious education.  As you can imagine, my heart jumped with excitement that she wanted to share her faith with children.  Since I teach full time, the idea while exciting also was overwhelming: more lessons, activities and creative experiences to be planned.  My daughter’s idea won over everything, and I took the leap to teach third graders all about Jesus.

What you do not realize is I have an eleven year old who suffers from depression, anxiety and seizures.  Since fourth grade, I have opted to not take her to religious education classes because it was overwhelming for her.  The students sat at desks and received lessons like in school.  She already had school 5 days a week that she could barely get through. It broke my heart to pull her out, but the curriculum was too overwhelming.  I was hopeful that our family could teach her to love Jesus on our own.

You see my own experience with Protestant “Sunday School” had always been positive.  I learned to love Jesus through eye-opening bible verses.  This love increased as I learned that my church was a “community of support” for me.  This only happened because my teachers made the experience positive and uplifting.  Their creativity was inspiring to me.  Their actions spoke volumes more than the bible verses ever did.  To top it off the community provided lots of opportunities outside of worship services to come together and support each other.

Never in all these years did I take an “assessment” of what I learned in “Sunday School.”  No. never.  So you might be wondering, “How did the church assess what the kids learned?”  They trusted that the teachers were doing what they should, the parents were reinforcing it at home, and God would ensure that in His time each child would find the right path.  After all, if parents are taking the time to send their kids to religious education there must be some support at home (even if it is small).  If the teachers are taking the time to come to class each week, they must be preparing something for the kids or it would be chaos.

I guess my question is, why are you choosing to assess our kids?  I know your staff says it isn’t a test.  Twenty two multiple choice questions certainly seem like a test.  The five oral questions that we must give to the students individually sure seem like a test to me.  Shouldn’t we just be teaching our kids to love Jesus?  I am not sure what an assessment for that would look like.  I can tell you it is not a multiple choice answer.  It is through actions, words and most importantly what they hold in our hearts.

Please reconsider your position on this because it is turning our classrooms into school.  It is stripping me of my creativity and instilling fear in myself (that I am not teaching the right thing for the test) and our kids (especially those who suffer from anxiety and learning disabilities).

This situation is making me sad to explain to my 18 year old who raised her hand to do this for Jesus.  An explanation that our church instead of teaching love (which cannot be measured) wants us to teach subjects that will be “assessed” to ensure they are learning all that they need to.

Sincerely,

Anne Slamkowski

Volunteer

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About aslamkowski

Blogger, Speaker and Author of "Revealing Faith: Learning to Place God First in Your Life" Most importantly, desperately wanting to hear and follow God's Will, wife of Peter and mother of three kids.
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One Response to Dear Bishop of the Lafayette Diocese

  1. themysticmom says:

    This one has me thinking about questions I wonder a lot…do my kids know/understand their religion? And am I bringing them to Jesus with who I am and what I do? I think it is possible to provide a paper/pencil test for the first one, and is perhaps even necessary to a degree in order to know if our beliefs and traditions are understood so that our children can “defend the faith” when challenged or confronted by others. The latter–relationship with Jesus– of course, is much harder to “test” for, nor do I think it should be. From my experiences moving around a little bit, religious education focuses more on the former and youth groups/youth ministries focus more on the latter. Unfortunately, (again from my limited experiences) many of our Catholic churches do not provide both programs for our youth, nor do we allow room to “blur the lines” in our religious education programs when youth groups are unavailable to us to allow more of those “relationship” experiences to be a part of the program. I did know some Protestant churches out east that offered both opportunities to their youth and did it quite well. In my attempts to provide youth ministry at the Catholic church, we still were only moderately successful in getting away from the classroom paradigm. I think we are slow to see this need for both in many Catholic churches today, but your heartfelt letter is a reminder to me once again of the necessity of it all! Thanks, Anne!

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