My parents sent my brothers to Catholic grade school but I begged them not to send me. I wanted to attend the local public school because the kids that were my age on my block weren’t Catholic. Not a one of them. So they were all going to the public school and I wanted to be with my friends. My parents gave in without a big fight so it was off to public school I went.

But that meant I had to go to religious education classes after school at our local Catholic church.

When I was very young, they were called “Catechism” classes. I started them in the fall of 1st grade and they were held every Monday at 4pm throughout the traditional school year, save for the religious holidays that gave us a day off. In later grades (7 & 8) the classes met at 7pm and were referred to as “CCD” classes, which stood for Confraternity of Christian Doctrine. Yeah, that’s a mouthful, hence the CCD abbreviation. Now a days they call them “Faith Formation Classes”. It’s all the same thing.

True confession: I never really enjoyed catechism classes. First off, they were always held on Mondays. Mondays already felt like long boring days at school and adding another hour+ of education felt like torture. I’d get home from public school about 3:30pm and I’d have to be at catechism by 4pm so that didn’t leave much time to grab a quick snack and head back out the door for the long ;-) (.5 mile)  walk to our local church.

I hated that walk.

I had no one to walk with. And my parents never drove me or picked me up. So when it rained, I walked. And when it snowed, I walked. And when it was windy and bitterly cold, I walked. And by the time classes were dismissed (5:30pm), it was dark out or close to it for much of the school year. So then I had to walk home alone in the dark, in the rain, snow, wind, and bitter cold. And let me tell you, that half mile seemed like 5 miles to me! True, I had to walk to public school in the elements as well but I always had friends to walk with and that made it so much more bearable. When it came to getting to and from catechism classes, I was on my own.

In first and second grades, my catechism teachers were nuns. It was their job to prepare me for my First Holy Communion and Confession which happened at the end of my second grade school year. I also had nuns for teachers a few other years but I can’t remember specifically which grades. I don’t remember the nuns ever smiling or being friendly in the way that my public school teachers were. They were strict and for the most part had a “no nonsense” attitude. They did a good job of keeping us in line and teaching us our prayers though.

During the Advent season, just before Christmas, I remember making cut-out stained glass windows using card stock and colored cellophane paper. I thought those were really cool.

During Lent we were given “Lenten banks” which were tin cans, kinda the size of cat food cans, with a slot in the top. We were expected to fill our banks with coins and return them just before Easter. I wasn’t a fan of giving up some of my allowance for the Lenten cans but I did it because it was expected of me.

It was either the 7th or 8th grade when I had a male teacher for catechism. I tend to think it was 7th grade because I don’t remember him helping prepare us for our Confirmation (at the end of 8th grade). Anyway, he was totally lost with a room full of teenagers and didn’t know how to keep us in line. Some of the boys in my class made fun of him (he was kinda nerdy) and I don’t think he even realized it. It sure made the rest of us crack up though. Looking back, I recognize that was really rude of course. But at the time it made for a humorous year of CCD classes!

Those are the highlights I remember from my catechism years. The church and school where I attended catechism classes is still standing, still a Catholic grade school and a place for public school kids to attend “Faith Formation” classes. I suspect most of them get driven and picked up from their catechism classes though. It’s a different world now, not the one-car-per-family world I grew up in. I wonder if the kids like their catechism classes any more now that they don’t have to walk miles by themselves in the blowing snow, uphill, in the dark, without… ;-)

Grade school wing of the Catholic school where my catechism classes were held

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