Monday, February 23, 2004

I need a parish school

I have been so fortunate in my first two parish assignments to have a parish school. And I miss that now in my third assignment. At the first school I made sure to be very involved. I would regularly visit the classrooms to check up on the classes and allow them to ask me questions. Man, do the kids have good (and surprising!) questions. I would come and speak to certain classes at a teacher's request, telling the kids about respect and charity toward one another or why their pets probably weren't going to heaven. I would read to the pre-Kindergarten children and enjoy their snack with them (Green Eggs and Ham taken with forced smile and prior arrangement with the teacher for a SMALL portion!). I always made sure to come during Catholic Schools Week and bless each classroom together with the traditional Epiphany inscription over each class door. You want to get kids' attention? Walk into a classroom in cassock, surplice, and cope! And I would preside at the May Crowning. At the second school I continued these practices and I took on an even more formal role. I taught both the seventh and eighth grade religion classes (shameless plug here for the Faith & Life Series by Ignatius Press!). Oh, how I loved that. It was there (and about a year ago today) I developed something I will continue wherever I am blessed enough to have a parish school. I called it "Fr. Hamilton's 2003 Lent Challenge." I invited each student of the school to formally sign an agreement with me listing their lenten practices and/or sacrifices. I became party one to the contract and the students were collectively party two. I challenged them to be faithful to their lenten practices as I would be to mine. If one party was faithful, they then could impose something upon the other party. We agreed ahead of time that if even one child was faithful (I should have thought this one out more!) they would impose on me a flat top haircut; if I was faithful, all student participants had to join me for the four Sunday's after Easter at the parish church to pray the Rosary together. It was wonderful! It got the kids excited and serious about naming some lenten practice and striving to be faithful to it. Of course, it helped me too. So, at the end, I had a flat top and they came to pray the Rosary -- a challenge where we all "won". I hope to have that again some day.

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