September 12, 2019 // Diocese

Convenient grace

Profiles in the CCD/Religious Education setting

The theme for Catechetical Sunday is “Stay With Us,” addressing the alarming statistics on young Catholics who have left the Church. Ascension Press’s article by Matt Charbonneau, “How to Keep Young Catholics Involved after Confirmation,” suggests that those who have recently been confirmed and have a greater understanding of the Catholic faith volunteer at Sunday school.

“These young people have the perfect chance to be role models for other young members of their parish,” explained Charbonneau.

Aidan Kaczanowski, a parishioner of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, Elkhart, acted on the mission he accepted at confirmation by becoming a kindergarten and fourth-grade catechist. The fourth grade religious education curriculum at St. Thomas includes the study of saints of the Church, as whom the children dressed up and attended Mass. — Tami DeLucenay

One such young person answered “Sure,” when asked by his parish director of religious education, after he was confirmed, if he would be interested in being a catechist. Aidan Kaczanowski, a member of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Elkhart, answered the call.

“After confirmation I knew I would do something for the Church, but really hadn’t given it much thought. I was an altar server, I was conscientious about recycling, but I didn’t seek out to be a catechist.” However, as the fall of Kaczanowski’s freshman year of high school began; he was commissioned on Catechetical Sunday to teach kindergarten religious education.

Last spring, Kaczanowski was among the young people featured in Today’s Catholic’s recognition of valedictorians and salutatorians. He mentioned that teaching religious education was a highlight of his high school career.

“I loved teaching. My freshman and sophomore year I taught kindergarten, then my junior and senior year I taught fourth grade,” he stated. “These four years were awesome.”

He also balanced school, extracurricular activities and preparing lessons for his class.

“It’s all in my priorities. I attend Mass every Sunday, take time to pray and took an hour or so to prepare for the lessons. Sharing with these kids was extremely rewarding. It was a big part of my life: The mission of a catechist is so important.

“One of my favorite lessons to share with fourth graders is the Beatitudes. I’m a big fan of Matthew Kelly and used his writings to help students understand the difference between achieving happiness over trying to achieve pleasure. These kids are engaged and loved to act out the Bible stories and bring Scripture to life,” he said.

“It was a challenge to help them with their prayer life. Contemplative prayer and listening to God are so important. It wasn’t always easy teaching them about prayer, but it was a big part of each class every Sunday.”

Teaching the students about the saints is a tradition at St. Thomas, and one Kaczanowski enjoyed. Aislyn Balyeat attended his class last year and enjoyed “everything!” about that part of the curriculum.

“Aidan helped us choose our saints by telling us about patron saints. I chose St. Barbara because it’s my middle name,” stated Aislyn. “We also get to dress up as our saint. I liked wearing my crown, but I was nervous when I had to get up in front of my friends and tell about him.”

Kaczanowski now attends Purdue University, majoring in computer science. He said he looks forward to many new opportunities to share his faith and has already registered at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in West Lafayette.

“Through my experience of being a catechist, being active in my parish youth group, attending the March for Life in Washington, D.C. … all these things have made a powerful impact on my life. I’ll seek out ways to help me to continue to grow in my faith and to be a witness to all those I encounter.”

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