If I were orderly to perfection, perhaps this would have been my first post about Growing Up Catholic. Here I just want to introduce you to what the catechism classes were like in general. As mentioned in the previous post, my contact with the Dominican Sisters of Springfield began when, as a first-grader, I started catechism lessons at St. Edward School.
The lessons were convened twice weekly, once on Sunday mornings and again on Wednesday afternoons. To attend on Wednesdays we public school Catholics were released from our respective schools early and walked to St. Edward. For us at Palmer School it was quite a long walk. An upper grade student took charge of our group as we made the weekly trek. The St. Edward regulars, here I mean the students who attended Catholic school daily, loved Wednesdays, too, because they had early dismissal and could go home! I participated in these catechism classes for four years before transferring to St. Edward School.
What was school like then? These classes, also called CCD for Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, consisted of memorizing and reciting the answers to the questions from the Catechism of Christian Doctrine. In addition to that we memorized prayers, which we recited verbatim to demonstrate our knowledge. Sometime we learned about the life of a saint. I found this more interesting because it didn’t require the discipline of memorization. Instead we listened to inspiring stories of heroic faith. These stories appealed to me.
I will say that I wanted very much to go to St. Edward on a daily basis. I really enjoyed learning about God and doing so every day seemed so much better than twice a week. I wasn’t particularly pious—far from it—but I knew what I wanted to know. I begged my parents to send me there, but they always said, “No!” I believe this had to do with the distance from our home, and perhaps the tuition costs, although by today’s standards the costs were minimal.
One spring day after a Sunday morning Mass, Father Duffy, one of our priests, and a friend of my Dad from his seminary days, said, “Bob, I want to see those children of yours in our school next year.” No, I didn’t put him up to that, but my eyes grew wide with excitement. I was hopefully silent. All I know after that is that John, Joan, and I were enrolled at St. Edward the following year. Was this due to Father Duffy’s influence? Perhaps. I was ten and in fifth grade. I continued at St. Edward School until graduation from eighth grade. I really enjoyed that school and my Catholic education during those years.