June workshop to equip and empower religion teachers

Dr. Ann David speaks at the June 2018 curriculum workshop.

Back by popular demand, the second workshop to train teachers in the National Catholic Sisters Project curriculum promises to be bigger and better. It will build on the momentum established last June, welcoming newcomers and gathering up veterans of the acclaimed curriculum “Called and Consecrated: Exploring the Lives of Women Religious,” which is free, online and bilingual.

The workshop will be hosted by the Mexican American Catholic College in San Antonio June 10-12. It is titled “Teaching the Lives of Sisters: Engaging Tweens & Teens in Their Catholic Faith.”

“We’re building on the success of last year,” said Curriculum Coordinator Dr. Ann David. More than 70 people participated in last year’s workshop, including teachers, catechists, a dozen Catholic sisters and directors of religious education from across the country. Before the inaugural workshop had concluded, participants were already asking for another workshop, Dr. David said.

The purpose of “Teaching the Lives of Sisters” is two-fold: to introduce participants to the curriculum and to provide teaching strategies. Combined, they will leave feeling familiar with the content and equipped to share it effectively with teens. That education will be framed by a broader discussion about women religious and steeped in the rich Texas history of Catholic mission churches. An added benefit is the robust network of fellow Catholic educators established for participants.

“This is unique,” Dr. David said. “The curriculum itself is unique. The church has changed. It is far more influenced by the global self – for our purposes, the influence of Mexico and South America, in terms of a range of things: the music we sing, the ways in which we do liturgy and certainly religious life is being influenced by Latino culture. That’s where a lot of new vocations are coming from. To reach into the deep well of history of the Latino church here in the U.S. is incredibly valuable for people to take back to their schools and parishes and dioceses.”

Dr. David sees a connection to the U.S. bishops’ pastoral letter against racism. “They call for personal conversion but also institutional conversion around that. This curriculum is an avenue for some of that institutional conversion. What are the ways we’re doing a better job of representing the people in the pews? The ways in which we do religious education and teach religion in Catholic schools? Not only is it a bilingual curriculum, but the English units too include a lot of stories from a variety of different cultures.”

The curriculum is bigger than it was a year ago, so returning participants will have a chance to get acquainted with the new units, including a sneak peek at a forthcoming unit on the history of women religious that is comprehensive, the first of its kind. “The work that went into this unit is awe inspiring,” Dr. David said.

“Called and Consecrated” is deftly curated to present the most engaging, relevant material for each unit. It also features a host of original video content -- all available for free. Some are interviews of Catholic sisters, others show scholars discussing women religious.

The workshop will highlight best practices for incorporating video in the classroom, said Dr. David, a teacher educator who prepares her students to teach middle and high school. “To get the most out of it, it’s important to not just hit play and watch the whole thing,” she said. “We’ll talk about ways to ask questions before you play it, to stop in the middle and have discussions at particular points and why that’s valuable and why watching it multiple times if it’s short can be beneficial.”

This kind of training is not otherwise accessible to catechists, many of whom volunteer and have no formal education background. Their hunger for the instruction and eagerness to apply it makes the workshop rewarding, Dr. David said.

Register for the workshop or contact Dr. David with any questions at addavid@uiwtx.edu

About Christina Capecchi

Christina Capecchi is an award-winning journalist from Inver Grove Heights, Minn. She is the author of the nationally syndicated column “Twenty Something,” which appears in more than 50 Catholic newspapers across the country. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, America, The Chicago Tribune, The Star Tribune and The Pioneer Press. She also provides contracted editing and writing services. She holds a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and a bachelor’s from Mount Mercy University.