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Religious education – St Thomas Church

Religious education

Pay RE fees electronically

Religious Education class fees are due: 900CZK for regular classes, 1200CZK for sacrament preparation classes. Those who haven’t yet paid can do so either directly in cash to Mary Beth Hlavsa or via bank transfer using the following details (bank code 0800, bank acct: 155523359). Please be sure to attach a note to the transaction with your child’s name(s) and class, and that the payment is for their RE fee. If there are any financial difficulties, please see Mary Beth, or William Revellese (our Financial Officer – wjrevelle@hotmail.com) for options.
Another payment option is to use the “red slips” available in the back of the church where the missals are distrubuted if you prefer to pay at the post office. The bank details are pre-printed on the forms.

Religious Education Overview

Please read through this important information about the St. Tomas Religious Education program. We look forward to seeing your child on Sundays at 9:45am!

News and changes from last year:

  • Mary Beth Hlavsa is the new Religious Education Coordinator for the 2012 – 2013 year, with former-coordinator Monika Shaheen providing valuable assistance.
  • Please sign up your children now for RE this year! Contact details are at the bottom of the page. Please contact Mary Beth with your children’s name, age, and year in school, as well as a RE history if you are new to the St. Tomas community.
  • In order to further the cohesion among classes, this year we will be trying out a theme or focus point for each week. Themes include topics such as angels, saints, Advent or Lent  preparation, praying, etc. Teachers may either use this theme as full class material, or as an intro before heading on to the main lesson for the day, at their discretion. We will be handing out a list of each week’s theme focus point, and greatly encourage you to discuss these topics with your children at home!
  • This year we would like to provide more additional group activities for our RE classes. Ideas and suggestions for field trips are very welcome – please contact Mary Beth.

Calendar

A full RE calendar will be posted soon, including the holiday schedule and tentative dates for the celebrations of the sacraments of First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion. Please note that some dates may change, and some additional activities such as field trips are not yet scheduled – we will of course provide information as soon as we have it. Should dates change, you will be notified in advance both via e-mail and on the English-speaking community’s notice board located on the wall to the left of the inside entrance to the cloister garden. Up-to-date information will be also available on the website and in the weekly bulletin.

  • If your child is preparing for First Holy Communion,  please be aware that under normal circumstances, only 3 absences from class are acceptable throughout the school year.  Also, participation in the First Reconciliation and First Communion Retreats is required in order for the child to be able to receive the sacrament.
  • Our students attend a number of schools, both international and Czech in and around Prague, and unlike in past years, there is no longer a clear majority of students coming from just one school. This presents a challenge for us as we are bound by just one overall parish calendar but the school breaks may vary. While we make every effort to accommodate different calendars, the children will not receive the full benefit of the program if they miss class every time there is a break both on the Sunday prior to the break and on the Sunday when it ends. Therefore, we request you to please take our RE calendar into account when planning your trips outside Prague during school breaks, especially if your child is preparing for First Communion or Confirmation.
  • Absences from class: if you know in advance that your child will not be at class, please make sure to contact your child’s teacher or myself as soon as you learn of the upcoming absence. I cannot stress enough how very important this is, as it is unfair for a teacher to find only 1 or 2 students in the classroom without previous notice. Unfortunately, this situation occurs every year. Teacher contact information and a student list for each class will be distributed as soon as completed via e-mail. 
  • One Sunday each month the 11:00 Mass is a Children’s Mass. At this Mass, the children participate in different ways during the Liturgy of the Word, Offertory, or with a special class presentation or song (Children’s Mass is marked on the calendar as CM). Each Children’s Mass is hosted by one (or sometimes two) class(es). Dates on which of the classes will host each Children’s Mass will be marked in the calendar on the notice board and on the website as soon as agreed among the teachers. Parents of the hosting students will be reminded in advance to make sure their child is in class and at Mass that particular Sunday. As some classes are small, strong attendance is very important as otherwise the Children’s Mass can be easily jeopardized if two or more students don’t come to Mass.
  • On non-Children’s Mass  Sundays, there will be Children’s Liturgy of the Word.  The children’s liturgies are also marked on the calendar (L).  Before the readings, Fr. William invites all children to the altar and they go to St. Dorothy’s chapel with an adult for their own liturgy of the word including gospel reading, a discussion, and crafts or music, related to the theme of the gospel, before returning to the main congregation for the offertory. This class not only makes the liturgy of the word more understandable and enjoyable for the children but it also allows you, their parents, to fully concentrate on and enjoy the readings and the homily. However, I would like to stress that children under the age of 4 must be accompanied by an adult as otherwise, being unable to quite follow and participate in the class, they often disrupt the other children and the leader. As we have seen a decline in the numbers of older children (above the first communion level), we would like to encourage their participation this year. While their contribution to the lesson is very important and enriching for the younger children, we also believe that the benefit of the class for them is still greater than listening to homilies directed to adults.
  • Please consider leading a children’s liturgy of the word 1-2 Sundays this year! Leading the children’s liturgy requires neither previous experience nor much time for preparation.  All materials are provided and as parents of the children you are best suited for this type of service.  Your experiences allow you to know best how to present and explain the different topics to children using examples from your every-day life. Having a number of volunteers ensures that no one has to lead more than once or twice during the whole year. Volunteers, please contact William Revellese (you’ll find his contact information below).

Time of Liturgy

Classes start at 9:45 a.m. Please arrive on time! Late arrivals do cause disruptions to the class and a loss of valuable time, not to mention the material that your child will miss.

  • We encourage participation by the students at Mass on a regular basis.  Parents are urged to see participation at Mass as an integral part of their children’s religious education and as important as the class itself. We all need to do our best to ensure that the children not only learn the classroom material during the very limited class time but also experience our faith through Mass, the community, and through family life. We urge you to please plan your Sunday mornings in a way that allows your child’s participation from 9:40 to approx. 12 o’clock, including participation at Children’s Liturgy of the Word (see above) or at Children’s Mass (above). Let’s make a child’s departure immediately after class an absolute exception.

Specific information on classes

The absolute  minimum age for admission to the Kindergarten class is 4 years (age calculated as of the 1st of September for the given school year), younger children cannot be admitted.

  • Our Confirmation program continues to take the form of a 2-year program to help ensure that the Confirmation is not merely a formal event and that candidates are prepared and can appreciate the meaning of the sacrament, including a commitment to further actively participate in the Catholic community’s life. The Post Communion III group is not the same as Pre-Confirmation. Only students who actively participate in the class both years will be considered for Confirmation. However, we encourage active participation and attendance at all levels, since each year builds on the last, culminating in sacrament of Confirmation.
  • copy (not an original please) of the baptismal certificate is needed for all children preparing their First Communion. Please hand it either to your child’s teacher or to Mary Beth at your earliest convenience. Please attach also the postal address of the parish of baptism if it is not clear from, or complete on, the certificate.
  • At least one completed year of religious instruction at pre-communion level is required for children enrolling in the First Communion Class.  This is necessary for their understanding of the sacraments of First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion and avoids major differences in the level of their knowledge, understanding and engagement in class. If your child is coming from another parish, please provide a confirmation by the former parish of previous religious instruction (an e-mail is sufficient).
  • We appeal to parents of those children who recently received their First Holy Communion to continue to enroll their children in our religious education program up through their Confirmation since each year offers unique experiences and allows them to build their knowledge-base and faith habits as well as encouraging them to continue to be challenged by faith which is essential for lifelong learning and faith-forming habits.  

Fees

Program fees this year are 900 CZK per child for all regular classes. For the First Communion class, the fee is 1200 CZK and covers the costs of special retreats in preparation for the sacraments and the costs associated with the sacrament celebration.  The fees for all students cover a part of the cost of student books (which each child keeps at the end of the year), the cost of teacher manuals, other tuition-related books and materials including printing costs, e.g. materials for the Children’s Liturgy of the Word and activities related to specific feasts and periods (such as the making of Advent wreaths, etc.). Financial assistance is available to anyone in need. A 50% discount from the total fees is offered to parents who volunteer to teach or who regularly assist the teachers or the coordinator, or lead the Children’s Liturgy of the Word on a regular basis.  Please see Mary Beth about payment or leave the exact amount with your child’s teacher in an envelope bearing your child’s name by the end of October at the latest.

Other Information

Families that are new to our parish are requested to complete the Parish Registration form.  You can pass it on directly to Mary Beth or to Father William, or leave it in the sacristy for him.

Please check information about classroom locations on the notice board in the cloister garden. The classroom names are on the doors and we’ll be on-hand to assist.

If you have any questions or suggestions for the program, please do not hesitate to contact us or Fathers William or Juan.

We are looking forward to working with you in supporting and furthering your child’s faith development and creating a sound base for lifelong faith and practice!

Mary Beth Hlavsa, Religious Education Program Coordinator
Mobile phone: 724 485 930, e-mail: redirector@augustiniani.cz

General Introduction to the Religious Education Program

Background
The Catechism program was set up in the English-speaking community at St. Thomas Parish in the 1990’s. Most of our students come from international families. However, recently, the number of children whose parents are both Czech has been on the rise. The number of students participating in the program annually has been between 50 and 60 in the past several years.

Students
Our students attend various different international and Czech schools throughout Prague. Given this fact, the program tries to tailor the religious education calendar so that it corresponds to the holiday calendars of those schools from which the majority of our students attend.

The St. Thomas Religious Education school year starts in mid-September and runs until the end of May each year.

Classes
We offer classes for children starting from the age of 4 up until Confirmation age. We break up the students into 7 different groups:

– Kindergarten ( Ages 4-5)
– Pre-Communion Class (Ages 6-7) (first year of preparation for the First Holy Communion)
– First Communion Class (Ages 7-8 or second grade)
– Post Communion Classes 1, 2 & 3 (up to around Age 12) (3 separate groups)
– Confirmation Class (typically around 13)

(The age is determined as of September of the given school year).

Teachers
Our teachers are recruited from both the parents of the students as well as some devoted parishioners. A number of our RE teachers are also teachers by profession. Most stay on the staff for several years. The teachers, as well as the coordinator and assistant coordinator, work free of charge in their spare time. Many have previous experience with teaching catechism. New teachers are coupled with experienced teachers. Typically, each of the 7 classes has one teacher and one assistant or two co-teachers. Our pastor, Father William Faix, takes an active part in all the children’s catechesis and gives special attention to students preparing to receive one of the holy sacraments.

Sunday Classes
Religious Education Classes are 1 hour and held on Sunday mornings from 9.45 to 10.45 a.m. at St. Thomas Church. Our students are expected and encouraged to attend the 11 a.m. English Mass that follows regularly as an integral part of the program. Our classrooms are located within the premises of the Augustinian monastery adjoining the church which were completely renovated some 5 years ago.

Curriculum
Since 2007, we have been using the Faith First series of books. The cost of textbooks, teaching materials, refreshments, stationery and other supplies is covered by fees payable at the beginning of the year.

Given the transient character of the community, the parish council has approved some changes to the syllabus which will be gradually introduced into the program starting from the 2012- 2013 year. The purpose of these alterations is to build on the solid foundation that we have built while restructuring the syllabus of the program somewhat, in order to ensure a solid common level of knowledge among the children who come from different backgrounds and spend different periods of time in the Czech Republic, from native Czechs to children of parents coming from non-English speaking countries, and from permanent residents to those coming and staying just for a year or two. Those interested are welcome to speak with Mary Beth Hlavsa, the RE program coordinator.

Classes include special projects such as collection of gifts for needy children, etc. Also, during class, students learn about and prepare for important Church events, periods of the liturgical year and celebrate special feasts, e.g. All Saints, St. Nicholas, Advent, Christmas, Three Kings, Lent, Easter and Pentecost. Some of these celebrations take the form of a Children’s Mass which is held once a month throughout the school year. In a Children’s Mass our students read the word, present the petitions, lead an offertory song, bring up the gifts, etc. Regular Children’s Masses are put on by each class group (above) in turn, enhancing the Mass experience for the children and making it more personal for them.

Sacraments
Every spring, typically in May, the Sacraments of First Holy Communion and Confirmation are conferred on eligible students. First Communicants also receive the sacrament of First Reconciliation in March of the same year. Preparation for both the First Holy Communion and Confirmation takes the form of a 2-year program. The sacrament is conferred after the completion of the second year. Exceptions may be granted if a student provides a confirmation of previous preparation in another parish.

Communication
Information on the organization of classes is communicated at the beginning of each school year to the parents via a parent’s letter and Religious Education calendar. Up-to-date information about the program is posted regularly on the English-speaking community’s notice board in the cloister garden. Key events and communications are published in the weekly parish bulletin that is handed out on Sundays. The program coordinator, assistant coordinator and the teachers are in frequent contact with the parents via e-mail. A new section about the program on the parish website www.augustiniani.cz has been launched, too.

For more information on the program, please contact Mary Beth Hlavsa, Religious Education Program Coordinator, tel.: 724 485 930, e-mail: marybethwebster@hotmail.com or marybeth@prague-stay.com

Children’s Liturgy of the Word

On non-Children’s Mass Sundays, there will be Children’s Liturgy of the Word. The children’s liturgies are also marked on the calendar (CL). Before the readings, Fr. William invites all children to the altar and they go to St. Dorothy’s chapel with an adult for their own liturgy of the word including gospel reading, a discussion, and crafts or music, related to the theme of the gospel, before returning to the main congregation for the offertory. This class not only makes the liturgy of the word more understandable and enjoyable for the children but it also allows you, their parents, to fully concentrate on and enjoy the readings and the homily. However, I would like to stress that children under the age of 4 must be accompanied by an adult as otherwise, being unable to quite follow and participate in the class, they often disrupt the other children and the leader. As we have seen a decline in the numbers of older children (above the first communion level), we would like to encourage their participation this year. While their contribution to the lesson is very important and enriching for the younger children, we also believe that the benefit of the class for them is still greater than listening to homilies directed to adults.

Volunteer to Lead Children’s Liturgy
Please consider leading a children’s liturgy of the word 1-2 Sundays this year! Leading the children’s liturgy requires neither previous experience nor much time for preparation. All materials are provided and as parents of the children you are best suited for this type of service. Your experiences allow you to know best how to present and explain the different topics to children using examples from your every-day life. Having a number of volunteers ensures that no one has to lead more than once or twice during the whole year. Volunteers, please contact William Revellese wjrevelle@hotmail.com

Instructions on Leading Children’s Liturgy

Duration: 20 – 25 minutes (during the readings, gospel, homily and creed)

Place: St. Dorothy’s Chapel

Leader & Helper’s Tasks:
Leader: (1) Lead the liturgy, (2) Read the gospel, and (3) Provide the sermon or lead the discussion, and (4) Lead the subsequent activity

Helper: (1) Process in and also out with the Children’s Lectionary (light red Bible kept in the Sacristy), (2) Ask someone at Mass (an usher, a family member or a friend) to give you a “5-minute warning” when the Creed starts. Alternatively, there is a speaker inside the chapel enabling listening to the Mass and thus checking how far it is.
(3) Help with a song, a game, crafts or other activities (distributing of supplies, helping small children, cleaning up etc.), (4) accompany children needing to use the restroom to their parents in the main church, (5) help control the children throughout the class.

Materials:
The relevant pages from the ”Complete Children’s Liturgy Book” is provided by the coordinator in advance. The pages include an introduction of the theme, an opening prayer, a gospel reading, questions for discussion and a suggestion for a related activity.

However, the Children’s Lectionary may be used instead to read the Gospel. The Leader may prepare his/her own sermon as well as questions for discussion and even a different additional activity other than that suggested in the above Liturgy Book (such as a song; a CD player and some CDs/list of songs are available).

The coordinator or an appointed helper makes sure that a basket with general supplies (crayons, papers, scissors, glues, stapler etc.) is brought to the Chapel before Mass.

Liturgy:
1. Father calls children out before the First Reading (Sometimes father forgets!! the Leader should step forward as soon as the congregation is asked to sit down for the first reading and remind Father) and the Leader takes the children over to St. Dorothy’s Chapel
2. Opening prayer (e.g. Sign of the Cross or a prayer from the material provided or another)
3. Gospel Reading from the Complete Children’s Liturgy Book, the Children’s Lectionary or another material as agreed with the coordinator
4. A short sermon and/or discussion.
5. An activity: a game, a song, coloring or other crafts etc.
6. A closing prayer (there is always one provided in the Children’s Liturgy Book, or Our Father, Hail Mary etc.) (Note: switching the order of 5. and 6. sometimes works better as one can never be sure how much time there is left before the children have to be sent back. Homilies are given by visiting priests are usually shorter than father Wiliam’s.)
7. Return children to the main church during the Offertory Song.

Our Classes and Teachers

In 2012-2013, the following 7 classes opened:
Kindergarten
Teachers: Monika Shaheen, Kim Strebel
Assistant: Sophia Candaza

Pre-Communion
Teacher: Peter Hobden
Assistant: Radka MacGregor

1st Communion
Teacher: JoAnn Manzano
Assistants: Paula Hobden, Paola Lucianetti

Post-Communion I
Teacher: Lourdes Morgan
Assistant: Michael Morgan

Post-Communion II
Teacher: Vanessa Cucchi
Assistant: DawnAnn Haertel

Post-Communion III
Teacher: Mary Beth Hlvasa
Substitute: Dinka Pejić

Pre-Confirmation & Confirmation – typically 11 – 14 year old young teens
Teachers: Bear Midkiff, Fr. William Faix
Assistant: Leslie Sullivan