Religious Education

Religious Education Classes

Welcome back to our volunteer catechists and to both new and returning children in our Religious Education Program. This year a few interesting changes have been made: an online programmed instruction section and a Monday afternoon bi-weekly session of all age groups with the pastor and Mrs. LaPlante. 

For Monday's sessions we will be using the Pflaum Gospel Weeklies and associated teaching materials. 



Are YOU ready?

Monday's Religious Education - "The Classes Follow The Masses"

September is a busy month with lots of new schedules, new classes and new friends. Our Monday Religious Education class with the pastor is something else new. We are working to make it fun and challenging and to nourish your faith as you grow in the love of Jesus Christ.

We will be using the Pflaum Gospel Weeklies for the year. Each week’s lesson corresponds to the Scripture readings at Sunday’s mass. In addition to the weekly workbooks, students will receive a handbook, What the Church Believes and Teaches, a resource of prayers and material for the entire year.

The program has great web based resources and other details we’ll explain later, but the main thing now is to understand that “the classes will follow the Masses” as closely as possible instead of working through chapters in a textbook.

I am praying that Jesus will help us all grow in faith and grace this coming year. See you on September 19th!

Fr. Manning

Here is a link to Pflaum Publishing for the Gospel of September 18th: GOSPEL ON SEPTEMBER 18

And a link explaining a little more about the program: GOSPEL BASED EDUCATION


Last Call: Religious Education Registration Holy Cross

Plans are well underway for the 2016-2017 Religious Education Program at Holy Cross. Please register if you have not already done so. We can always use additional catechists and assistants, so consider volunteering.

This year an online program, a bi-weekly Monday formation session with Fr. Manning and a two year formation program for Eucharist will augment the program already in place. Cross_kid


Changes to Religious Education Programs at Holy Cross

Update: Thank you for your quick responses. Enough interest has been expressed in each of the three options, so all will be offered.


Three Options for Religious Education

for Students in Grades 3 –6 000620-0004-000069

Parents with children in grades 3-6 will be receiving a survey asking their interest in three different options for Religious Education next year at Holy Cross:

  • Sunday morning classroom sessions 
  • Online learning models at home.
  • Twice monthly group catechesis and activities on Monday evenings with Fr. Manning, parish staff and volunteer catechists.

More details will be forthcoming once we have an approximate number of students interested in each option.

We hope to continue the best aspects of our religious education program while offering more flexibility in scheduling.

Grades 1-2 and 7-8 are in sacramental preparation years and have more standardized programs which will be detailed on the enrollment forms.


Catechists Needed for Our Religious Education Program

Communion Bread and Wine with Cross
“My teacher, we made bread together, and I ate it and it was good.”

                Religious education student to his parents, in Craig Dykstra’s, Growing in the Life of Faith


…on Sunday School teachers…

What are they doing these teachers? They come, each with his or own piece of life, in fear and trembling, most of the time feeling as though they've got little to give and almost nothing to say. Probably someone asked them to do it, almost twisted their arms to do it. But the reason many keep on doing it, I think, is that they are compelled to do it, from within, or maybe even by a sometimes painful, sometimes satisfying grace that works through them. They search through curriculum materials for something to teach, and in the how-to manuals for how to teach it. But what they do more importantly is bring themselves to another person, to a group of children they hardly know. And there they make bread together, and eat it and know from time to time that it is good….

Teaching in church school is nine parts getting a weary body out of bed early on Sunday mornings, cutting out construction paper patterns, cleaning hardened glue from tables too low to bend over gracefully, matching the right snow boot with the right foot, and keeping noise levels within moderate bounds. But those nine parts are the things that make the one part possible. And if you, as a teacher, are ever fortunate enough to overhear one of the children in your class say, “My teacher, we made bread together and I ate it and it was good,” you will know what that one part is.

Craig Dysktra, Growing in the Life of Faith

We need dedicated and courageous catechists for our Tuesday evening or Sunday morning sessions of the School of Religious Education. Please consider helping pass on the faith to the next generation in this very important ministy. 

Return Christ's call by calling the Parish Office and volunteering as a catechist, an aide or hall monitor.


Proud of Our Confirmation Retreat Team

Many thanks to our CRE,  Mrs. Sallie Kabash, Barbara Mattone, the parish staff, Mike Feerst, Matt Butler and Mr. Beluzzi for coordination such a successful Confirmation Retreat experience for the parish youth who were confirmed last month. Special thanks go to the youth of our retreat team for not only volunteering their time, but sharing their faith.

Several years ago, we made the decision to defer the Sacrament of Confirmation until 8th grade when the children could reaffirm their faith in a more mature spirit and moved to a two year preparation process during 7th and 8th grade school year.  Recently the Diocese has made the 8th grade the minimum age for confirmation, so our program is already in place!

Here's a link to The Monitor article about the retreat at Holy Cross Parish.


Holy Cross Confirmation Retreat




Our 5th grade is studying the sacraments and sacramentals and they raised some interesting questions with me this week.

There is an online version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

CoverThe Catechism of the Catholic Church has relatively little to say about sacramentals. It names "blessings" as the most important sacramental and as you may know, there is an entire Book of Blessings with readings and prayers for various kinds of blessings.Strangely enough, exorcisms are treated in the same section as sacramental blessings.

The catechism then states:  

" The religious sense of the Christian people has always found expression in various forms of piety surrounding the Church’s sacramental life, such as the veneration of relics, visits to sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions, the stations of the cross, religious dances, the rosary, medals,180 etc."

While enthusiasm for some sacramentals waned and was even discouraged after Vatican II, a proper use of sacramentals in our daily life seems to be developing. It's interesting in this day and age of collecting autographs and memorabilia of all kinds, tracing anecestry and innumberable other ways of making connections with our world, that the proper use of sacramentals isn't endorsed and ecouraged more frequently.

One practice I remember as a child was that of keeping (and using) holy water in the home. My grandmother always had some in a special glass-stoppered bottle. Many families kept small holy water stoups in the children's bedrooms to use when blessing themselves for night prayer, or leaving for the day of school. The holy water was dutifully replenished from the font in the church each week.

At Holy Cross we give a small bottle of baptismal water to each family from the baptismal font on the day of their infant's baptism.

An inappropriate use of sacramentals draws attention away from the priority of the sacraments themselves and can flirt with superstitious practice. The sacramentals themselves have no power and our use of them should be quite distinct from practitioners of the occult who believe that the use of certain items along with precise incantations and rituals guarantee certain results, e.g. love potions, magic spells, curses, etc.



Proper use of sacramentals focuses attention to the grace flowing from the sacraments themselves and  to Jesus Christ and His Church. They help us weave a sacred theme into our daily lives and elevate our minds and hearts to God.


First Grade Children at 10:30 AM Mass

Rbp090323clbjIt was terrific to see so many of our young children at mass this weekend, especially at the 10:30 AM mass, where the first graders were especially invited to share in prayer and after-mass hospitality. All the children were so reverent and well-behaved.

Thanks to our Hospitality Committee who set up the refreshments, to our Religious Education and School teachers who supported the children by their attendance, and of course, to their parents for making sure their children are being raised in the practice of the faith.


The First Precept of the Church

Mass Attendance

You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor.  First Precept of the Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church

The issue of mass attendance and our attempts to encourage it by using stickers imprinted with images from each week’s gospel has been percolating a bit lately, especially as we begin a new school year with a new principal, so let me share with you some thoughts as pastor.

Family attending mass The importance of weekly worship as a community and the worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist cannot be overstated. This is especially true in a parish community with a school. Parents, parishioners and parish staff make incredible sacrifices to ensure that our students are well formed in the practice of the faith – not simply the knowledge of the faith, but its practice. A parish’s religious education program is also an indication of how dearly the parish esteems the Eucharist and the liturgy. Our CCD program has evolved over the last few years to include an important emphasis on the gospel of the week and the importance of attending mass. The classroom teaching component is not the only, nor in my view, the most important part of faith formation. It is crucial that our young people understand that Catholics go to mass.

Surveys indicate this is not the typical practice among American Catholics, even though mass Empty-church-pewsattendance is higher in the United State than in many European countries. Our children are in a formative period of their faith and it is incumbent upon us to see that they are given the best opportunity to integrate the practice of their faith into their daily lives from the youngest age.

 It is quite sad to see so many funerals at Holy Cross for the most ardent, faith-filled Catholics whose children have been assimilated not to Christianity, but into a kind of religiously indifferent American multi-culturalism. What can we expect if they are not taught the vital practice of attending mass, receiving the Eucharist and nurturing their ties with the local Catholic parish? It is irresponsible to accept the premise that most children attending Catholic school do not attend mass.


Report CardIt was quite possible to read, study and achieve good grades in religion without ever having heard the gospel for Sundays. Families accepted completing homework, service projects and passing tests as an expected component of religious formation. Trouble is, sometimes it became emphasized as the only component of faith formation for our children, and many schools and Religious education programs lost sight of the ideal of weekly mass attendance.


Here at Holy Cross, our school students were invited to daily mass, began to experience prayer at Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, prayed the Liturgy of the Hours and helped create Stations of the Cross during Lent. Weekly reflections on the gospel were introduced into the classrooms. The parish prints stickers with clipart from each Sunday’s gospel to serve as the nucleus of discussion, even for children who cannot read. Students keep a reflection journal into which the sticker may be placed along with a one or two sentence summary of that week’s gospel in their own words, or their own drawings.

PewAfter the parish community and the teachers in both our school and volunteer Religious education teachers became empowered to discuss our obligation to attend weekly mass, mass attendance was eventually taken in Religion class and CCD. The old copper cross which stood atop Holy Rosary Church for so many years has been refurbished and is awarded weekly to the class with the highest mass attendance and the class with the most improved mass attendance.

 Mass attendance at Holy Cross among our school children and religious education families has more than doubled…for some months it has tripled. Occasionally one class can proudly and rightfully boast of 100% attendance. The expectation that we should attend mass is no longer a well-kept secret and is spoken about openly and frequently. The obligation as parents, parishioners and catechists to insist that our children participate fully in their faith formation by attending mass is gradually becoming better understood.


 The stickers still truly annoy some parents, obviously those whose children rarely if ever attend mass, but interestingly, some of those who do. While I’m not sure surrendering our responsibility to assess how our school and parish is doing with one of its primary missions should exactly be called “the honor system,” I get the point. Are we to abolish attendance taking in the classroom for religion class and Religious education classes, homework, quizzes and projects for religious formation as part of the honor system as well? What about tracking student tardiness for class, grades and exams in all subjects, extracurricular activities and requirements for participation in sports teams? Strident conscientious-objection to mass stickers or gospel journaling by mass-going families seems to miss the point, or at least underestimate the need to ensure our children attend mass. After all, we never see the children who aren't here, except perhaps on Christmas.  The stickers aren’t the point, are they?

Crowded church

Don't Blend In, Stand Out...for Christ!

Today's Scripture reading warning that "gold and silver corrodes" reminds us that sometimes what we strive after most, is not what we really need and it will not really give peace. It struck me especially because I had once again seen the story of Grant Desme, a promising young minor leaguer for the Oakland A's who hung up his cleats to enter the Norbertine Monastery in California.  One thing in particular he said: I had everything I wanted and it wasn't enough. His search led to a journey to test whether he had a priestly vocation with the Norbertine Fathers. Still almost 8 years away from ordination (as far as I could tell), his journey continues with constant prayer, study and work.

Minor Leagues


Major Leagues

Video Produced by the Norbertines



The Norbertine Fathers, Brothers and Sisters are a very traditional order - the kind of religious life which seems to be entering a new Springtime in the United States. The abbey is moving, both to leave a volcanic fault line, and to accomodate new students and the growth of their community.

Religious orders of women renewing the traditional charisms and way of life are also experiencing similar growth in the United States. We've talked about the Nashville Dominicans before, but a visit to their website is always inspirational. Their formation house is also bursting at the seams with enthusiastic young women in love with Christ.

Some of the Newest Dominicans in Nashville



Don't forget about our own Diocesan Website for Priestly Vocations

Priestly Vocations Diocese of Trenton

Traffic Patterns for Religious Education



Thanks everyone for your patience in learning the pick-up and drop off patterns of both Sunday's and Tuesday's Religious Education program. The first week is always the most challenging and the pattern works more smoothly each week thereafter.

As usual, all parking is prohibited on the East side of Ward Avenue, i.e. across the street from the church. Everything works best if you avoid parking on Ward Avenue altogether, even on our side of the street. Last week, those parked alongside the curb could not leave without breaking through the line of traffic waiting for pick-up, and many made K-turns to head North on Ward Avenue blocking both directions of traffic.