One might find it odd that I would fill my first blog post with a story of goodbyes. I would have to agree with that.
Tomorrow, April 20, 2013, at 11 in the morning in a parish of the Archdiocese of Chicago, 38 confirmandi will fully be initiated to the Catholic Church. This friends, will be a bittersweet goodbye after six months of intensive, tiring, and challenging classes on Wednesday evenings.
Here’s the deal about me, I am from Chicago, and I do not own a car nor have a license to travel. I live in Little Village. (southwest side neighborhood in Chicago). I teach religious education in neighborhood to a group of high school students there. During the summer, I was invited to teach by the administrator of a parish near Schaumburg, Illinois.
Through Divine Providence, I was my over my hours at work, and needed to do some readjustment. Wednesday afternoons became work-free. Now, the struggle of finding a way to Schaumburg was going to be a hassle for me and my friends. The first few weeks I had my beloved girlfriend, Taylor (for which I am grateful since she had to leave work early), my college friend, Nico, and my friend Juanita all sacrifice their time and energy to get me where I needed to go (again very grateful for Nico and Juanita). Tired of asking people for rides, I scouted out public transportation to the suburbs. Wednesdays for me were very long days. I would leave my house at 6 in the morning to go to work and get home at 10 at night.
Transportation was an issue that got resolved; I took a nap, read a book, people watched, town watched, eavesdropped on people’s conversation on the train which I enjoyed all. The challenging issue was having 38+ sophomores and juniors in the religious education class.
In the beginning, I had control over the class. As time progressed, students just stopped caring and had their own conversations while I was teaching, the teacher aide I had at the beginning was transferred; I was asking the students to be quiet constantly. I just did not want to continue teaching!
This, by far, has been the most challenging experience I have ever had in my life. I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say that it almost made me question if I was the person to be teaching them about the faith. These doubts came to me as students would bombard me with questions and then condemn the Church of being hateful for not accepting homosexuals to marry.
One Wednesday I asked a student to settle down and keep quiet while I was teaching. His immediate response was to at all the possible curse words. From my physical appearance, to c-words, d-words, f-words, and a-z words – everything was included. I asked him to step away from the classroom, and he followed. I continued teaching. That night for me was the lowest point of teaching there. I called Taylor, and cried while I was talking to her and explained how I was not the right person to be doing this. She listened and comforted me and gave me courage to continue and finish this program.
Not all Wednesdays were bad. I received feedback from students about the format of the class and I modified it and they were pleased. There was soon more interaction and group work per their request. After one class two weeks ago, a student thanked me. During our prayer at the end of the class, my class decided to pray for me. I think back to that moment on every tired Wednesday and Thursday; every struggle I had, everything that I might have dreaded was gone thanks to that small and genuine gesture.
The bittersweet goodbye is approaching. I have and will continue to pray for these men and women of God and my hope is that I have helped to bring them closer to God. I enjoyed the challenge God gave me. It was chaotic at first, but I offered everything I had to God and things “clicked”; things moved to order.
This is a bittersweet goodbye. I may see them in the future. I may hear from them or I may not. My hope is that whatever witness I gave was only to show them to Christ.