Provides fifth-graders with understanding of New Testament
As she held her rosary beads before Sunday Mass at Our Lady of Peace retirement community in Charlottesville, resident Barbara Allison said praying can be hard sometimes.
“When you pray by yourself, it’s so easy to get distracted,” she said. “But when these children come, I’m able to stick with it and keep my mind on the prayers. I just love it.”
The nine children leading her and other residents in the rosary on a sunny February afternoon are fifth-graders in the religious education program at the Crozet Mission Community. Holding their own beads, the students took turns reciting the Our Father and Hail Mary as residents like Barbara Lachance joined them.
“I’ve kind of slipped away from the rosary for a few years, but I’m getting back in it big time,” she said. “I like to see little kids being brought up this way, in the faith. Too many people don’t see it, you know.”
It’s the second time their teacher, Nicki Athey, has brought these 10-year-olds to the facility to lead the rosary. She started it in part as a way to remind the children of the corporal works of mercy, to “use your feet, use your voice, use your hands and your heart to touch other people.”
The children have noticed how much their visits have meant to the residents.
“I realized that it was special to them because sometimes people don’t get a lot of visitors,” said student Woody LaVoy. “And sometimes it’s good in their life just to see someone pray the rosary with them and know that they have God by their side. It’s not just them alone.”
Athey designs and sells rosaries, and the children have found that using her favorite prayer in their classes helps them understand the New Testament.
“It’s talking about Jesus’ life, what he did during his lifetime and talking about Mary and Joseph, too. How they’re really together and really powerful and can do a lot of things with God’s help,” said Thomas Mierzejewski
He and the other students have also made rosaries for relatives.
“I made my rosary for my uncle because he doesn’t go to church that much and doesn’t talk about God,” Mierzejewski said. “So, I wanted to bring him closer to God.”
Kaleb Estes said he made his rosary for his grandmother.
“She was very happy,” he said. “She’s a very religious person, and I also gave her the packet that shows her how to pray.”
“I made my rosary for my grandma,” said George Novey, “because she was going into surgery and it was comforting to her.”
The Crozet community’s religious education program is based in homes, with parents responsible for much of the teaching and volunteers like Athey leading monthly group sessions. She said one of the best ways to teach her students about how to grow in faith is through experience. Her youngsters have learned how to gain a plenary indulgence and visited a cemetery as part of that sequence.
The class went to Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Crozet and talked to the sisters about their life in a community of work, study and prayer.
“They made them feel so comfortable,” she said. “They were able to ask them questions that kids ask, like, ‘What do you eat for dinner?’ — really hilarious questions.”
Athey said she includes “anything that will help root them and give them confidence in their faith” as part of the children’s formation.
“I want them to have tools that they can build on and add to, not just have a random introduction to this saint and that saint, something that they can tie back to the Bible and see how the Old Testament relates to the New Testament, how the Bible is used in the Mass, how beautiful everything is,” she said.