Fruit from the Vineyards of Faith Community

About this article

This is a list of classroom ideas from faith community workshop participants. Ideas range from faculty bulletin boards, talking circles, the enneagram, "homey" touches, and school-wide service experiences.

Participants in this summer's workshop "The Catholic High School as Faith Community" offered one another insights from their experience in the "vineyards" of Catholic high school teaching and campus ministry. We are happy to pass some of their "fruit of the vine" along to you.

Three Words a Day

Using a special spot on the faculty bulletin board, I put up "three words a day. "These are helpful and stimulating words of wisdom. Examples: "FORBID PUT-DOWNS," "PRAISE STUDENTS PUBLICLY," "DIRECTIONS NEED REPEATING," "ATTITUDES ARE CONTAGIOUS," "LAUGHTER REDUCES TENSION. "These come from a small spiral calendar journal called "3 Words a Day for Teachers." The cost is $7.99, available from Thoughtfuls, P.O. Box 1131, Marshalltown, IA 50158. Karen Frost, Don Bosco High School, Gilbertville, IA

Talking Circle

To facilitate group discussion in class, we have a "talking circle." In this circle, the students invite each other to respond to the question provided. The invitation approach puts everyone on the same level, and there is very little feeling of intimidation as the students are asking and responding to one another. Fr. Kevin Schneider, SJ, Red Cloud Indian School, Pine Ridge, SD

Celebration of Life

In our Reverence for Life and Family class with freshmen, we study teen pregnancy and abortion. We have a panel, put together by Catholic Community Services, of teen moms who have placed their babies for adoption, teen moms who have kept their babies, and parents who have adopted children or are waiting for a child to adopt. It's very effective. But the students can feel pretty down---helpless and overwhelmed about what they could do. So we decided to do something positive for teenage moms. Every year, we have a "Celebration of Life" baby shower in class. The students bring to the shower all kinds of baby items--shampoo, lotion, formula, diapers, blankets, clothing, and so on--which will later be prepared by a parish guild in lovely layettes for new teen mothers. The students make quite a party out of it, decorating cakes for it, having refreshments, and showing off all the items they have brought. The boys as well as the girls really get into this!

The kids get so enthused about making a difference for others. For instance, on a panel one year, a sixteen-year-old mom (who had married the father of the baby) talked with our students. She was honest enough to share that she will never go to her high school prom, that it was no one's fault but hers, and that she regretted missing out on so much of her teenage years. After hearing this, one student approached me and asked, "Could we invite her to our prom?" The students collected money for a prom ticket for the young couple, flowers, and pictures. Two girls volunteered to baby-sit. I was so moved by the awareness and sensitivity of our students. They truly made this young mom's dream come true. Dianna Swartz, Judge Memorial Catholic High School, Salt Lake City, UT

The Enneagram in the Classroom

In my spirituality class, I do a week to ten days on the Enneagram. I spend three classes trying to get the kids to identify what their personality number is. Once they have it narrowed down, I have them read a profile on their number. They have to keep track of what in each category fits their identity. I ask them in small groups to try to see these number categories in operation at a [Kansas City] Chiefs game! I also play a tape in which all the number categories are teased in musical pieces. The Enneagram has been criticized as not much more than a parlor game. It can be that, but my kids seem to see its wisdom. Here are sources I use:

Beesing, Maria, OP, Robert Nogosek, CSC, and Patrick H. O'Leary, SJ. The Enneagram: A Journey of Self-Discovery. Denville, NJ: Dimension Books.

Bergin, Eilis, and Eddie Fitzgerald. An Enneagram Guide: A Spirituality of Love in Brokenness. Twenty-Third Publications.

Callahan, William J., SJ. The Enneagram for Youth. Student's edition and counselor's edition. Loyola University Press.

Wagner, Jerome. The Enneagram System. 2603 Broadway, Evanston, IL 60201, 312-869-2456.

Mike Martin, Archbishop O'Hara High School, Kansas City, MO

Homey Touches

To make the girls feel at home, I provide hand lotion on the ledge for their use. This is especially welcome during the wintertime. The spot has become a meeting place of girls from many homerooms; Christmas-time brings plenty of hand lotion gifts so that the supply will never fail. Sr. M. Raimonde Bartus, FDC; Saint Joseph Hill Academy, Staten Island, NY

Service by the Whole School Community

Feeling a need to get faculty support for our retreat program and a need to focus on service in a special way, our 1995-1996 retreats included a time at the beginning of each retreat for service by the entire student body. Teachers, staff members, and a few parents helped supervise and drive. We used buses for most of the transportation--expensive, but worth it. They went in large groups to places like a food bank, a shelter for the city homeless, and so on. The reaction was excellent. Teachers and students were enthusiastic in the end. This year we plan to have a special service day like that one, but not as part of the retreat program. Sr. Mary Patricia Plumb, Academy of the Holy Names High School, Tampa, FL

Quiet: Look and Listen

Human spirituality cannot be created. It can only be discovered and given expression through symbols, rituals, acts of faith and love. We must become quiet, look and listen for God to help us give life to what is deeply inside us. Fr. Bob Kelly, OP, Academy of the Holy Angels, Richfield, MN

Journeying Toward Integrity

Our ongoing process of reconciliation throughout life constantly requires risk taking. It is this painful-pleasurable process that rewards one with a sense of rightness and purifies one's integrity, only to constantly remind the wayfarer, the pilgrim, the believer of his or her humanity. Sr. Mary McGarrity, IHM, Archbishop Ryan High School, Philadelphia, PA

Show up! . . . Slow down. . . . Let go--and let God. Pat Alexandro, Saint Francis Preparatory High School, Fresh Meadows, NY


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Published October 1, 1996.