Second graders receive the sacraments of First Reconciliation (March) and First Eucharist (April) and eighth graders receive the sacrament of Confirmation (November). In early September, these students are presented to the entire community at a school mass and pledge that they are ready to begin preparing for these special events in their lives. They ask for the prayerful support of everyone in the Christ the King community. As the presentation ceremony ends, members of the congregation lift their hands and sing a song of blessing over them.
Preparation for reception of First Reconciliation and First Communion begins with two meetings of parents and the pastor. At that meeting, the importance of these sacraments is discussed and questions are answered. The second graders prepare for the reception of their sacraments by working through the activities in their religion book and using a series of pamphlets that have activities for the student and their family. In preparation for Reconciliation, students practice going to confession in the classroom and in the confessional at church. On the day of their first confession, the 2nd graders participate in the Penance Service doing the reading and examination of conscience. Parents are invited to participate in this special event in their child’s life by attending the prayer service and receiving the sacrament.
In preparation for First Communion, each child makes a First Communion banner that is displayed in the school and in the church on their First Communion Day. They also practice receiving the sacrament in the church with their teachers playing the priest. For the mass on First Communion Sunday, the students, with parents, serve as lectors and gift bearers. Siblings and relatives of the students are the altar servers and the Eucharistic ministers for the mass.
On the Monday after First Communion, parents are invited to join their children for morning mass, followed by the blessing of religious articles that were received as gifts for this special occasion. After mass, students return to the school for a special juice and donut treat.
Preparations for Confirmation begin as soon as school begins in August. The students use the Chosen series and DVDs and work through all of the lessons. They choose their Confirmation name and write a report about their choice. They review all of the prayers they have learned throughout their years at Christ the King and are tested on them, as well as all of the Confirmation material. After their studies are completed, they go for an interview with either Fr. Joe Ring or Deacon Laabs. Students are required to perform fifteen service hours as seventh graders and thirty hours of service as eighth graders.
Just before their Confirmation day, they receive the sacrament of Reconciliation and attend a “Day in the Spirit”. This day includes prayer, reflection, mass, and the receiving of letters from their family members. These letters allow family members the opportunities to express to the child their hopes and aspirations for them. It is the highlight of the day, an emotional moment for many of them.
Throughout the year, the entire school gathers in the school gym for prayer services. Led by the faculty or grade level students and the Jr. Crusaders, the student body prays together at a Spirit Day Assembly once each month. Each Monday of Advent, students gather in the gym around the large school Advent wreath for a service, lighting a new candle each week. After returning from Christmas break, we celebrate the feast of Epiphany in the same way. During Lent, the eighth graders prepare the Stations of the Cross and lead prayers for the entire student body. Special Lenten Prayer Services are also held in the gym for the entire school community with the faculty or the eighth graders serving as prayer leaders.
Each school year special days are celebrated with all school prayer services, many times led by the faculty. We have held prayer services to honor Mary, The Right to Life, Veterans, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Abraham Lincoln, as well as prayer services for world peace, victims of war, and natural disasters, and Thanksgiving. During Catholic Schools Week we pray the Living Rosary in Church and have other prayerful services throughout this special week.
Penance Services for the students are held twice a year, during Advent and Lent. Fr. Joe Ring leads the service that begins with a song of forgiveness. After an examination of conscience, the entire student body prays the Act of Contrition, after which they receive the sacrament. Students bring rosaries and Bibles with them so that they can pray quietly as they wait their turn. Many faculty members also take advantage of this opportunity for grace.
On the first Wednesday of May, the students participate in the May Crowning. The eighth graders process in and each girl places a carnation in one of the vases in front of the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the statue that is kept in the school office. The service is led by eighth grade students and the student body participates by responding to the prayers and joining in the singing. Mary is crowned during the service and after the service is finished, the statue and the flowers are returned to the school office where Mary, crowned as queen, is displayed throughout the month.
On that same day, the eighth grade class at our school mass, receive green and white graduation ribbons to be worn until graduation day. Once again, the soon to be graduates receive a blessing from all those present for mass that day.
Realizing that a religion curriculum is more than just learning information from a textbook, we place great emphasis on participating at mass by responding to the prayers, singing, and volunteering to be servers, lectors, gift bearers, and song leaders when it is the students’ class mass. We strive to develop within the students the importance of forming the habit of prayer by attention and reverence when we pray together as a student body at the beginning and ending of the school day and other occasions when we come together for prayer. We will also take advantage of sharing with the students the rich tradition that is ours by telling the stories of particular saints on their feast days and talking about the religious art that is found on the school walls. In 2005, we adopted the series Faith First Legacy Edition, published by RCL, for students in grades K-5. Each student in grades one to five has his/her own textbook and the kindergarten teachers use the teacher’s edition as their guide for religion during the year. We chose this series because of its spiral curriculum. The units, based on the four pillars of the Catechism (Faith, Worship, Life, Prayer) are developed in an age appropriate manner; and each unit ends with a section on Catholic social teaching. These sections promote caring for the earth that God has given us and the wise use of our resources. The illustrations throughout the book show people from around the world, both able and disabled. Additionally, each year includes information about the liturgical seasons, prayers, mass, and the Bible. While in the fifth grade, each student receives a personal copy of the Bible that is blessed by Fr. Joe Ring after mass.
The sixth and seventh grades use the series Christ Our Light, published by Loyola Press. The sixth grade studies Jesus and the seventh grade studies church history. The eighth grade uses Loyola Press’ Confirmation book, Confirmed in the Spirit, and Sadler's Morality book. Religion is taught for thirty minutes either four or five days a week. If a formal religion class is not taught, it is because it is the day that we attend mass. Each year, students’ knowledge is assessed by using the ACRE test in grades five and eight. Previous results show that the weaker areas for the fifth graders improve greatly when students are tested in the eighth grade.
Our students also do a variety of projects to help them understand our faith. Some of these projects are: reports of the saints, the Ten Commandments, Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy, the Beatitudes, Station of the Cross booklets, journals, Respect Life posters, and Confirmation booklets. During November, each class uses a Book of the Dead to remember those members of their families who have gone to their eternal rest.
Thanks to one of our graduating classes, we have a plaque on the second floor that lists that particular class’s favorite caring messages.
Our anti-bullying program that is used in all of the grades contains themes and information that fit into the ideas that are taught in religion class. As a Catholic school, we are able to incorporate religious beliefs and practices in all areas of the curriculum.