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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Church of the Gesu Sunday school undergoes structural changes this year

Sunday school is held from 9:10 a.m. to 10:20 a.m. each week. Johannah Lee, director of child, family and youth formation at the Gesu parish, said the program is available for students ranging from kindergarten to high school.
Photo by Keifer Russell
Church of the Gesu parish building.

This year, Church of the Gesu’s Sunday school is undergoing structural changes to their curriculum to encourage students to grow in their faith in more imaginative ways.

Sunday school is held from 9:10 a.m. to 10:20 a.m. each weekJohannah Lee, director of child, family and youth formation at the Gesu parish, said the program is available for students ranging from kindergarten to high school.

“A lot of our volunteers are Marquette students. They take the time out to plan the lessons during the week, and teach it on Sunday mornings,” Lee said. 

Lee said the grades are separated into different classrooms, and the two catechists (teachers of the Catholic faith) in each classroom prepare lessons based on the textbook. However, she said the students tend to prepare activities, videos and prayers connected to a Bible story or that week’s liturgy to keep the students more engaged.

This year, Lee said the programs for kindergarten and high schoolers have been modified. She said the kindergartners are starting a program based on a Montessori style of teaching.

“The hope with the Montessori style, is that instead of a lecture where we’re talking at the kids, it’s more of an encounter with the materials that leads to prayer,” Lee said.

Caroline Donahue, a sophomore in the College of Health Sciences, is one of the catechists for this new program. She said the basis of the teachings are to improve the students’ fine motor skills and keep them busy with hands-on activities.

For the high schoolers, they are participating in a program called “Just Faith” where they’re learning about social justice issues through discussions and readings. Right now, they’re focusing on poverty, homelessness and low wages.

“For teenagers, they’re super interested in social justice issues, and they often don’t realize that the church is very invested in those issues as well,” Lee said.

Eric Rorholm, a first-year graduate student, works as a catechist for the high school program. He said this program is important because it’s showing students how the real world functions and the problems within it.

“It’s hard. It’s scary and it’s sad. It can get tough, and it can get emotional,” Rorholm said.

Rorholm said the program both focuses on understanding the issues and how it relates to faith, but also how the students can make an impact.

“The service component is going to be really, really important. I think that’s also a big part of what differentiates the Jesuit tradition is a real emphasis on the works. A real emphasis on not just a very strong foundation and faith, but a really strong foundation in service and in giving as well,” Rorholm said.

Lee said that at the core of this new program, she wants the students to see that their interest in world issues and their interest in faith don’t have to be separated; they can be intertwined.

Melissa Tharaniyil, a senior in the College of Engineering, works with first and second grade students. She said she tries to make the activities they do in class impact the students enough that it stays with them through the week.

To give them a task to complete throughout the week, Tharaniyil said she asks the students to do something at home or share the message they learned with their families to keep them thinking about the things they’ve learned even after they leave the classroom.

Donahue, Lee and Tharaniyil said even though they’re the teachers, they learn a lot from the students.

“The kids have so much energy and life. There’s just so much faith from them that I personally get, and I can see it’s something that the Marquette students get as well,” Lee said.

Tharaniyil said she feels like she’s growing and being challenged in her faith at the same time her students are, and she said because of this, the experience has been rewarding.

“Kids really look up to you and value what you say, so it’s a really rewarding experience too when certain concepts you’re going over click in their mind,” Tharaniyil said.

Donahue said that going into her second year teaching, she loves to witness how the students have grown.

“It’s something where you can see the growth and return in the relationship that these younger kids have developed throughout a year, which is a lot more rewarding than being like ‘oh I got 10 hours of community service this month,’ It doesn’t only have an impact on you, but also your community,” Donahue said.

Since living out God’s word at home is such a huge goal in their teachings, Lee sends out a newsletter each week to the families with one thing the kids can do at home, and also something for the parents to do to grow in their faith.

This year, Lee said they’re still looking for Volunteers for Liturgy of the word during mass, and for subs and catechists for Sunday school. She encourages anyone who’s interested to sign up by emailing [email protected].

This story was written by Sophia Tiedge. She can be reached at [email protected] 

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About the Contributors
Sophia Tiedge
Sophia Tiedge, Executive News Editor
Sophia is a sophomore from Arlington Heights, IL studying journalism. This year she will serving as the Executive News Editor after spending last year as a news reporter. In her free time, Sophia enjoys reading, working out and going to new places with her friends. This year Sophia is looking forward to collaborating with others and learning more about what happens on campus.
Keifer Russell
Keifer Russell, Staff Photographer
Keifer Russell is a junior from Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin studying digital media and public relations and is a Staff Photographer of the Marquette Wire for the 2023-2024 school year. Outside of the Wire he enjoys rock climbing, photography (figures), as well as finding and listening to new music. He is very excited to further refine his photographic content over the next year

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