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Seventh grade students at St. Patrick School in Elkhorn read the Catholic Voice as part of an in-class activity for their religion class. Clockwise from upper left are Keaton Broz, Reid Gnuse, Cecilia Arndt, Zoe Wiegert, Addie Ziska, Ava Spies, Carter Gish and Sam Schwartz. DANIKA LANG/STAFF

Catholic Voice in the Classroom engages students in faith

Educating young people about church efforts to meet human needs through faith-based initiatives and organizations. 

That was Deacon Randy Grosse’s intent in the fall of 2012 when he began Catholic Voice in the Classroom, an educational program that provides copies of the Catholic Voice newspaper to schools and religious education programs throughout the archdiocese free of cost. 

Deacon Grosse served from 2010 to 2017 as the editor and general manager for the Catholic Voice, and seven years after launching the program, his mission of bringing a timely, Catholic perspective to a variety of classes is still impacting the formation of young students.

“(The Catholic Voice) tells me what other people are doing to engage in their faith,” said Adam Glow, a seventh grade student at St. Vincent de Paul School in Omaha. “It tells me things I could do if I wanted to, to help people in my community,” he said. 

St. Vincent de Paul is one of about 40 schools and 30 religious education programs in the archdiocese participating in Catholic Voice in the Classroom, along with St. Pius X/St. Leo School in Omaha and St. Patrick School in Elkhorn.    

As part of the program, the newspaper is delivered in bulk to schools from the second issue of September through the first issue of May. With each edition of the paper, about 1,470 copies are distributed. Many schools use their copies for multiple classes. 

This year, the initiative was made possible through the sponsorship of the Knights of Columbus State Council, the Catholic Voice Educational Endowment, and Woodhouse Auto Family. Without them, the archdiocese could not afford the costs of the program, said the Voice’s current editor and general manager Dan Rossini. 

“As soon as it was available, I signed on to get this because I knew it would be valuable,” said Frank Dunn, a seventh and eighth grade religion teacher at St. Vincent de Paul. “The students get a lot of perspectives from secular sources, but the Catholic Voice is a resource that’s about their faith, that they may or may not see outside of the classroom,” he said. 

At St. Pius/St. Leo, the Voice is used in seventh grade religion courses as part of a long-standing current events assignment. Five times each year, students examine the latest edition of the Voice to find an article that depicts someone living out their faith and the impact it has on the community, said Sarah Stratman, a seventh grade religion teacher.  Students are also asked to reflect on how they can take action and live out their faith in similar ways. 

“We require three paragraphs. That first paragraph is a summary of the article,” Stratman said. 

“(In) the second part, they compare what that person is doing to something Jesus would do,” she said. “We compare the four Gospels and their writers so they get to look at the Bible and say, ‘Where can we find this in the Bible? Where do we see Jesus doing this?’ 

“The third paragraph is neat. That’s where they get to say, ‘How is this person’s action going to have a ripple effect on the community and how can I as a seventh grader do something similar?’” 

Stratman’s students are taking their classwork to heart, as seventh grader Abby Drexel explained. 

“When you see stuff on the news, it’s mostly bad stuff, and when you flip through the Catholic Voice and you’re looking for your article, it just shows how much good there still is going on in the world,” she said. “It’s not only an assignment, you’re connecting with the outside world,” she said.  

Ann Menning, a seventh and eighth grade religion teacher at St. Patrick School, said she uses the Catholic Voice to show the relevance of theology in everyday life.

“I can almost always find a way to tie the Catholic Voice into the curriculum,” Menning said, “whether it be the sacraments, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, or pro-life. Whatever the topic at hand is, I’m usually able to find some way to incorporate the newest issue of the Catholic Voice into that lesson.”

Students at St. Patrick said the Catholic Voice provides a lens through which they can see the Gospel message being lived out.

“We do read this (text)book and that teaches us about things that have happened in the past, about things that Jesus did in his life,” said Sam Schwartz, one of Menning’s seventh graders. “Reading the Catholic Voice teaches us about things that are happening now and how God is at work in our lives right now.” 

 

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