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Cynthia Baldwin's Memories

Summer Catechism

St. Anne's Catholic Church

(Response to MichaelRustad's Memory)

It brought a chuckle to me thinking about the nuns and our summer Catechism classes. I enjoyed those big trees in the church yard and the softball and kickball games we would have during lunch time. Frequently my mom would pack banana lettuce and mayo sandwiches for us as a picnic treat! I remember the cool and somewhat metallic taste of the water in the church basement that was ladled into a glass from a tall metal can, fresh from the pump. I liked the nuns, but I found out (as you and Tony did) that they were not too interested in intellectual debates about church doctrine. I remember getting cross hairs with the nuns when they read some passage that we were all poor retched sinners in constant need of redemption. I raised my hand and said I thought we should see if that statement was true. Their definition of sin--which we had just memorized--was that a sin had to be something wrong, you had to believe it was wrong, and do it anyway. I said that if I believed something was wrong I didn't do it, therefore I didn't think I was a constant sinner! They were speechless. Then they rang the bell for recess and later had me go fetch some things for them at Sylvester's Store across the street during the discussion time! In fact, I was put in charge of helping with the younger kids and organizing things for the nuns the rest of those Catechism classes. I guess being a logical thinker and debater was not their idea of a good catholic girl.

We had to memorize prayers and definitions out of the Baltimore Catechisms, which were filled with pretty horrific ideas of what retched sinners we all were. My mother, who was raised Lutheran and changed over to Catholicism when Mom and Dad got married, found the church literature quite unsuitable for children. Once I asked her what something meant, and when she read over the paragraph in my Catechism to put it into context, she was askance. She said I had studied enough of this stuff and that all I needed to know was that basically God loved me and watched over me and would be there in my hour of need. It was a great feeling to get out from under the heavy guilt-ridden mantle of Catholicism and just feel loved. I later described myself as being a "heathen catholic" since my mother's beliefs were riddled with a sweeter, gentler view of God and Christianity which she laced through my upbringing!

When I lived in Laramie, Wyoming I became friends with a nun and attended the Newman Center on Campus. She told me that the Baltimore Catechism had been a poor teaching tool and had alienated a lot of youth in the catholic church.

My mom was right!

ol and had alienated a lot of youth in the catholic church.

My mom was right!