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Teaching Religion to the Youngest Among Us

Congrégation de Notre-Dame

Sr. Joan Brennan, CND, needs to apply all her 60+ years of experience as an educator when teaching religion to three and four-year olds. Yes, that’s three and four-year old preschoolers at Notre Dame Academy in Staten Island, NY. She begins her classes with a song many of us learned in school: Rise and Shine and Give God Your Glory Glory. She tells them the creation story. She employs artwork as well as songs to get her youngest pupils to think about where and how do we see God? How do we find God in our life every day?

A CND since 1957, Sr. Joan served as a teacher and administrator in Catholic schools and parishes in Illinois and Connecticut. She retired as pastoral associate at St. Mary Parish in Ridgefield, CT four years ago. She now volunteers to teach religion at Notre Dame Academy from preschool to eighth grade.  

She asks her older students, “Are we living today the way Jesus would? So much of what’s happening today was happening in Jesus’s time — the lack of respect and caring for each other. And look what happened to Jesus! We have to be willing to stand up for what we believe.” How do we do that? “We can rally in solidarity with people suffering in floods, war, famine, etc. We need to ask, what can I do?” She always encourages her pupils to see how God is working in their life. She reminds them to use the acronym “FROG” – Fully Rely On God.

The non-Catholics will ask her about the faith and wonder about it. She says a challenge is not to offend anyone. “There is one God and God loves every one. Follow your God – that’s what’s important.” 


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