Religious education catechist sees fruits of her labor

by Marilee Baumgartner

Stories

(Samantha Sophia | Unsplash)

Life is one big story made up of countless little stories. Being an elementary school teacher and catechist resulted in many rewarding experiences.

One of my favorite experiences involved a little boy, Tim, (name changed to protect identity) who attended my religious education class. On the first evening of class, Tim and his father showed up early. He hid behind his father, reluctant to enter the room. His father coaxed him in and together we found a desk for him. He slumped in his seat and covered his eyes, wiping the tears rolling down his cheeks with his sleeve.

I knelt to his eye level and explained to him that we were going to do new and exciting things learning about Jesus. Slowly he made friends and participated in class. He was a bright child and a joy to have in class. At Christmas, he brought me a gift that he made and wrapped himself. Our year continued without any more tears.

The next year his father again brought him to religion classes. Tim entered the room and asked where his teacher was. The teacher, for second grade, explained that she was his teacher and that the teacher he had the year before was not teaching his grade. He started to cry and would not quit. Finally, he was taken to the Religious Education coordinator so she could hopefully explain and console him. She was successful, and he began his new year with a new teacher.

Serving as a catechist was rewarding and there was incredible joy in seeing the difference in the children as the year progressed. While Tim was no longer in my class, I occasionally saw his smiling face in the hallways and watched him grow.

He continued to bring me a Christmas present every year. His gift always lifted my spirits and made my holidays more special.

I was a catechist for two more years. It was a difficult decision to stop teaching religion class. I really enjoyed my time with the young children. Around Christmas, the first year after I quit, there was a knock on my door. I opened the door and to my surprise, there stood Tim with my gift in his hands. He stood by the door unwilling to come in. I knelt, took the gift, thanked him and waved to his father waiting in the car. Every year since then he has remembered me with a gift at Christmas time. His father would drive him to our house so he could deliver my gift. Now he drives himself. I used to kneel to talk to him, and now I look up at him. He’s grown to be more than six feet tall!

He continues to remember me at Christmas. What is more important is he now comes in the house and stays for a visit. A sophomore at NDSU studying in the Computer Science Program, he has grown into an amazing, caring, motivated, responsible young man. I am thankful that through my volunteering as a catechist, saying “yes” when asked to teach, I have been blessed with a unique friendship.

Marilee Baumgartner taught elementary grades during her entire teaching profession. When she retired, she moved to Fargo and volunteered as a catechist for Sts. Anne and Joachim Church.

Editor’s note: Stories of Faith is a recurring feature in New Earth. If you have a faith story to tell, contact Father Bert Miller at bert.miller@fargodiocese.org.