Rugby’s Early Out program provides a unique opportunity for Catholic students and families

by Paul Braun | New Earth

Deacon Ken Votava, St. James Basilica, talks to kids in the Little Flower Catholic Youth Organization during the April Early Out day in Rugby. (Paul Braun | New Earth)

Four Wednesdays a year, the public school system in Rugby releases students at 1 p.m. so teachers can take part in professional development. Kids hang around for a while waiting for afternoon sports practices or other activities, or they head downtown or go home, but then attend Wednesday evening religious activities at their local churches.

Two years ago, those in charge of religious education at Rugby’s Little Flower Church saw an opportunity. Religious Ed and meetings of the Catholic Youth Organizations are held on Wednesdays, so why not invite 7th through 12th graders to come to the church social hall in the early afternoon for a program designed to build their faith, and allow them to be home on those Wednesday nights.

“We are a very rural community and many kids live out of town, so they would just be waiting around,” says Rebecca Leier, Director of Religious Education and the Coordinator for the Catholic Youth Organization at Little Flower Parish. “So from 1 p.m. until practices start at 3:30 p.m. we have them, then they go to practice after and then head home.

Leier says they use the opportunity to bring in different guest speakers to talk to the kids about many aspects of their faith, then they take a bus back to school for practices and other activities. After those school activities, they get to go home and have more family time, which Leier says the parents appreciate.

The theme for this year’s Early-Out Wednesday programs are based on concentrating on authentic friendships. Presentations are based on ways kids can be more interactive with each other and build strong, truer friendships.

“There’s been a number of school shootings lately, and that’s one way we’ve addressed that is by engaging kids in this campaign,” said Leier. “We talked about their choices to support each other in a loving way after a tragedy like that.”

For the students, it makes sense to use the early-out time instead of staying in town through the evening.

“The Early-Out program is a great way for students to gather for CCD classes on Wednesdays,” says Alissa Volk, a Rugby High School senior and president of the Catholic Youth Organization at Little Flower. “It is beneficial because it gives students an earlier time to meet for class without going to class late on Wednesday night. For students in sports and extracurricular activities, the Early-Out Wednesday classes are a great way to go to class without conflicting with practice times. Class is over by the time practice starts and a bus is available to take students back to the school after class is finished.”