St. Joe’s Religious Ed Program (REP) Theme for 2014-2015

REP Theme 2014-2015: Recipe for Joy

Each year, REP has a theme, something to keep as a guideline in our prayers as a community. My first year it was, “Cultivating Christ” using plants, soil, water, son, etc as metaphors for the Gospel message of God’s love for us, our prayer life, going to church, etc. We had sprouts and watering cans on our nametags and each child’s name was written on a little sprout in a row of brown construction paper soil for our Door Tags.

The following year, our theme was, “Shine Christ’s Light.” We discussed light and how important it is in our lives-that we need light for so many things! Our opening night prayer, we had the church dark/dim until a certain time where we talked about how light helps us see clearly, feel safer, etc. Then we turned a lamp on and took off the lampshade. We told everyone that we are called to be like lamps without lampshades-shedding the light of God’s truth and love to a sometimes dark world. Then we passed out little finger flashlights at the end of the prayer service as reminders.

We had light bulb shapes for adult’s name tags and a huge light bulb shape with little lightning bolts with the student’s names written on them for the door tags.

This year our theme is: The Recipe for Joy! We will talk about how each of us, young and old, have a desire for joy and happiness. Many of us search for happiness in food, or video games, or popularity, or clothing, etc. But God gave us a recipe for joy in the Bible. He gave us the Beatitudes and have taught us to pray. We will discuss the “ingredients” for a joyful life (going to Mass, praying by yourself and with others, learning about our faith, being kind to others, etc).
Our Prayer Kits will be used every week, giving the children a hands on opportunity to grow in their relationship with Christ.

The door tags will be a large mixing bowl and each child will be an ingredient shape (egg, measuring cup, spoon, etc). The catechists and volunteers will where name tags with spatulas and whisks on them.

I will be posting pictures of what we come up with when that time comes! Keep this upcoming year in your prayers as I will keep you in mine!

God bless,

St. Joe’s 2014-2015-Some start up ideas

August. The time of year when I really start to get excited about the last minute details for the upcoming Religious Ed and youth ministry year! We have a very small program at St. Joseph’s in Des Moines, only 100 kids or so in grades 1-8, but no matter how big or small your program is, August and September are always so darn stressful and busy!

I wanted to share a few changes we are making this year besides our theme and our goal to include prayer time during every class. We wanted to make sure to include the following kits in our RE Cabinets. One of the problems I often hear  as the DRE is how to keep the attention of the really hyper kids who cant seem to stay on task and pay attention. I don’t know about you, but I can relate to those little ones! It’s hard, especially after a long day of school, and most kids are off their A.D.D meds, so paying attention for another hour IS difficult. Anyways- I know for myself, I like to keep my hands busy, so my ears and heart can focus.

Hopefully this “Busy Basket” you can have in your classroom can help accommodate those “busy” kids! Something important to keep in mind is that children actually like order, and by keeping your Busy Basket in good, nice-looking condition, they will feel more honored in using it to help them keep focused. We may hear a common complaint from the other kids who don’t need the basket asking, “How come HE gets that and I don’t, even though I have been good?” This sounds like a great opportunity to talk about the Prodigal Son and the Good Brother Syndrome. Furthermore, I usually say, “Well, SoandSo needs this to pay attention. God already gave you what you need! And I am so happy you are such a great example to SoandSo.” Or something to that effect.

Here is a list of what I have in my Busy Basket:

  • Bins or paper bags full of items to help most hyper kids focus during RE. I would have one for each classroom.
  • 2 cans of Play-Doh
  • A Laminated note card of possible things from our faith they could create with the Play-Doh:

          Jesus on the Cross


          Baby Jesus

          A set of animals from Noah’s story

          The Ark

          Item of the Mass


PRAYER KITS: Because we use St. Joseph’s school classrooms for our classrooms, instead of parish rooms, for example, we often have to leave the classroom as we found it. But many classrooms, even in Catholic schools, don’t have prayer corners, or any space that is dedicated for prayer time. Which is why we have a “Prayer Kit” in every classroom. This makes it easy to set up a prayer environment anywhere-even if you choose to go outside on a nice evening!


Here is what I have in our Prayer Kits:

Finally, First Aid Kids are a must for each classroom. You all probably already have something similar, but I found these ready made versions (Classroom/teacher First Aid Kit Pack) are perfect for classrooms! They are portable and have what you would need for minor first aid!


Journey. I love the word. I especially love when it applies to one’s life. I like it because there is a beginning and eventually an end (which provides me with a much needed sense of control or order)… but SO MUCH lies in the middle. Journey also implies that life. goes. on. Even after the hard times…

The month of October has been just that for the Halbach House. We have endured virus after virus, sleepless night after sleepless night. First, Ben got up in the middle of the night, came in to our bed after asking so politely if he could. After snuggling my sick boy, he puked all over me and our bed (and new sheets!). Like a virus, it spread to the other boys leaving a poop and puke trail behind it… Well because boys are pretty gross even when they are heathy, this virus must have felt at home because it didn’t leave. it just hopped from boy to boy for over 10 days. Which means, for 10 days, there would be at least one of our previously kissable boys, covered in puke or poop (OR BOTH!) at 3am. Every. night.

It finally left our two younger boys and spent all of it’s time with Mikey. Poor Mikey was really struggling to fight it off, so much so that he needed to be hospitalized, even overnight! But 5 popcicles, 3 chocolate milks, and 1 Octopod later, he came home and was now healthy enough to kill that nasty virus, once and for all!! And that he did 🙂

But our sorrows/frustrations did not end there. That Tuesday, only 3 days after bringing Mikey home from the hospital, I went to my first midwife appointment. I was so excited to hear that quick pitterpatter of a heartbeat and after waiting in the waiting room, reciting my medical history and stripping down/wearing my paper skirt, the moment finally came! First, the warm gel they put on your belly, then the mini microphone thing, next heartbeat right? Not today. My poor midwife tried and tried, pressing here and there, but just could not find the heartbeat for the life of her.

I am not the kind of person to freak out. So I just took deep breaths, preparing myself for what could happen next. Preparing myself for the possibility that the little butterbean growing inside me stopped growing inside me…. My awesome midwife told me that sometimes this happens but not to freak out until we know something for sure. So she rushed me in for an ultrasound. I was waiting in a new waiting room with women and their joyfully swollen bellies, suddenly jealous of each and every one, clinging to the hope that mine would grow to be that big in 6 months…

And again, stripped from the belly down, donning a paper skirt, I finally saw the proof of my worst fear. My baby had stopped growing, stopped moving, stopped…. living…

My worst fears were still hidden. The words of my loss had not been spoken yet. So I did what I was formed to do, I hoped. I hoped with all of me that the baby was just small, just sleeping. But after the too-long ultrasound was over, the ultrasound tec pointed out what blood flow looked like and that was not any blood flow in my baby. She then said with such compassion, “I am so sorry.” Just as the life was taken from my baby, breath was taken from me. I just cried. A lot. But? How? Why? I’ll never hold you! I’ll never see you! You will not get to meet your awesome brothers? Cried some more. Achy heart grew heavier…

I thanked the tec for her compassion and went home to cry in my husbands arms. We had no idea that that day would end up that way… but it did. This was October 15th, 2013, the National day of remembrance for miscarriage and infant loss.

Because we told everyone and their mom about our pregnancy, we decided to do the same about our miscarriage. We had no idea how many people would put fourth their prayers, kind words, empathetic stories, etc. To read more about my post-miscarriage, life-giving moments, read here.

After the miscarriage, Matt and I were as strong as ever… this strength was so needed to endure the next trial of October, which was strep. For all three boys! We caught it early and got them on antibiotics. Mikey’s strep was of course a super strain because it was not responding to the antibiotics, so one call from the school nurse, one pair of pukey jeans, and one stronger prescription from the doctor later, he was as good as new.

Then I got walking pneumonia!

So what have I learned throughout this month? A few things… mainly that life. goes. on,

Also that cleaning up poop and puke off the carpets and tiny bottoms count as a prayer, so I shouldn’t feel guilty when I haven’t set aside ANY time to pray or be with God during those dark times.

And that the resurrection of Jesus brings hope to me during this time.

And that I have three beautiful boys and an amazing husband who are alive and kind of healthy 🙂

And that each of us are on a journey. Today, for most of us, is not the end. There is tomorrow. This too shall pass, right?