Welcome to the Office of Catechetical Formation! We are happy you have chosen to be a part of St. Bernard s parish faith formation program.

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1 Catechetical Formation Parent Handbook ST. BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX 500 Route 22, Bridgewater, NJ Ext. 810/811/825 Fax: Welcome to the Office of Catechetical Formation! We are happy you have chosen to be a part of St. Bernard s parish faith formation program. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this of the role of parents in catechesis: Education in the faith by the parents should begin in the child s earliest years. This already happens when family members help one another to grow in faith by the witness of a Christian life in keeping with the Gospel. Family catechesis precedes, accompanies, and enriches other forms of instruction in the faith. Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God. (CCC 2226) It is the mission of St. Bernard Catechetical Formation Program to assist your family to grow in faith, lead your children to Christ and to the ultimate goal of union with God in heaven. After reading this Handbook, please sign the Parent Contract section of the Registration Form. Thank you for entrusting your child(ren) to us. It is a privilege to share with you in the spiritual formation of your children. Msgr. Randall J. Vashon Pastor Karen Dill Parish Catechetical Leader (PCL)

2 CATECHETICAL FORMATION POLICY The policy of the Faith Formation Program of St. Bernard Parish is determined by the Diocesan Office of Catechesis of Metuchen, the Pastor, and the Parish Catechetical Leader (PCL). The established policy is communicated through this Parent Handbook. SPIRITUAL FORMATION We are partners in the faith formation of your children and will assist in emphasizing the importance of: Regular attendance at Mass on Sundays and Holy Days The Person of Jesus Christ is at the heart of catechesis. We meet Christ most intimately when we come to receive Him in the Eucharist where He is Truly Present: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. For this reason, families are expected to participate at weekly Sunday Mass as well as on Holy Days of Obligation. Parents are also responsible for bringing their children to the Sacrament of Penance regularly. Participation in faith formation classes Helping to develop a relationship with Jesus through prayer Parents are the principal and first educators of their children (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1653). The witness of Christian life given by parents in the family comes to children with tenderness and parental respect. Children thus perceive and joyously live the closeness of God and of Jesus made manifest by their parents in such a way that this first Christian experience frequently leaves decisive traces which last throughout life (General Directory for Catechesis #226). By enrolling your children in our Catechetical Formation Program, you are asking us to assist you in that process by providing a foundation in 2

3 Church teachings and morals. the Christian Community must help (parents) assume their responsibility of educating their children in faith (GDC #227). You are encouraged to communicate with your child s catechist throughout the school year so that a collaborative effort may be made, each supporting the other in providing a foundation in Roman Catholic doctrine and morals. Together, you are to fulfill the mandate Christ gave His followers to Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28: 19-20) TEXTBOOKS USED Grades 1, 3 6 Grade 2 Grades 1 8 Grade 7 Grade 8 Our Sunday Visitor: Alive In Christ Loyola Press: God s Gift Reconciliation and God s Gift Eucharist RCL Benziger: Family Life Theology of the Body, Decision Points, Confirmation teaching modules Ascension Press: Chosen; Confirmation modules Please become familiar with your child s textbook and make every effort to participate in the program as much as possible. ATTENDANCE /ABSENCES St. Bernard follows the Diocese of Metuchen policy permitting three absences per year (one absence for monthly Family Faith Session) Parents must call the Office of Catechetical Formation (OCF Office) at (908) ext. 811 or contact their child s catechist if their child/children will be absent. In order to avoid the need for repetition of a specific grade level, parents should work at home with their child to complete each lesson missed. It is the parent s responsibility to 3

4 contact the catechist to find out what lessons the child has missed and to complete these lessons at home. Please review the lesson with your child and have the child complete the Chapter Test at the end of the missed chapter, and turn it in to your child s catechist at the next class. POLICY FOR SUSPECTED CHILD ABUSE If a catechist/pcl suspects that a child has been abused, New Jersey law requires that the State Division of Youth and Family Services be notified. The Office of Child and Youth Protection of the Diocese of Metuchen will also be notified of the suspected abuse. Any information which leads a catechist to believe that a student intends to harm himself/herself requires the catechist to notify an authority. If a student asks to speak confidentially to a catechist, the catechist should advise the student that information will be shared if the student is in danger of suicide, self-inflicted harm, etc. Volunteer catechists are legally responsible. CHRISTIAN CODE OF BEHAVIOR Jesus asks us to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. As we try to live as disciples of Jesus, we strive to show respect and courtesy to each other at all times. The encouragement of parents/guardians is expected in helping their child(ren) live God s law of love. A positive attitude on the part of parents/guardians will reflect on their child. The OCF Office provides a schedule of classes and an atmosphere conducive to learning. Students are expected to arrive on time, to bring their books, to prepare assignments, and to give the Catechist the attention necessary for learning. 4

5 Inappropriate behavior, lack of effort, or a poor attitude on the part of a child will result in: the catechist talking privately with the child a conference between the PCL, and the child parent notification by PCL a conference with the parent, child and PCL. If the difficulty persists, the child will be withdrawn from the program until alternative solutions are reached. If the child continues in the program, a method of on-going evaluation will be put into effect. ANTI-BULLYING POLICY We follow the guidelines of the Diocese of Metuchen in compliance with the NJ Anti-Bullying Policy. CELL PHONES AND ELECTRONIC DEVICES Children are not permitted to use cell phones and other electronic devices during faith formation classes. Cell phones may be brought to class with the understanding that these are to be used with the teacher s permission only when necessary. DRESS CODE Modesty is a sign of respect for the dignity both of oneself and others. During faith formation classes, students must dress modestly. No spaghetti straps, halters, or short shorts are allowed. Tops should cover the waistline. Children should not wear t-shirts or pants that display inappropriate sayings. 5

6 CRISIS MANAGEMENT PLANS AND DRILLS For the safety of our children and families, we have in place policies for lockdown and fire drills (2 per year). CUSTODY In cases where the custody of children has been restricted by the courts, a copy of the court document (referring to custody issues only), must be kept on file in the OCF Office in order to carry out the provisions stated in the document. If the court document is amended or changed, it is the parent s/guardian s responsibility to give an updated copy to Karen Dill. FAMILY LIFE CURRICULUM Our catechetical ministry includes a Family Life program component in conjunction with the guidelines set by the Diocese of Metuchen, as mandated by the Bishop. Parents may opt-out of this safe environment training, but must complete and return the Parent Refusal of Safe Environment Training Form. Please request a copy of the form from the OCF office. FEES No child(ren) shall be denied Faith Formation due to financial constraints. Therefore, if there is a financial hardship, parents/guardians should contact Karen Dill. One Child in the program: $ Two Children in the program: $ Three or more children in the program: $ Confirmation Fee (8 th Grade): $75.00 Communion Fee (2 nd Grade): $

7 In an effort to assist families in covering their tuition costs and assuring the continued vitality of our program, a special Scrip initiative has been developed. All Parish families participating in the Scrip Program are eligible to receive credit against their tuition charges based upon the following schedule: Scrip Rebate Achieved Tuition Credit $300 (for 1 child) $165 $370 (for 2 children) $200 $450 (for 3 or more children) $240 For more information on the Scrip Initiative, please contact the OCF Office or visit The fee for religious education is waived (except for the sacrament fees) for all of our catechists and aides. FOOD ALLERGIES Food allergies are a growing health concern for children across the country. Even a miniscule amount of the allergenic food is sufficient to cause a life-threatening reaction, and inadvertent contact (via nose, eyes, mouth) can be sufficient to put a child in danger. It is the goal of St. Bernard s Parish to reduce the risks posed by food allergies, especially those posed by peanuts and tree nuts, so that children may enjoy a safe and respectful place to grow in their faith. Because there are so many allergies that endanger children today, it is the policy of the OCF office that all food and drink be prohibited during faith formation classes. This includes foods that are considered to be safe. It is the responsibility of the parents/guardians to inform the PCL in writing (on the registration form) of their child(ren) s allergies. Please 7

8 be sure to inform us if your child has been prescribed an EpiPen and carries it during his/her time of faith formation classes. HEALTH When children have health issues that require medication and/or medical treatment, parents must inform the PCL in writing and sign the releases and waiver of liability and agreement to hold harmless. Please contact the OCF office to obtain a release form. ILLEGAL SUBSTANCES AND WEAPONS Drugs, alcohol, tobacco and weapons of any kind are not allowed on parish premises or in buildings being used during catechetical formation classes. If a student is found to be in possession of any of the above items, police and parents will be notified and the student will be immediately expelled from the program. Ongoing faith formation for the student will proceed once the pastor, PCL and parents have come to an agreement as to the most appropriate course of action to be followed. PARISH REGISTRATION Faith formation takes place primarily in the family, as well as within the larger parish community. All families/households with children in the program are required to register their households in the parish census prior to registering for Faith Formation classes, and are encouraged to become active parish members. Registration may begin by calling the St. Bernard Parish Office at (908) , ext Once registration has been initiated, children may be enrolled in the faith formation program. 8

9 OPERATING INFORMATION Office of Catechetical Formation Staff Karen Dill X825 Alexandria Kornas X810 Mary Sullivan X811 9

10 Catechetical Formation Classes Sunday 9:00 10:15 a.m. (Grades 1 st - 8 th ) Sunday PACT 10:30 11:45am (Grades 1 st 8 th once a month) Monday 4:30 5:45 p.m. (Grades 1 st 8 th ) Tuesday 4:30 5:45 p.m. (Grades 1 st - 8 th ) Wednesday 4:30 5:45 p.m. (Grades 1 st - 8 th ) Office Hours September to June: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday 9 am 12:30 pm, 1:30 6:00 pm 9 am 12:30 pm, 1:30 6:00 pm 9 am 12:30 pm, 1:30 6:00 pm 9 am 12:00 pm 9 am 12:00pm Summer: Monday Wednesday 9:00am 12:30 pm, 1:30 pm 4:00 pm Thursday and Friday 9:00 am 12:00 pm Inclement Weather In the case of inclement weather, if Bridgewater-Raritan and/or Branchburg schools are CLOSED or are DISMISSED EARLY, Faith Formation classes will be CANCELLED for that day. You may call the office or check our website for cancellation information. Arrival And Dismissal For the safety of the children in grades 1-8, we ask your full cooperation in the following method of drop-off and pick-up. Please park your vehicle and escort your children into the buildings. Dropping 10

11 off students at the Church or School building is not permitted. Kindly respect the class start and end times for drop-off and pick-up. Arrival 1. Cars are to be parked in designated parking lot spaces. No cars are to line up or park in front of the school or church entrances. 2. Children must be escorted into the building by an adult. 3. Sunday Classes Parents are to escort child to their assigned classroom. If a teacher has not arrived, parents must wait with their child until he/she arrives. Students should never be left in a classroom without an adult. 4. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon Classes Please escort your child to the cafeteria to sit at their assigned grade table. Lateness Lateness interferes greatly with progress and is disruptive to catechists and others. It is important to arrive on time for each class. If your child is late for class, please report to the OCF Office for a Late Pass before escorting your child to class. The pass is to be given to the child s catechist when he/she is dropped off at the classroom. Dismissal 1. Cars are to be parked in designated parking lot spaces. No cars are to line up or park in front of the school or church entrances. 2. All Classes - Parents are to meet children at the classroom and walk with them back to the car. 3. Children, in all grades, must be accompanied by a parent at all times upon arrival and dismissal. FOR ALL GRADES

12 Early Pick-up: If, for a serious reason, your child must leave class early, prior notification to the OCF office is required. An Early Dismissal Pass will be issued. This pass is to be given to the child s catechist at the time of pick-up. For the safety of the children, please drive slowly! The PCL/Catechist will not send a student home with a driver who is visibly impaired, and reserves the right to call the emergency number provided on the Child Release Form. Calendar Copies of the calendar are available in the office or at the OCF parent bulletin board. PROGRESS REPORTS Progress Reports will be issued in January. Parents should sign the Progress Report and return it to the catechist. RECORDS A copy of your child(ren) s baptismal certificate must be presented at the initial registration unless your child was baptized at St. Bernard. When transferring from another parish, a record of faith formation classes from the previous parish is required. SACRAMENTAL POLICIES The Sacraments of First Penance, First Holy Communion and Confirmation are special times in the life of the family and Church at St. Bernard s. The Diocese of Metuchen requires participation in a two-year Sacramental Preparation Program prior to the reception of 12

13 First Penance and Eucharist (Grades 1-2) and Confirmation (Grades 7-8). Sacramental preparation should be continuous (grades 3-6), beginning with First Communion preparation through Confirmation and beyond. First Communion is received in May of second grade and Confirmation is received in the Spring of eighth grade. Specific parent meetings are held during the Sacramental Preparation years. The meetings are mandatory as follows: Grade 2 Fall (Parents only) Winter (Parents & Students) Grade 6 Winter/Spring (Parents & Students) Grade 7 Fall/Winter (Parents & Students) Grade 8 Fall (Parents only) Stewardship service hours are required for Confirmation. Information regarding the stewardship hours will be discussed at the Parent and Student sixth grade meeting. CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS Please let us know if your child has special needs. This important information helps the catechist to meet your child s specific needs and will not categorize your child in any way. Please be sure to carefully complete the applicable section of the registration form. We also have several classes devoted to children with special needs. The information will be kept confidential. Children will be prepared for sacraments and continue their faith formation classes. 13

14 VOLUNTEERS We are most grateful for the dedication of the volunteers who share their time, talent and treasure to help form the young people of St. Bernard in their faith. Please consider sharing your faith with the children and families of the parish by volunteering as a catechist, aide, office help, hall monitor, babysitter or substitute. If you would like to volunteer your time to assist in our program, please see the parent participation form on the website under the Religious Education link or call the OCF office at (908) , ext Catechists/Aides are provided the opportunity to attend workshops at the parish as well as in surrounding parishes throughout the year. They are also encouraged to attend Diocesan certification programs such as the Catechist Formation Program offered at St. Bernard and at the Diocese. SERVICE PROJECTS In order to instill in our youth the spirit of serving those less fortunate, we will be asking the children to sacrifice some of their money during Advent to support the Missionary Childhood Association (MCA), which funds Catholic Missionaries who work with children throughout the world, and to support Guatemala education scholarships. During Lent, support to MCA will also take place. You ARE NOT OBLIGATED to participate. DOOR CODE! IMPORTANT NOTE: To visit the Catechetical Formation Office, the entrance is located at the rear of the school building. During regular classes, a code is required to enter both the Church and School buildings. If you wish to drop off papers and our office is not open, kindly use the black mailbox outside the door marked Religious Education Office (door #2, located at the rear of the school building). 14

15 A Parent's Prayer Loving God, You are the giver of all we possess, the source of all of our blessings. We thank and praise you. Thank you for the gift of our children. Help us to set boundaries for them, and yet encourage them to explore. Give us the strength and courage to treat each day as a fresh start. May our children come to know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. May your Holy Spirit help them to grow in faith, hope, and love, so they may know peace, truth, and goodness. May their ears hear your voice. May their eyes see your presence in all things. May their lips proclaim your word. May their hearts be your dwelling place. May their hands do works of charity. May their feet walk in the way of Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord. Amen. (Loyola Press) 15

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