Sunday School or Good News Classes as they are called in St. Andrew’s Church marked the end of a busy week for many children of the parish. Kids would come to church excited about meeting their friends and learning about the Bible, all the while forming a close bond with their Sunday School teacher. Of late, however the numbers of children attending have been dwindling.

The Andrean Notes (AN) sat down with Tr. Tulip Davidson (TD) to get her perspective on the issue and having taught Sunday School for over 18 years, she has a significant amount of experience.

AN: Why did you start teaching at Sunday School?

TD: Well, I started teaching communion classes at St. Francis Xavier Church in Vile Parle when I was 16 years old. I loved interacting with little children and felt a passion for it; however, once I got married I moved and stopped teaching for a long time. My daughter Lydia then started teaching at St. Andrew’s parish and encouraged me to come with her. She was also doing the Catechetical Training Centre (CTC) course and pushed me to do it with her; I was excited to learn more so I did it. It was a tough course and I earned a B+.

AN: Can you tell us what a CTC course is and how does it help in teaching Sunday School?

TD: Like a regular school, Sunday School also has a syllabus and classes for the year are planned based on the liturgical calendar. The CTC course is a step-by-step method of how to teach children scripture. It teaches you how to break down a lesson in order to teach children. I remember my mentor Sr. Mabel Menezes once made me re-do a lesson thrice till I was able to explain it through my own experience. It was enlightening and at the end of the course, we got a certificate and rosary.

AN: How do you prepare your classes? Are there any particular processes that you follow?

TD: Yes, so I prepare my class a week in advance. We have a handbook that splits the lesson into four steps, but I avoid referring to the handbook constantly, so what I do is write down points for the lesson and keep rehearsing them through the week. Though this is tedious, I find that it’s the best way of teaching. During class, I get the children to close their eyes, after which I read the lesson, then explain it and ask them questions about it. I open the class to discussion. I find that allowing them to talk to their friends makes them less distracted and they enjoy the lesson more.

I also have regular quizzes and the kids absolutely love them, often asking me who got the highest marks. I also try to celebrate each student’s birthday in class and they appreciate the thoughtfulness.

I currently teach a batch of around 19 students from the 7th-8th standard, but I have taught 5th-6th and 9th standard children too.

I make it a point before each lesson to say a prayer to the Holy Spirit to help me do it well and to help the kids to understand.

AN: Over the recent years, has there been a decline in students attending? If so, why do you think that is happening?

TD: Yes, there has definitely been a decline in the number of students coming for Sunday School. I remember a time when we had 300 students… today, we are at less than half of that. I believe that many children are distracted by TV, WhatsApp and the internet, they would rather be doing other things than attending Sunday School. Parents also tend to schedule their child’s weekend with tuitions and extra-curricular classes so they have no time for Sunday School. Also with both parents working, many of them say that getting up early on a Sunday gives them no rest. There are a multiple issues, but it would be ideal for parents to meet Sunday School teachers and share their inputs on how to make it better.

AN: Apart from regular lessons, what activities does Sunday School have to entice the children?

TD: Besides lessons, we have the children prepare the mass class-by-class. Many of them enjoy reading in church and I make it a point to have them come on Saturday to practice because I believe that the child must understand and appreciate what they are reading, rather than mumble something mechanically. Also, it is good training where their pronunciation is concerned and they get a feel for public speaking. We also have the novena during September that is catered for the children. Apart from that, we have Faith Celebration Sunday where the children of different parishes come together and showcase their talents through skits, singing, PowerPoint presentations and taking part in various aspects of the mass. We’ve also had prize distribution ceremonies and Christmas parties for the students and I’ve found they really enjoy these events.

AN: What is your message to parents of school-going children?

TD: Just like one needs food to nourish the body, one needs knowledge to nourish the soul and your children will not get this knowledge about their faith elsewhere. Once children start going to college or working their priorities are on other things and they forget their faith. The time for them to learn about God is now. With more children no longer attending Catholic schools, faith training is of utmost importance and I find that many of my students who attend secular schools are more attentive in my class and are eager to learn. I would urge parents to send their kids to Sunday School. If you have any issue, about sending your child to Sunday School I would request you to speak to a teacher or a priest and together we can come to a solution.

I realise that parents are busy and may not have time to say the rosary together, but I would advocate that you try and end your day with a short family prayer. I believe that the blessings of parents are important for the child.

Wynrica Rodrigues-Gonsalves