Joe Bradley is in his second year of teaching kindergarten religious education at St. Thomas More Newman Center. He originally submitted this story story to one of our local media partners, The Columbia Missourian.
How are you teaching kids about the new pope? Leave a comment, or email submissions@ColumbiaMissourian.com.
Wednesday night, I was faced with the challenge of how to break some of the most exciting news in the Catholic Church to a group of kindergarteners that probably didn’t share my level of enthusiasm — at least, not yet. Enter one of my favorite blogs out there, catholicicing.com. Their slogan is “The Icing on your Catholic Cake,” so of course, they have a million fun ideas for teaching religion. It didn’t disappoint, as I quickly found a template to make a pope puppet.
When the kids arrived at St. Thomas More Newman Center for Religious Education class, I first asked them if they had heard about any big news happening today. They hadn’t. I asked them if any of them had heard the word “pope” before. If they had, they didn’t remember it. So, I eased into dropping some knowledge on them by having a discussion about who the president is and what he does. That they understood. Then, we were able to talk about how a pope is kind of like a president, but instead of being in charge of a country, he is in charge of all the Catholic churches. Finally, I delivered the good news — we have a new pope!
My only goals were to help the kids understand what a pope is, that we have a new pope, what the new pope’s name is and why he picked that name. The brown paper bag puppets helped us accomplish that. I showed them a picture of Pope Francis, and the kids all promptly added glasses around his googly eyes. We then wrote Pope Francis’ name and the date on the puppets so the kids would always remember this day.
We finished up class by playing one of their favorites (and mine), Saints Bingo. Luckily, St. Francis of Assisi is one of the saints on our bingo cards that we have been learning about this year, so the kids recognized the name. We talked about how much he loved animals and working with the poor. Give the kids a few jellybeans to use as bingo markers and they’ll let you teach them anything.
After class one of the kindergartener’s older brothers saw her Pope Francis puppet and asked if she even knew what a pope was. “The pope is in charge of all the Catholic churches in the world,” she replied promptly. Bingo.