Mercyhurst Students get the experience

Three Mercyhurst students— John Herrmann, Michelle Ahrens and Kaleigh Ruggiero— will be teaching confirmation classes at St. Luke’s Roman Catholic Church in Erie starting Sept. 28. Each student has a background in religious studies, giving them the opportunity to apply their skills.

Mercyhurst prides itself on giving students hands-on learning experiences. Teaching the confirmation classes provides these Mercyhurst students with the experience that will prepare them for future jobs. Herrmann explains that this opportunity will help him gain the skills he needs to become a campus minister—his goal after graduation.

“I want to work to be a campus minister at either a high school or college level,” said Herrmann. “This helps me as a preparation and also looks good on a résumé when applying to grad school.”

These Mercyhurst students will be using a new curriculum which is geared more toward teens. Some of the topics are difficult to understand, even as an adult, according to Shannon Scully, director of the program.

“We tried to put in more activities to make it more interactive and not boring,” Ahrens said. “We try to present it in a way where they get the information, but aren’t sitting through a lecture on Sunday morning.”

They also plan to split the expected 40 students into smaller groups to make discussions more focused. Each teacher will rotate through the groups, letting them work with all the students.

Another important factor in teaching these classes is what the instructors will bring to the classroom. Michelle Ahrens is a double major in Religious Studies and Social Work, along with a minor in Catholic Studies. “With the Catholic Studies, I’ve learned about the stuff we’re going to be teaching,” said Ahrens. “And then with Social Work, you learn a lot of people skills, like how to interact. So that helps, too.”

Herrmann’s background includes a Catholic Studies minor as well. He has taken courses that explore Catholic tradition and the historical Jesus. This will allow him to bring in supplemental facts to keep the students thinking about the topic, he said.

“That’s what always gets my attention in class,” said Herrmann. “My professor uses that little side fact that throws off what you normally think about it. So having that knowledge I think will help me do that kind of stuff for the students that I’ll be teaching.”

Confirmation is required by the Erie diocese, but it is also an important rite of passage in the Catholic Church. High school juniors take these classes in preparation “to receive the Holy Spirit,” according to Scully. After the students are confirmed, they will be considered adults in the Church. This is also the end of their formal religious education, she continued to say.

The confirmation classes will provide a learning experience for both teachers and students. Not only will these classes allow them to review key aspects of their faith, but it will also provide the instructors teaching experience that they will utilize in their future careers.