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Virginia seventh graders go on scavenger hunt armed with Catholic newspaper

ARLINGTON, Virginia — A religious education teacher at St. Agnes Church in Arlington sent her seventh graders on a scavenger hunt as part of their preparation for confirmation.

Armed with five-page questionnaires, the students spent about 30 minutes searching for answers in the most recent issue of the Arlington Catholic Herald, the diocesan newspaper.

“I am working with a group of young people who are beginning a two-year journey toward confirmation,” said Tamara de Dios. “I want them to not only know their faith, but to love it, too. My job is to provide a short lesson each week that brings home whatever we are learning that week.”

At the top of the scavenger hunt form, de Dios wrote: “Reading the paper can help you learn about your faith, and maybe some other important things about your diocese and local community as well.”

Working in pairs and with substitute teacher Bernadette Michael, the students pored over the Oct. 7-21 issue. Questions ranged from the basic — what is the name of the diocese and how many parishes are there — to the fairly detailed — how many years has Catholicism been in the Philippines, based on a story on page 6 about the Philippines marking 500 years since the arrival of the faith.

De Dios, a CCD teacher for 16 years, the past five at St. Agnes, provided page numbers as clues and acknowledged that the students “were more interested in completing the scavenger hunt than reading the articles.”

That’s why she included a blurb about what the articles were about along with facts to look for and why they were important. She said it took her a couple hours to pull the hunt together, mostly to simplify the formatting and ensure the answers were near the top of the articles.

The hunt was organized by the issue’s page numbers and themes. In the “Saint of the Day” section, she wrote, “Part of confirmation preparation is choosing your saint. You can learn about them here (page 8).” Three specifics were asked based on the saint, Marguerite D’Youville. To answer most of the scavenger hunt questions, the students had to read a bit.

The Arlington Catholic Herald “does such a nice job covering global and local topics,” she said in an interview. “My goal was for the kids to learn that their faith is not just something that is in a box to be opened only for Sunday Mass or Christmas. It’s every day and everywhere.”

There’s a shoutout to their former parish priest: Father Rich Miserendino, who wrote a Gospel commentary. “What is the man’s question in the Gospel?” The answer, written on the corresponding blank space of the hunt form: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Advertising got a plug when she told them to look on pages 30-31, saying, “Many companies post help wanted ads and ads for their services. Which two companies use a hammer in their ads?” The answer: Williams Handyman Services and Kramer & Sons.

Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge “is busy celebrating Mass for many special reasons,” another clue said. “How many confirmation Masses will (he) celebrate in October?” The answer, if you are playing along: three.

De Dios recommends having lessons ready if teachers find extra time in class or have to bring in a substitute at the last minute. She does craft-based projects for younger kids and has brought in articles from the Arlington Catholic Herald for older students.

“It’s a good one to have in your hip pocket,” she said.

The Catholic newspaper provided official briefcases with branded goodies for the winners.

The newspaper’s staff took a stab at the hunt, too. Good thing they still had the issue around — they had to hunt a bit for a few answers.

Augherton is managing editor of the Arlington Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Arlington.

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