by Moira Cullings
HOLTON — Every classic storybook character comes with a potentially fatal flaw.
That flaw can either trigger a major downfall or challenge the character to overcome the obstacle at hand.
At times, these deficiencies even help the hero or heroine accomplish something greater than what he or she could have done without them.
Angie McGuffin, a sixth-grade religious education teacher at St. Dominic Church in Holton, might not be a famous storybook character. But she has certainly shown her class how to capitalize on something that others might see as a shortcoming.
“Religious education is a lot of bookwork,” said McGuffin. “And I’m not a bookwork person.
“I’m more hands-on,” she went on to explain. “I like to go do stuff rather than just talking about it.”
Instead of brooding over the required bookwork, however, McGuffin decided she would not only embrace it, but also start an additional ministry — one she calls “Faith, Hope and Love” — to teach the faith through actions.
Every other Wednesday, her students are invited to stay after the regular class to participate in a religious activity.
“I think it’s really important to live the faith and not just read about it,” said McGuffin. “That’s how [the ministry] got started, and it’s just grown.”
Misty Harris, McGuffin’s cousin and fellow St. Dominic parishioner, has seen the resounding effects of this ministry.
“There’s so much she teaches the kids that you can’t teach in 45 minutes or an hour one day a week,” said Harris.
Father Marianand Mendem, pastor of St. Dominic, also noted how crucial this type of ministry is for young people.
“Children should be taught the theory and practice aspects of our faith,” he said. “Faith without works is dead, says St. James.”
Since starting the “Faith, Hope and Love” ministry nearly 15 years ago, McGuffin has inspired 90-100 percent of the students to consistently participate in the additional program.
The program’s success can be attributed to the entertaining, but still educational, activities McGuffin puts on. These range from making fleece tie blankets for the new moms in the parish to making candles to celebrate the Epiphany.
“I try to make the activities as much theirs as I possibly can,” said McGuffin. “Because the more it’s theirs, the more they want to be there.”
Harris, who taught first grade religious education several years ago, paired her class with McGuffin’s a few times a year, benefiting immensely from the lessons she learned from her cousin.
“She was just an inspiration to me as a teacher because she always went above and beyond,” said Harris. “She is just amazing.”
Amazing might be an understatement. McGuffin is a single mom who owns her own business, but still finds time to make sure students are getting the most out of her class.
And when the students stay late on Wednesdays, McGuffin often makes them dinner at the parish hall, spending her own money to do so.
“She works a lot on Friday nights and Saturdays in order to take the time on a Wednesday to devote to her religious education program,” said Harris.
With help from her partner in crime Janice Myers, not only does McGuffin extend the class every other week, but she also takes her students on a variety of field trips throughout the year.
Harvesters in Kansas City, Missouri, and the Crisis Pregnancy Center in Holton are a few of the places they volunteer.
The class also visits St. Benedict’s Abbey and Mount St. Scholastica in Atchison, several Kansas City churches, and even the Nelson Art Gallery in Kansas City, Missouri. The purpose of these trips is to give the kids the opportunity to explore the beauty and history of the Catholic faith.
“[The children] will know that faith is not just learning some doctrines, prayers and doing some rites and rituals, but living them in daily life,” said Father Mendem.
“It is not just knowing about Christ in their minds, but knowing him in their hearts,” he continued.
As for the sacrifices, it’s well worth it, McGuffin said.
“Honestly, it’s what I look forward to every week,” she said.