The Leaven through the eyes of our youngest readers
by Joe Bollig
To help the journalists here at The Leaven celebrate Catholic Press Month — and to find out how they can better serve the young church — senior reporter Joe Bollig decided to go to the experts. With the help of their principals and teachers, he consulted a group of kindergartners from Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa and first-graders from Good Shepherd Parish in Shawnee on topics large and small.
He asked them a lot of questions — and got a lot of interesting answers. We hope you’ll enjoy them as much as we did.
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that these young students prefer the masters — like Dr. Seuss — over the journalists here at the official newspaper of the archdiocese.
What do they like read about? Ninjas, said Carson Conner; Star Wars, said Thomas Sojka; and horses, said Lilli Tyler.
“I like to read books about mammals, because you get to see all different types of mammals,” said Lilli Tyler.
Regrettably, The Leaven’s coverage of ninjas and horses has been a bit skimpy of late. Mammal coverage is much better.
The Leaven does have a readership in their families, however — usually their parents and grandparents. And what do they say about it?
“That [The Leaven] has really great stories about people, and you can learn about those people,” said Kristen Strathman.
But always do better
Julie Johnson suggested that The Leaven write “holy stories,” and Carson Conner suggested more stories about Jesus. Mason Walters suggested a follow-up story on Noah’s ark. One child said a story about their dog Lizzy was warranted.
But it was another student whose name Joe didn’t catch, that put it best.
“Write amazing stories,” was all he said.
Several students said The Leaven stories should include reminders to read the Bible and go to Mass on time.
After reviewing a couple of recent issues featuring the Haiti earthquake and Cardinal Christoph Schönborn’s visit, however, they had only one question.
Could you fight with the snowballs at the Catholic Charities gala?
Saints preserve us
The official patron of the Catholic press is St. Francis de Sales.
But the students offered substitutes that included Saint Christopher, St. James, St. Elizabeth, and the heretofore-unknown St. Jack.
“I don’t know,” said Chase Ellis, when he was asked for suggestions. “St. Anthony? Because he finds things?”
Saint Anthony as the patron of investigative reporting? It just might fit.
Thomas Sojka suggested St. Thomas Aquinas, “because he writes and you write.” And Julie Johnson offered St. Patrick, “because if it’s really hard, he knows how to do tough stuff.”
Catholics all over
The students observed that the Catholic Church is really, really big. “It’s bigger than my house,” said Danielle Booth.
“It’s bigger than two houses,” said Mary Kate Ellzey.
But it was Chase Ellis who really captured the magnitude of the Roman Catholic Church best.
“It’s bigger than a long-necked dinosaur,” he announced definitively.
Things got a little iffy when the discussion moved in another direction, however.
The students weren’t sure, for example, whether there were any Catholics in Canada, but they were pretty sure there were at least some in places like Mexico, France and Argentina.
And there is at least one Catholic at the North Pole, they decided.
“I think Santa Claus could be Catholic,” said Lilli Tyler.
Carson Conner agreed.
“Because he goes into this cave made of ice and talks with God,” he said.
But the students were quite certain of one thing: Wherever they lived, Catholics were Catholics the world over.
Catholics in other countries pray just like we do, for example, said the students. They pray for the poor, and to be good, and for sick members of their family. And, in so many words, they thank God for the Incarnation and the Resurrection.
“Like, ‘Thank you for giving God,’” said Mason Walters. “When it’s Easter, [Jesus] comes up from the place. When it’s Easter, he rose again and came down from heaven.”
Because prayer is so important to Catholics, the two groups of students ended the focus group sessions with prayer.
Not surprisingly, both groups have the Sign of the Cross down pat. But while the first-graders opted to end with the Our Father, the kindergartners deployed their full prayer arsenal right then and there: The Appleseed Grace, the traditional grace before meals, the bedtime Guardian Angel Prayer, and a rousing version of “Alleluia.”
The next editorial meeting at The Leaven might be interesting as the staff considers the “Catholic angle” on ninjas, horses and possibly galactic invaders.
More likely, however, our writers and editors will be searching our parishes, schools, ministries, services and religious orders for stories of how Catholics are helping to build the kingdom of God right here in the archdiocese.
That will yield, we hope, exactly what we need to carry out the vital mission the young church tasked us with:
“Write amazing stories.”