Traverse City Record-Eagle

May 11, 2013

Competition puts students' theological knowledge to test

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Which came first, the Bible or the Catholic Church? Which book of the New Testament is categorized as a book of history? What are the names of the heavenly angels?

They were among hundreds of questions put to sixth-graders at the second annual Diocese of Gaylord Catholic Schools Regional Catechism Bee.

The event was held April 18 at St. Mary Cathedral in Gaylord and drew 18 students representing the region’s Catholic schools. All were winners of local bees hosted by their schools.

After an hour and a half of quizzing, Wade Gerberding of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Middle School in Traverse City finished in second place.

“When it was down to two, it was me and this girl (winner Chelewynn Shuart from East Tawas) for 15 minutes,” said Gerberding, 12. “The question I missed was, ‘What disposes us to respect the rights of others?” (The answer: justice.)

Gerberding won a $500 tuition credit for seventh grade at the school, along with a catechism board game and a copy of the Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church, from which a few of the questions were gleaned.

Other questions were taken directly from the catechism, said Charles Taylor, superintendent of Catholic schools for the diocese, master of ceremonies and timekeeper for the event. All were reviewed by one of the diocese’s seminarians in Rome, a theologist and canon lawyer.

“I think the kids at that age are capable of a lot more than people give them credit for,” Taylor said. “We were scared because we were running out of questions. We got right down to the end.”

The competition fell during the Year of Faith, which began Oct. 11, 2012. That’s when, according to the dictate of Pope Benedict XVI, Catholics are to study and reflect on the documents of Vatican II and the catechism in order to deepen their knowledge of the faith.

While the bee ostensibly was for students, many of their parents learned along with them, Taylor said.

“It was fascinating for them because it got this discussion going at home, which is what we wanted,” he said.

Gerberding began studying well before spring break, after lunchtime at school and after finishing his homework in the evening, said mom Kim Gerberding.

“I didn’t know all the answers, to be honest, even after going through them all, without the study guide in front of me,” she said. “It was an education.”

She was one of four Gerberding family members and two St. Elizabeth Ann Seton teachers who traveled to Gaylord to watch the competition, moderated by Bishop Bernard A. Hebda.

“It made me a little more nervous that he was asking questions, but he’s nice,” said Gerberding, one of four St. Elizabeth Ann Seton finalists in the event. “I knew that I knew them all really well, but I didn’t know how the other people studied and how well they were going to do, and it turned out they were all really good.

“The bishop stopped the multiple choice after a while because they were too easy, so they started asking (fill-in-the-blank) questions and that made it a little more tough.”

Other area finalists were Peter Beard, Olivia Donahue and Thomas Hegewald, of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Middle School; Joseph Geranen, of St. Mary School in Hannah; and Otto Mork of St. Mary School in Lake Leelanau.

The regional bee stems from a 2011 catechism bee organized by the women of St. Angela’s Circle at St. Ann Church and School in Cadillac. The event was so successful that most of the Catholic schools in the region held bees last year during Catholic Schools Week. Winners of the Advanced Division (sixth grade) went on to compete in the first annual Diocese of Gaylord Catholic Schools Regional Catechism Bee.

Taylor said future regional bees will be more advanced, with the possibility of a few twists.

“We’ve discussed maybe doing it from scriptures,” he said.