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Faith-filled videos for the classroom

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There’s something magical about watching a video in school. When the lights go down and the movie flickers on, the classroom becomes a battlefield or a cathedral or a faraway time, all until the school bell jolts students back to reality. Some theology teachers use the power of video to explain the beauty of the Mass, or the teachings of the Apostles’ Creed, or the centuries-spanning salvation plan of Christ via what is sometimes called Catholic Netflix, or FORMED. 

Many diocesan parishes have purchased membership to the site, which lets parishioners access movies, documentaries, lectures and audiobooks relating to the Catholic faith. Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax has a subscription for the faculty and students. 

Peter Jurich, who teaches theology for 11th graders, found a series called “Echo” that “fits in very well with (what I’m teaching) the juniors” —  namely, the sacraments and morality, he said. The clips are short enough to keep the students engaged. “They complemented what I was doing in class and helped to reinforce a lot of the points I was trying to make,” he said. 

Similarly, Paul VI theology teachers Thomas Pell and Melissa Wysocki said they use the series “Symbolon” to teach students about scripture and tradition. “The session I like the best is on the story of salvation,” said Wysocki. “I think the video does a really good job of taking the whole of the Old Testament and putting it in light of Christ in a really concrete way, because sometimes there’s just so much that you can get confused by. This allows you to take a step back and look at the whole thing. I learn from watching it.” During the chapter on Mary, Pell likes to show “The Thirteenth Day,” a movie about the miracles at Fatima.

Having access to a variety of videos helps Wysocki customize lessons to the needs of her students. “It’s a good way to appeal to different learning types,” she said. When teaching the Rite of Christian Initiation class, usually a group of less than 10 students, she used different videos to provide fodder for small group discussions. Or sometimes, when there is an in-class topic that might be difficult for a special needs Options student, she’ll find something appropriate on FORMED to show them instead. 

The video service also teaches the teachers. Pell said he won’t show his students a taped lecture from the site, but watching it himself will help him better explain the concepts in class. Wysocki said she frequently used FORMED while leading a women’s group at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Arlington. 

“I just love theology anyway,” said Jurich. “So I really just love watching what I can and tying things together. I think it does enrich our own teaching.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018