As children around the state start school, they’re jumping into math, reading, science, art and more. At Catholic schools, kids will be taking all these classes, plus studying essential elements of Catholic faith and Scripture.

“Scripture is the word of God, and since this is so, it is important that we have students diving into all that God wants to reveal to us through his holy word,” said Leslie Jones, who teaches third grade religion and serves as campus minister at O’Hara Catholic School in Eugene. “Studying Scripture allows us to learn about God and all the people he used along the way, to help us understand the love God has for each of us and how to live out his love to all we meet.”

At O’Hara, the school picks a Scripture verse to focus on each year.

“We call it our Gospel theme,” said Jones.

There is a special song and T-shirts the students wear monthly to accompany the verse.

Students at O’Hara also have an extra religion class called Praise and Worship, which also is taught by Jones. The class, for students in preschool through sixth grade, takes a look at salvation history.

“Last year we started with Genesis and worked our way through the Old Testament. This year we will finish the Old Testament and will heavily focus on the life of Jesus and the New Testament,” said Jones.

“Studying these stories makes the Bible come alive for our students. Our students are forming a love for Scripture because they can see how God worked through each person to bring us to Jesus, and they are understanding that God has had a plan from the beginning to redeem us.”

“In middle school we try to unpack the meaning of St. Augustine’s famous quote about Scripture: ‘The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed; the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed,’” said Maryanne Obersinner, who teaches sixth through eighth grade at O’Hara. Sixth graders at the school focus on the Old Testament and how it helps Christians recognize Jesus as the Savior. The following year, they study the life and miracles of Jesus in the New Testament. In eighth grade, students learn how the Bible has guided the church through the ages and continues to inspire work and worship today.

Students in western Oregon’s Catholic schools not only read from Scripture but are required to do so by the Archdiocese of Portland’s Department of Catholic Schools religion requirements.

In second grade, students have to be able to recognize stories from the Bible. The next year, they must be able to describe New and Old Testament books that reveal God as creator and protector and reveal the teachings of Jesus. By sixth grade, students must be able to recount stories from the Old Testament and cite their importance to the faith. In seventh grade, they must be able to do the same with the New Testament.

“It’s important for us to read Scripture because it’s part of our belief system,” said Jeannie Ray-Timoney, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Portland. “The Catholic faith is based on the Scriptures and tradition. We need to be knowledgeable about Scripture. It helps inform who we are and help transform us to be people of Christ.”

At St. John Fisher School in Southwest Portland, Deacon Scott Kolbet walks his sixth, seventh and eighth grade religion classes through the Old and New Testaments. In his sixth grade class, his students write their own psalms and proverbs. In seventh grade, they must create their own parables, and by eighth grade, they are writing 15 homilies each year. He has his seventh graders take a look at the day’s Gospel readings and summarize them.

Throughout their studies, students find key themes in Scripture from the beginnings of Genesis up until the Bible’s culmination in the Book of Revelation, and they dissect what the passages mean. When they are confronted with the Ten Commandments, they examine them in detail. You shall not kill — they take a look at the church’s teachings on life. When they’re studying minor prophets, they look for key themes like social justice, opposition to idolatry and the search for the Messiah.

“After eighth grade, our goal is they will continue to have a personal relationship with Jesus and grow in their faith,” said Darlene Sheridan, a second grade teacher at St. John Fisher. “We teach that throughout the whole school day and throughout the whole school year.

“Our faith is everything that we do no matter what the subject is,” she added.

Teachers at St. John Fisher seek to educate the whole child in faith. In science class, youngsters will look at the creation story. In social studies, they’ll investigate God’s great commandment — to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and to love your neighbor as yourself.

“No matter what subject we’re working on, we base it on Scripture or something Jesus did, said or taught us, using Bible verses throughout our whole week and our whole day,” said Sheridan, who has taught at the school for more than 30 years.

In second grade, St. John Fisher students focus on a Bible verse each week and try to memorize them.

“That’s where our faith lies. The Bible is God’s word to us that he wants us to know about him,” said Sheridan.

“The more that we use Scripture, the more that we and the kids get to know who God is, what he’s like and what his character is. So they can get to know Jesus and ask him into their hearts and lives and it not just be something they know facts about but something they really take personally, so that no matter what grade they are, they have that personal relationship and as they get older, they continue to grow in that faith.

“That’s what we’re here for,” Sheridan concluded.

sarahw@catholicsentinel.org