Monday, June 15, 2009

If Anyone Asks, I´m Catholic.

Today was my first day on the job as a volunteer at two deaf schools in Santa Cruz.

Julia Jimenez is a private Catholic school for ages 7-18. The students are all deaf and use a mix of Bolivian Sign Language and Spanish. The school is run by nuns and a handful of Catholic teachers.

I haven´t had much experience with Catholicism in the United States save for a baptisim here and there and the faith I know my uncle and aunt hold close. I have respect for their beliefs and for the beliefs that Catholics hold sacred.

Now let me say, Julia Jimenez takes Catholicism to a scary place. I spent four hours at the school Monday morning and witnessed an hour-long attack on a Christian (not Catholic) student who didn´t wish to participate in voluntary Confirmation classes in the evenings. The teacher and a nun stopped the entire class and stood in front of the student demanding to know why he wasn´t going to participate. After arguing for what felt like forever, (the student repeatedly saying no, he didn´t want to attend) the teacher settled for taping a copy of the confirmation class schedule in his notebook.

I was prepared to lie and say that I am Methodist. I figured that being an agnostic might be a little much for such a fiercly religious country. I didn´t realize I would have to cross myself and mimick the lips of the teachers and students throughout morning prayers. I´m not upset that I have to fake Catholicism but I do feel badly for the student. A part of me feels like I am betraying him by being able to so easily lie my way out of being Agnostic while he is stuck being the Christian outsider.

If only I could draw a little fish in the sand and let him know it is okay not to be Catholic.

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