Religious Instruction… AKA. Released Time


Many reading this (Ok, so I’m a bit optimistic with the “many”) probably have no idea what this installments’ title means. That is understandable, as I don’t think it’s a term that has been used in many years.

So, allow we to explain. As you know from previous entries, I, like my younger brother attended PS 41 in New York. Now, one must keep in mind we grew up in a very Catholic home. The Catholic Church was the one true Church and if one did not abide in its teachings, eternity could be very bad. I am not trying to minimize or in any way slander the strong beliefs of my parents, especially my Mom. Her family was very Catholic and her extended family from Italy was very Catholic. There just was no other way. To their credit, my parents never criticized or in any way looked down on people of other faiths; my best and only friend as a very young boy was Jewish. I actually, along with my Mom, attended his Bar Mitzvah, something many in the Catholic Church of the day would say led to certain damnation. My parents were not like that. They disagreed with other belief systems, but in no way put them down. It’s interesting that our Marine, hard-nosed, one-way Dad was actually very liberal in ways one wouldn’t expect. But, more of that another time.

So, the catholic Church of that day was very concerned that we who attended public school were not getting the proper religious training and indoctrination. Again, this was a sincere belief of the Church and they wanted to be sure that we “public school kids’ did not get on the wrong road and never find our way back. Thus, the interesting concept of Released Time.

This was an agreement between the Church and the Public School System (I know you are probably falling off your chair right now, but remember, this was another time) that would allow Catholic kids who attended public school to be “released” for a predetermined amount of time each week to go to the Catholic School, in my case, St Bernard’s, to learn proper Catholic teaching and most importantly, to properly prepare us for Holy Communion, and later, Confirmation.

The time set aside for our Released time from PS 41 was Thursday afternoons from 2pm until 3;30 PM.

In my particular case, this program was what I would call the proverbial “double Edged Sword.

The Good points:

-I got to leave School well before the other kids on Thursdays, making me feel kind of special. It was not all that subtle; the Principal would come on the PA system announcing released time. Those of us Catholic’s would get up from whatever we were doing, and march out of class down to the lobby where we would me our escorts from the Catholic School to walk us to St. Bernard’s.

-Once I got there, I actually liked leaning more about the Church and beliefs, etc.

-I have previously told you about how much I enjoyed Thursday nights at home because that’s when Uncle Tony and Aunt Agnus would come over. This Released Time was a cool way to get into the mood of the evening. Once religious Instruction was over, it was home to dinner, then Uncle Tony, bagels, candy and TV shows. Nice

The Bad points; (they outweigh the good-by a bit)

-Yes I got to leave PS41 before everyone else, but when that PA announcement came and I had to get up in front of the whole class to leave, that feeling of “special” quickly faded to horrible self-consciousness. Any of you who have suffered from feelings inferiority know how pleasant it is to have all eyes on you. No fun

-The escorts who came to walk us to the Catholic School were usually always the 8th Grade Girls from St. Bernard’s. This was tough. I was in 4th- 5th grade trying to be cool and here were these 8th grade girls, who I always thought were gorgeous, walking this “kid” to school. I felt like a total doofas. I think my face was red all the time. When I heard them laugh as they talked together, I was certain they were laughing at me. I was positive they were. Then I turned a brighter red.

-When we got to the school, we were looked upon as “those Public School kids” by the kids that actually attended St. Bernard’s. We were clearly inferior because we attended public school and what good Catholic kid who was in any way concerned about their eternal destiny would do that? There was definitely the “looking down their noses” thing going on, and for the very secure, brave person that I was, this was bad. The Catholic school boys were wearing white shirts and ties! The girls were in uniforms! (have I mentioned I thought the 8th grade girls were gorgeous?) I was in a knock off polo shirt from John’s Bargain store. I felt even the Nuns and Christian Brothers who taught us felt like they were ministering to lost heathen; after all, we were “Public School Kids”.

So for me Released time was basically a mixed bag. I made it through, I always had Thursday Nights to look forward to……

Then, someone came up with the idea that I should attend Catholic School Instead of Public. That’s another story.


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