By Lori Dulin
Assistant principal Andrea Pore uses a unique approach to teach freshman theology at Columbus Bishop Watterson High School to a class of students who did not attend a traditional Catholic feeder elementary school or who are not of the Catholic faith.
While the course’s main content mirrors that of other freshman theology classes, this class, and Pore, spend some time evangelizing. Two of Pore’s former students, Kiley Graham and Caroline Smith, said the class was a major influence in their decision to enter the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).
Kiley, now a sophomore at Watterson, grew up in a faith-filled home with an Irish Catholic mother and a Christian father. She attended Buckeye Valley schools and played center on the basketball team. Although Kiley was not a Catholic, she was intrigued by all that she witnessed in her Catholic school.
During her first weeks at Watterson, including freshman theology class, Kiley started looking at everything from the perspective of “What would Jesus do?” Her favorite topics in Pore’s class were about the saints and the popes.
Kiley and Pore developed a spiritual bond that extended beyond the classroom. That bond propelled Kiley into RCIA, and she thinks she has a better relationship with Jesus now that she is Catholic.
Caroline, also a Watterson sophomore, attended Dublin city schools for eight years, playing lacrosse and soccer. It was her decision to attend high school at Watterson. During a Watterson open house and the start of her freshman year there, Caroline was struck by the friendliness and feeling of family she experienced. “There were less cliques and a different vibe” than in her former school. “People here actually wanted to learn.
“I loved all of the things we learned about in Ms. Pore’s class, especially the book of Genesis,” Caroline said. She credits her time with Pore – who holds a master’s in theology, among other degrees, and has worked in campus ministry – as connecting the tenets of the faith with the hows and whys. In an issue of Dublin St. Brigid of Kildare Church’s Common Threads, Caroline’s mother, Julie, described the class this way: “Ms. Pore created an environment where the non-Catholic school kids could ask lots of questions and feel comfortable learning about Catholicism.”
Additionally, Caroline attended a friend’s Confirmation and was moved by the “happiness of those being confirmed” and “the real emotion of their parents crying as they watched.” In December 2018, she asked her parents if she could join the Catholic Church. Pore provided guidance to the family, and Julie Smith eventually decided to join Caroline in RCIA. The family met with Deacon Paul Zemanek from St. Brigid to start the process.
When Watterson decided to offer the special freshman theology class, there was much deliberation about its design. “We didn’t want the students in this class to feel as though they were being separated or alienated from their more traditional peers,” Pore said. “Yet we wanted to recognize and serve their different needs.”
The first class had about 20 students, including Kiley and Caroline. Pore said a good mix of interesting personalities and the students’ willingness to open up in class were reasons for outcomes beyond expectations.
Today, Kiley and Caroline see Catholicism’s daily impact on their lives. Each is motivated by daily prayer, the experience of sophomore service activities and the development of a mature and moral conscience. They know that everyone at Watterson – including the school’s principal, Deacon Chris Campbell, Pore and other religion teachers – are always available to them. Additionally, their families see the beauty of the girls’ journey. “My mom makes all of the decisions about our family based on our faith,” Caroline said.
As they look to the future, Kiley, Caroline and the Watterson community know that as long as they use their faith to serve others, including one another and their families, all will grow closer to Christ. And isn’t that the difference made in each of our Catholic schools? Lori Dulin is associate director of marketing and enrollment in the diocesan Office of Catholic Schools.
Lori Dulin is associate director of marketing and enrollment in the diocesan Office of Catholic Schools.