Persons, places and things: Fifth-graders enrich their faith with The Catholic Messenger

Barb Arland-Fye
Tony Vermeer and the students in his fifth-grade religious education class at St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf pose in the church entrance.

By Barb Arland-Fye

Tony Vermeer describes his fifth-grade religious education students at St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf as really good kids who impress him with their knowledge and willingness to learn more. He told me in an email that he planned to introduce The Catholic Messenger to his religious education students.


Tony remembered seeing the Messenger at home when he was growing up and thought that sharing it with his students might make them a little more comfortable and curious to “open up the pages and take a look.” His suggestion was an answer to one of my prayers!

A short time later, Tony sent another email informing me that he had paired up his students to look through the paper. Afterwards, the students wrote a short review that included an introduction, a compliment, a suggestion and their names. “I hope you enjoy their letters and appreciate their feedback,” Tony said. “I know that reading part of the Messenger to them will interest them and help them to grow.”


I enjoyed the students’ critiques and responded with a letter of appreciation, which I am sharing with you:
Dear St. John Vianney 5th-grade religious education students and teacher, Mr. Vermeer:

On behalf of my staff, thank you for reading The Catholic Messenger and sharing your thoughts in short reviews for us. We appreciate your thoughtfulness and suggestions.

Xander and Charles told us they appreciate the many stories included in the newspaper. They recommended adding activities for kids. Leah and Mi Kyong liked the “Otto” movie review because of its message offering kindness, openness and reconciliation. Leah and Mi also suggested adding a kids section, such as a crossword-word search game and kids’ pictures. They also thanked us for listening to them. Leo and Jackson liked the Spanish version of Bishop Thomas Zinkula’s letter and suggested that we make the paper “cooler.”

Magnus and Madison complimented us on the story about the Vietnamese Lunar New Year and found it interesting. They, too, would appreciate a word search that “would make it fun for younger kids to read.” Keaten and Noel loved the story on Buffalo Bill safety Damar Hamlin. Keaten and Noel also would like to read about 10- and 11-year-old kids talking about their faith.

We appreciate you, Mr. Vermeer, for introducing your students to The Catholic Messenger to help inform, inspire and educate our young Catholics who make up an important part of our Catholic Church. We hope you will continue to explore the pages (print and digital) of the Messenger and perhaps share some of your own stories of faith for publication.

As a Catholic, it fills my heart with joy to know that your fifth-grade religious education students of St. John Vianney Parish are gaining knowledge of their faith and are willing to learn more. You are a blessing to our Church! We appreciate your support of The Catholic Messenger and invite you to stay in touch.

I received permission to visit Tony’s class one Wednesday night last month where I shared some information about The Catholic Messenger and responded to questions. The students and their teacher posed for a photo, too.

Our staff invites all religious education and Catholic schools’ classes to explore the diocesan newspaper, to enrich their faith and to share their thoughts with us about what matters to our Church! We would be happy to share the Messenger’s e-edition each week with your classes!

(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at

Support The Catholic Messenger’s mission to inform, educate and inspire the faithful of the Diocese of Davenport – and beyond! Subscribe to the print and/or e-edition, or make a one-time donation, today!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Posted on