Either That Or We Bring Back Whoopi For Sister Act 3 (Is There Some Way To Get Margaret Cho On Board . . . Is Margaret Cho Chinese?)
If it were a movie pitch you might say it was Stand and Deliver meets The Joy Luck Club meets Animal House:
Posted: December 8th, 2006 | Filed under: Cultural-Anthropological, Manhattan, The Screenwriter's Idea Bag
Workers at Church of the Transfiguration on Mott St. see their greatest success in children of immigrants, who often were born in the United States and stand with one foot in their Chinese past and another in their American future. The church’s Sunday school classes teach the Catholic faith to area children, and some non-Catholic parents see it as a chance for free babysitting, said Sister MaryAnn Scherr, a nun overseeing religious education at the church.
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Every Sunday morning, Scherr and her team of religious educators teach Catholic catechism to parish children. It is a task fraught with complexities, as often these children know very little about Christianity.
“When people come to us, they often come with no religion at all,” Scherr said. “Some of the parents don’t see the value of the religion program.”
Down one flight of stairs from John Hum’s class, Jennifer Yau teaches first graders about books of the Bible, and routinely struggles with non-attentive students.
“This is boring,” said James, a tiny six-year-old boy with an untucked collared shirt, one leg up on his chair, the other dangling above the floor. “I don’t know it.”
“There is no, ‘I don’t know.’ That’s not an option,” said Yau, visibly at wits’ end. “I’m trying to teach you guys something and you’re not really paying attention, so I’d appreciate it if you would.”
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Overall, progress is being made, Scherr said.
“We can have as many as 30 people we baptize each year,” she said. “Many are men.
“We try not to be people who just work to get certificates,” Scherr said. Too often, she says, immigrants believe their participation in church activities will guarantee them citizenship, or at least a green card.
“If they want to really be baptized, then we work with that,” Sherr said. “It’s not completely our job to doubt sincerity.”
As Chinese immigrants come into the city, they bring with them their own ideas and customs. In the Chinese province of Fujian, where most of Chinatown’s newest residents emigrate from, it is perfectly O.K. for someone to spit on the floor, even when inside, since most floors there are dirt, Scherr said. The church staff has tried to limit spitting and educate immigrants on American social conventions.