By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T
NEWTOWN SQUARE – At St. Anastasia Parish, Newtown Square, Edd Paffett, who teaches CCD through music, is considered something of a Pied Piper.
“He has a gift with children and when he speaks they listen,” said Theresa Haggerty, the parish Director of Religious Education. “He passes on the faith through music, and he has formed a children’s choir for CCD, ‘The Cherubim Choir,’ that practices every week. These children lead the singing at Christmas Eve Mass, stations, May procession and visit local nursing homes throughout the year.”
The Cherubims are only part of the story. St. Anastasia has 437 children in CCD and Paffett, along with his assistant, Julie Zaffarano, see them all on a four-week rotating basis.
He’s been part of the CCD program for the past 15 years, but music has been part of his life a lot longer than that. At West Chester University he majored in piano and earned his master’s degree in technology, then launched his career as a music teacher for the Penn-Delco School District. He eventually branched out as technology director, but had never forsaken music.
When he started as a volunteer CCD teacher with second graders at St. Anastasia, it was fairly straightforward catechism, but gradually his love of music spilled over into his teaching.
With his own five children all entering adulthood and looking forward to winding down his 35-year public school career a few years back, he proposed that St. Anastasia start a music program just for the CCD kids.
The program “helps children develop a natural love of singing praise to God,” he said.
Paffett builds his curriculum around the “Blest Are We” catechism series that is in use at St. Anastasia.
The whole series incorporates the children’s hymn, “Blest Are We,” and Paffett utilizes the opening verse as a tool for teaching little ones the Sign of the Cross. As they make the four points of the cross they sing:
Blest are we, we are the children of God, holy children of light
Blest are we, chosen people of God
Blest are we, God has plans for you and me
Blest are we, we are the children of God.
As an experienced music teacher, Paffett knows what resonates with children – hand motions, rhythm instruments such as tambourines, hand drums or simply clapping hands.
Good music isn’t forgotten. Lent will find the children learning the English version of the “Stabat Mater,” which reinforces the Stations of the Cross. Favorite Marian hymns, including “Salve Regina,” “Immaculate Mary” and “Bring Flowers of the Rarest” never really go out of style.
For original music, he has composed “Bless Me Father,” a hymn that goes hand-in-hand with first penance.
Paffett tries to teach the children not only to sing words but to understand the music behind the words. This may sound difficult, but the children are receptive.
“I never have an attendance problem,” he said.
Carolyn Haughton, who over time has seen three daughters in the Cherubims, including her youngest, fifth-grader Erin, said, “My kids requested to do it. They loved the singing at Masses and going to the nursing homes.”
Paffett and Zaffarano “are awesome,” she said. “The two of them work very well with the kids.”
Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.