The Teaching Crèche - A Terrific Gift for Your Family

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Today, I’m thrilled to feature my recent conversation with Anthony Coticelli, the founder of  The Teaching Crèche web-based business ministry. Anthony and The Teaching Crèche are serving as sponsors this month on CatholicMom.com — I’ve greatly enjoyed learning about this apostolate and encourage you to visit www.TheTeachingCrèche.com to discover this tremendous faith-education tool for yourself and your family.

The Teaching Crèche Sculpture

Q. Please briefly introduce yourself and your family.

Doreen Coticelli and I have been married for 36 years. She is a Special Education Consultant at Holmdel High School in New Jersey. Anyone in her sphere of professional and personal influence is better off for knowing her. Truly. We live in Brick, New Jersey with our special needs daughter, Juliana. At intervals, we get to entertain our two grandchildren, Charles and Olivia, and put up with their parents, Philip our son, and Jennifer, our daughter-in-law. We could not have picked a better mother for our grandchildren and wife for our son.

Through The Teaching Crèche web-based business ministry, I have the opportunity to return to what I loved best – teaching Religion. I have a BA in Theology from St. Francis College in Brooklyn, and MA in Human Resource Development from Boston University. My careers have taken me from classroom religion teaching to corporate leadership development, from the USA to Europe and the Caribbean. I have been blessed to be doing work I love for the vast majority of my working career.

Q: Please share a bit of the background behind The Teaching Crèche. 

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, 2010, I had my epiphany. I was shopping at the local warehouse store when I a saw a six foot “nutcracker” home ornament braced against a column. At first, I thought it was a chipmunk. It was made out of a cocoanut-looking material. It was selling for $245.00. I arrived home a few minutes later and announced to my wife, “I know what I am doing next!” 30 odd years ago, I had built housing for our Nativity set out of four pieces of wood. At that moment, I decided that I would have this housing manufactured and would sell it as the perfect Christmas gift. Someone had the nerve to manufacture the chipmunk-nutcracker ornament and sell it for $245.00. How much worse, I reasoned, could I do? Not exactly an apple-falling-from-the-tree-moment, but there it is.

I was committed to all products being made in America, so it took me a year to find a manufacturer for the Teaching Crèche Sculpture. It has taken 10 months of revisions to get the web site to its current configuration.

The Teaching Crèche Nativity configuration – figurines not included

Q: In reality, The Teaching Crèche is more than just a simple holiday decoration. Please share about how this teaching tool is intended to be used throughout the year.

As the son of 1st generation Italians, we grew up with a home altar. For us, it consisted of a picture of the Pope, The Sacred Heart and Frank Sinatra. While being a bit tongue in cheek, we knew growing up that there was a place in our home set aside for worship. So the further I got into the product design phase of the Teaching Crèche Sculpture, the more I focused on creating something worthy of year-round display. This crèche housing could then be used to complement existing home altars, or encourage creation of new ones.

Once I took this direction, the “need” began to shift. Our families are being constantly carpet-bombed with de-humanizing messaging that attack our Faith. The home must be a refuge from this. Parents are still the best hope for transmitting the tenets of the Faith.  So where can the family find a “message center” in the home that is counter-culture? How can we avoid having it fade into the décor? How can we marry this with the technology that is here to stay?  These questions drove aspects of the business ministry. The idea of, “lesson icons” is a good example. The parent can change the “look” of the Teaching Crèche sculpture by moving it into the “Devotional Configuration” They can also change the look each day by posting downloaded images created for each lessons – Lesson Icons- and post them in the Flame. Parents can also send the same image to a child’s mobile device to arouse curiosity. Or they could post the picture of someone who needs prayers that week in the same place. In that sense, the Teaching Crèche Sculpture is interactive. The owner makes it their own, all in the process of transmitting tenets of the faith.

Q: How do you support the community of families and organizations who purchase The Teaching Crèche?

First, support happens through the products themselves. EVERYTHING on the site is designed to teach something about the Faith, or trigger discussion and curiosity about the Faith. For example, a fridge magnet that says, “Thank a monk!” might cause a child to ask, “Why should I thank a monk?” The rest is history, as they say!  If a parent needs further support to answer this question, we’re an email away. (BTW – How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, Chapter 3, How the Monks Saved Civilization, Dr. Thomas Woods) Or consider our newest product, Image and Likeness. It is designed to teach the Scriptural passage Genesis 1:26-27 by illustrating it, and in doing so, covertly evangelize. It’s also practical too!

We teach parents how to teach, to get them to understand that they CAN teach, without getting bogged down in methodology and we do this remotely. We offer turn-key lessons with methodologies built it. We offer webinars to help fill in the blanks on teaching and coaching methods. And we demonstrate that these methodologies are SIMPLE! After cycling through my first year of Christian home schooler conferences, I was surprised to find that many home schooling parents get little to no information on how well they are teaching, on their teaching style, etc. So we want to provide parents with ways to assess their progress as well.
I did have the opportunity to do one presentation to homeschoolers in the Mid West. That session convinced me that we can do face to face and remote seminars to support parents in a teaching role.

We want the members to support one another through the web site blog. We will be initiating forum software so members can post questions, share best practices, browse resources and so on.

Q: What is a “Precator”? Why are they crucial to your mission?

Our members are called Precators. Precator is actually the second-person singular, future active imperative of the Latin word precor, “to pray, beg or beseech.” It should not be confused with imprecation. Prayers of imprecation, such as Psalm 35, hold God to His promise to punish those who do evil. That includes US! So be careful what you pray for!

The title of Precator is intended to convey the seriousness of our Faith commitment to our family and ourselves, to defend the family and the home against all intrusions of evil, and to pray for God’s help in this effort. It is a reminder of our Latin tradition. It also has a gladiator/official kind of sound to it, which I think is cool! Members will make this work. The knowledge and experience I have is the knowledge of one parent and one grandparent. VERY finite.

Q: What is your hope for the families who pray and learn about the faith with The Teaching Crèche?

First, I hope and pray that using the products and services we offer will draw them closer to God and one another.

Second, I want them to challenge that material, themselves and their family, in that order.

Challenge the material – I strive to be Magisterium-friendly. I consult multiple translations of Scripture and the Catechism, and cite that when it is appropriate. But I have been known to misuse a word or use a term inappropriately. So push back on what you read if it doesn’t make sense. Question it. Better I look foolish and you get clarity before you proceed, rather than you act on poor or mistaken information.

Challenge yourself – I was warned that “programs” requiring changes in parental behavior always fail. That presented me with quite a dilemma; go out of business before I even start. The alternative? Complain about our Faith, the culture, the state of the family and do nothing. Six years of teaching High School religion taught me that if it wasn’t being lived at home, it didn’t much matter what I was doing in class. I use a cartoon to illustrate this point; it depicts a parent sitting next to a child on an airplane flight where the oxygen masks have been deployed. The caption reads, “Put on and adjust your mask first. Then you can help others.” I’ve been using that cartoon message in leadership development for over twenty years. As leaders, we have to develop ourselves FIRST. As parents, it is all the more imperative that we do so. That is why each After Dinner Dialogue includes aReflection for the adults, ahead of the Activity for the Little Ones. Our Catholic Faith is a challenge. The goal is sainthood. Unless you are a camel, you stand a good change of making it! But it takes work, constant work. And there are few curtain calls and tossed roses. Hmmm, sound more and more like being a parent to me.

Challenge the family – Having an, “After Dinner Dialogue” on a faith-related topics is daunting, if you’ve never done it before. I trust that the Holy Spirit will inspire you to make use of the material as you see fit. YOU are the expert on your family. You will know what will work best, when to back off, and so on. I provide structure, information and ideas. God will make His presence felt in His way. You provide the opportunity for the family by trusting your judgment on what will work best for them.

Q: Are there any additional thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers?

You are my heroes. You are the Obi-Won’s of the current era- our best hope! Merry Christmas!

Please visit www.TheTeachingCrèche.com to learn more about The Teaching Crèche

Copyright 2012 Lisa M. Hendey

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About Author

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder and editor of CatholicMom.com and the bestselling author of the Chime Travelers children’s fiction series, The Grace of Yes, The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms. As a board member and frequent host on KNXT Catholic Television, Lisa has produced and hosted multiple programs and has appeared on EWTN and CatholicTV. Hendey hosted “Catholic Moments” on Radio Maria and is the technology contributor for EWTN’s SonRise Morning Show. Lisa’s articles have appeared in Catholic Digest, National Catholic Register, and Our Sunday Visitor. Hendey travels internationally giving workshops on faith, family, and Catholic technology and communications topics. She was selected as an Elizabeth Egan Journalism Fellow, attended the Vatican Bloggers Meeting, the “Bishops and Bloggers” meeting and has written internationally on the work of Catholic Relief Services and Unbound. Hendey lives with her family in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Visit Lisa at www.LisaHendey.com for information on her speaking schedule or to invite her to visit your group, parish or organization.

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