I recently gave a catechist retreat/In-Service to a group of catechists at a parish in the Archdiocese.  One of the things I shared with them is the importance of them bringing everything together.  It is not the textbook, the DVD, the music, the pictures or the great use of the powerpoint/smartboard you used that helped make your class a fruitful one.  Although helpful and very important in passing on the faith in a suitable manner to young people in the Third Millennium, nothing replaces the person of the catechist.  The catechist is the person who unites, organizes and links all the great tools available together in order that our Catholic Faith can be made known in the lives of their students.  Our Faith is full of life and has the potential to draw students into the life and mission of the Church.  It is the person of the catechist who is the linchpin, the crux, and central to helping students encounter Christ and the Gospel Message.

The National Directory of Catechesis says: “No number of attractive personal qualities, no amount of skill and training, and no level of scholarship of erudition can replace the power of God’s word communicated through a life lived in the Spirit (pg. 243).” A person who desires to grow in holiness and proclaim in word and deed a life rooted in Christ is irreplaceable in the ministry of Catechesis.

Come Holy Spirit lead us as catechists to radiate you through our teaching, and through our very being!  And students will be saying…Ahh see how they love Jesus…I want that too”.


goalsYour Religious Education/Faith Formation Program begins soon.  What can Catechists do to assist their young parishioners to grow in their faith lives this year?  Here are three goals to consider:

 

1)   Be God’s Instrument

  1. Your faithfulness to your prayer life and weekly Mass spills over into your catechesis.
  2. Your time of preparation for each class will ensure greater fruit while in class.
  3. Your joy and enthusiasm of God will make an impact and inspire your students.

2)   Engage

Engage your students in “The Story” of God’s plan for humanity and for them.  Use various learning styles to draw them in: Audio, Visual and Kinesthetic.  We don’t want them to just know about God but we want them have an encounter that draws them deeper into their friendship with God. They have a hunger for wanting to know and love God. 

3) Build Community

Help your students see that their class is a part of the parish community.  Help them form a bond so that they understand that together we are the body of Christ and we profess a common faith and we are part of the People of God.    A real sense of community unites them more firmly within the parish community, a place where they know they belong. 

 

These are 3 things I shared with my catechist as the year begins.  I believe they can have a real impact on the students in their classroom.

How about you what goals to you have this year?


For years I’ve understood that the textbook was just a tool and not the end-all of the catechetical lesson.  One of the challenges today is to equip volunteer catechists to go beyond the textbook, i.e., not relying on the textbook as a crutch which they have to teach from in order to convey the content of the chapter.  Although I have some ideas on what we need to do about that, I want to share a few things that seem to be essential in this Ministry of the Word and the Proclamation of the Good News of Christ and His Church today. This are some things needed for Catechesis in the Third Millennium:

 

1. We need a holistic approach to catechesis.

As many have been saying, we need to do more than pass on content – we need to see our catechesis as initiating people into the Christian Life.  Much has been said about this, especially in the last number of years. Nevertheless, we must keep in mind that it’s not a victory to get through the 30 chapters of the textbook.  It’s a victory if over the course of a year we have helped those we catechize be inspired, grow in hunger for being in communion with Jesus Christ and desire to continue that friendship they have with Him.

2. We need to help Catechists see that what they are transmitting is something that is unified.

Textbooks, among other resources, can have a tendency to compartmentalize the content of the Faith.  At times for the sake of order this is understandable and necessary.  However, too often we struggle to catechize seeing that the faith is unified not just a set of various truths.  For example, in the 3 part of the Catechism in the second paragraph of that section it expresses this truth I’m speaking of beautifully:

The Symbol of the faith confesses the greatness of God’s gifts to man in his work of creation, and even more in redemption and sanctification. What faith confesses, the sacraments communicate: by the sacraments of rebirth, Christians have become “children of God,”2 “partakers of the divine nature.”3 Coming to see in the faith their new dignity, Christians are called to lead henceforth a life “worthy of the gospel of Christ.”4 They are made capable of doing so by the grace of Christ and the gifts of his Spirit, which they receive through the sacraments and through prayer. (Paragraph 1692)

Even in the 3 part of the Catechism it has not “moved on” from the first two parts to now cover the 3 part (although it does cover the Christian Life lived out and what we believe about that).  But it does so in a unified manner helping the believer see that the faith in intricately woven together as a unified whole.  Catechesis today needs to keep this in mind and make positive strides in helping others see the unity of the Catholic Faith.

3. We need to root our Catechesis in the Holy Trinity.

Yes, I’m sure we all have heard that the Trinity is the central mystery of the faith and how as the Catechism says: “It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them” (#234).

If what we are teaching does not relate to one of the persons of the Trinity then we should not be teaching it.  As stated above regarding the unity of the faith we have to show those we catechize that God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit is revealing Himself to us and inviting us to community with Him.  When you have a moment take a look at Ephesians 1:3-14 which conveys beautifully the Trinities Mission.  Our catechesis should always be linked with the Trinity.

4. We need to present the faith today as a compelling story — of God’s loving plan.

The Good News is a story to be told, a story to be celebrated, a story to be lived and a story to be in communion with.  It is not romanticizing to say that it is a love story because it truly is, but it is a love story that has tragedy, hope, love and joy which are all a part of the human condition.  We have a tendency in catechesis to present the faith as a lot of great truths but can struggle to help those we catechize see that it’s more a story we are a part of than a number of great truths that happened in the past.  The more we can show others that what we are proclaiming and teaching is all part of a beautiful story of God’s plan and purpose for creation then we help others see just how compelling God and his ways are.

5. We need to put people in contact with Jesus (in relationship with Him).

If we begin and end each catechetical session with a brief prayer lasting no more than 30 seconds then it is not likely that we are able to allow for the proper setting to help those we catechize come into contact with Jesus.  We need to have more prayer in our catechesis, more time in front of the Blessed Sacrament, more time of silence and reflection (as challenging as all this can be).  I recently heard a story about how two priests had devoted much time to being present to the First Communion class by stopping by the classes to talk with the 2nd graders and how they also were present at the parent meetings.  Even so, after First Communion none of the parents brought their children to Mass.  One of the things the priests discovered is that they never took to time to take them to the church and have direct contact with Jesus.  They did not take them into the church to show them how this is where the Christian community gathers to celebrate, proclaim and encounter God.  Therefore, helping find more opportunities of putting people in contact with Jesus Christ is essential for fruitful discipleship.

6. The Catechism needs to be better utilized in elementary catechesis

When Blessed Pope John Paul II spoke of the Catechism as a reference text he did not intend for it to merely be something we use as one among many resources.  Textbook publishers have a tendency to site the Catechism as a reference or a way to show that the teaching in a particular chapter is linked to a teaching in the Catechism.  Although this is a great first step to what we had 20 years ago it lacks something significant.  The Catechism is the essential Deposit of Faith which the Church guards as a most important and vital treasure to the universal Church. The Catechism helps articulate the beauty of the Faith.  The Catechism shows how the Faith is organic and unified.  The Catechism threads the faith together in a way that we can see just how unified and simple the faith is.  When I say simple, I mean that at the heart of the Deposit of Faith we see the simple Gospel Message that God so loved the world that he gave his only son that we may not perish but have eternal life (Cf. John 3:16).  The Catechism conveys the simplicity of God’s plan accomplished through Creation, through His relationship with us, through sending His Son to redeem us and sending the Holy Spirit to sanctify the world and prepare us for the world to come.  Therefore, the Catechism needs to be used more fully in equipping catechists in their ministry of catechesis.

These are 6 things I see as vital to Catechesis in the 21st Century.  May God our heavenly and gracious Father direct us and lead us to greater renewal and communion with Himself.

What do you see as things that are needed for Catechesis in the 21st Century?


girl pointingI had the wonderful opportunity the last 5 days to attend the St. John Bosco Catechetical Conference at Franciscan University in Steubenville, OH.  There were many blessings and a lot I want to share in future posts about catechesis today in the Church.  Today, I want to share with you a very inspiring story told by a Salesian of Don Bosco who spoke at the conference, Fr. Louis Molinelli, SDB.  He shared the following:

One day I had a meeting with other presidents of schools and had to go to a place I had not been to before.  After driving around for what felt like ages I found a building that I thought was the place (not realizing there were two Sacred Heart Schools).  As I went into the school I saw loads of children and had no idea where to go.  A young girl about 5 years old came up to me and said, hello, can I help you?  I said, yes you can; would you please take me to the one in charge?  The girl said, yes, come with me and she took my hand and lead me down a long hallway past many classrooms until finally we entered a room where she pointed to the front and said their, He’s in charge: she was pointing to Jesus in the tabernacle.

This is a touching story which drew my thoughts to how important it is to point to Jesus in our catechesis and lead others to Him.  Not only are we showing them the one who is in charge but we are helping others grow spiritually.

3 Ways

Here are 3 things to consider in leading others to Jesus Christ:

1. Are you praying each time you prepare to lead catechetical sessions for the Holy Spirit to use you and to speak to the hearts of those you are catechizing?

2. Are you trying to cover the topic at the cost of drawing them into a deeper relationship with Jesus?  Our catechesis can too often be informational without being transformational.

3. Are you helping those you catechize to grow in prayer and helping them be in friendship with God.  Each of us need to use our God given gifts to help others grow in their spiritual lives.

The Big Question

Can you take me to the one in charge?


Are we focused on training catechists or forming catechists?  The National Directory for Catechesis says:

“Catechesis aims to bring about in the believer an ever more mature faith in Jesus Christ, a deeper knowledge and love of his person and message, and a firm commitment to follow him.” (No. 19A)

I wonder if our training/formation of catechists put a greater emphasis on developing skills but often lack the heart of what catechists need: spiritual formation.

Recently I was listening to a presentation about recruiting, training and forming volunteers.  The presenter, Bill Keimig, made some great points about the need to distinguish between catechist training and catechist formation.  He shared some interesting insights regarding the importance of leading catechists to being spiritually formed, i.e., our spiritual lives.  It is imperative that catechists have a foundation in the spiritual life if they are going to help make saints in the classroom.  Seeking to help students be saints is seeking to bring them to what Bill Keimig calls, “The joy of relationship”.  First and foremost the catechist must have a desire to grow in relationship with Christ.  It is also the aim of the catechist to foster a desire in students for this joy of relationship with God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.   The more we focus on it in our own lives the more students and those around us will see Christ working in and through us.  Granted it is the parents primary role to instill this desire in their children, but DRE’s and catechists must also foster this.

Please do not misunderstand, catechist training is very important.  Knowledge of the faith enables us to draw the students into the mystery of Christ and God’s plan of salvation.  Catechists who are seeking to grow in their spiritual lives and seeking to be formed in their spiritual lives are going to succeed more than those who have great skills and tricks of the trade to make their classes fun and interactive.  The more we can engage students the better, however at the heart and center of our mission as catechists is drawing our students into that joy and love of relationship with Christ.

As you prepare to get ready for this upcoming catechetical year year let us together resolve as St. Maria Mazarello did to “make up our minds to become saints”.  Together with God’s grace and life in us we can do great things this year!  May God be with each one of you!

Originally posted on http://www.amazingcatechists.com


end of the yearMany programs are finishing up for the year in the next few weeks.  For those who still have a few weeks to go I wanted to share 3 things to consider to make sure you end this year on a high note:

1) Sometimes the catechist can feel discouraged by how distracted the kids seem to be during this time of year.  Keep up the great work and remember God still wants to use you to share the Gospel with your students.  You may be the only one they are hearing the “Good News” from in their lives.

2) Find the opportunities to share your words of wisdom and for your students to see that you love Christ and desire for them to also grow in their relationship with Him.

3) Continue to pray for your students and let them know that you will be keeping them in prayer.  Consider writing each student a note of encouragement that you give out on the last day of class.

 

What are you planning to help encourage and inspire your students as the year concludes?


what is goodMy friend Dr. Farey (head of Catechetical Formation, Course Director B.Div, and Course Director License in Catechetics at the Maryvale Institute in Birmingham, England) has a wonderful quote that is so pertinent to catechesis today:

“How is the heart ever going to know what is good if we don’t use our mind to inform the heart? Don’t let anyone say to you, ‘don’t worry about all that study, all you need is to get your heart united to Christ’. Yes, we need our hearts plunged in Christ… be led by Christ but let your mind be led by Christ through the Church so that your heart can follow what is actually good, and not just what is an awful lot of opinions of what must be good… The Catechism is there to help us.”

I often speak of formation in Christ (not merely information) needing to be at the heart of catechesis.  However, I could not agree more with the importance of assuring that in our catechesis in the Third Millennium needs to incorporate both the heart and the mind when passing on the deposit of faith.

Too often today people struggle to have their hearts follow what is actually good. At the risk of sounding judgemental, it appears that individuals allow the messages and ideas given by society to shape their understanding of life, liberty and even in the pursuit of Jesus.  Teaching the truths of the faith, especially the deposit of faith articulated in the Catechism, will help others see how these truths that are Godly and that are point to the good (which is from God).  Too often our society desires to revise what is good or form ones idea of God based on a more modern application of what is seen as good (because they believe that “they see it more clearly” then what the Bible says or what the Church would say).

catechismThe Catechism is such a gift to help us see the beauty and the unity of the faith articulated and drawing the reader toward the ture and ultimate good – God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

What do you think about Dr. Farey’s quote? I’d enjoy your insights and thoughts.

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