The Season of Lent can be challenging in many respects.  A challenge I experience is to find the time to do some good spiritual reading during these 40 days.  The starting place for spiritual reading is the Sacred Scriptures.  Nothing is more valuable to our spiritual growth in the area of reading as spending time not only reading but meditating and reflecting upon Scripture and God’s word to us.  I also recommend a book that will bring personal  growth and spiritual renewal to your life.  The spiritual classics are great (e.g., books by St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Francis De Sales or Thomas a Kempis).  Other options might include a biography of a saint or a daily meditation book (e.g., In Conversation with God by Fr. Frances Fernandez).

Lent is a time to slow down and continue more intensely our spiritual journey.  Time spent reading and reflecting on the spiritual truths your reading introduces you to, or reminds you of, cannot be underestimated – it can have an inestimable value.

christus_pantocrator_smAfter listening to a presentation given by Fr. Alfred McBride about the General Directory of Catechesis I derived a few key points regarding important components that are needed in the work of catechesis today. See the following 6 points.

1. Catechesis needs a greater appreciation of the Catechumenal Process. The GDC speaks of the catechumenal model as the ideal model for catechesis.

2. Catechesis must connect Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium. These three categories go together when teaching the Catholic Faith.

3. Catechesis on Jesus Christ must emphasize both the humanity and divinity of Christ. One aspect cannot be taught at the expense of the other.

4. Catechesis needs to bring forth the realities of grace and sin. Over the last 40 years the reality of sin is too often brushed over and only grace is emphasized.

5. The link between catechesis and liturgy is vital to drawing others into communion with Christ and the Christian life.

6. Catechetical methods need to focus on God’s pedagogy. Too often experience is used at the cost of authentic content. Using experience to draw people into the faith is at the service of what is true. Not truth at the service of experience.

As we continue to discuss the important components of being a catechetical leader, I would like to take one more opportunity to speak of catechist fformation (click here for: Part I and Part II).  In this final part on catechist formation, which is pivotal to the success of a catechist, I would like to focus on how the catechist is called to be an authentic witness and how their primary and fundamental goal is is draw others to Christ.

A Witness

The National Directory For Catechesis (NDC) articulates clearly the importance of the catechist being a witness to Jesus Christ in the Church and in the world (pg. 240).  Formation must include helping them develop an “apostolic zeal” as well as encouraging them to become “evangelizers” (cf. pg. 240).  Formation, therefore, is much more than merely passing on skills for good discipline, lesson planning, use of technology and using different learning styles.  The zeal and evangelical spirit that a catechist brings to the classroom or faith formation environment is the key to the ministry of catechesis.  What people remember is the person more than they remember the particular teaching or means by which something was taught.  It is the catechist who is the linchpin in the catechetical process.  The person of the catechist is the one who brings all the great tools, skills and most importantly a compelling witness of faith to those they catechize.

Leading Others To Christ

The NDC continues: “Since catechists nurture the faith that was implanted by the Holy Spirit in those being catechized, their formation should also include training in catechetical methodology”(pg. 241).  This is more than helping them create a good lesson plan, but helping them see how the method in which they present the material can draw others further into their relationship with God.  “Catechists do not merely instruct their students about Christ; they lead them to him”(NDC241).  This is the heart of the why we catechize – to lead the believer to Him, Jesus Christ who has the words of everlasting life (cf. Jn. 6:68), is the way the truth and the life (Jn. 14:6), and who is all and in all (cf. Col. 3:11).

Ongoing Process

The formation of catechists is an ongoing process that can, in part, be accomplished through the certification proccesses that various diocese.  However, it is something that must always be ongoing and lifelong no matter how many courses or classes one has taken.

Your Thoughts?

What are your thoughts on catechist formation.  Anything you would have emphasized regarding this topic that was not covered?

Got Formation?

Recently I was looking over some catechist evaluations from last year and I came upon some comments from a few catechists who shared that the Catechist In-Service our parish provided was not necessary for them since they had been teaching for a number of years.  Granted this could be because of what was covered at the in-service, but I think it had more to do with an attitude that they are just fine where they are at.  In Part II of my discussion of catechist formation I would like to expand on the importance of ongoing formation for catechists.

Effective Catechesis

The opening sentence of the NDC under “Ongoing Formation of Catechists”, says: “Since effective catechesis depends on virtuous and skilled catechists, their ongoing formation should enhance the human, spiritual, and apostolic qualities and catechetical skills they bring to their ministry” (pg. 238).   Effective catechesis must include and foster human, spiritual and apostolic qualities in addition to the development of various teaching skills.


I find that there is a great desire for pragmatism today in our society.  Even in the Church, catechists want skills, skills, and more skills to “do” better catechesis and help their students “do” better at living the faith.  Yes, it is important to help increase the skills of catechists and rightly so in a time where our parents and grandparents mode of learning is predominately unsuccessful.  Ongoing formation must continually strive to equip catechists with various skills so that they can hone their natural talents and develop other skills that don’t come as natural to them.  However, the NDC also mentions the often forgotten component – the spiritual formation of catechists.  This is the most under appreciated component of formation offered to catechists’ today.  There are a number of factors to explain why that is, but suffice it to say, there exists a temptation to pass on the secular notion of forming those who teach.   There is a great need to make sure catechetical leaders are helping catechists see “the one thing necessary” – life in Christ (Cf. Lk. 10:42).  Assisting catechist to develop a life of virtue is vital as they witness their love for Christ and His Church to those they serve.

All Aspects of the Catechist’s Life

The NDC emphasis the need for ongoing formation of catechists that includes “all aspects of the catechist’s life”.  It speaks of the human, spiritual and intellectual levels that need to be developed in the life of catechists (see pages 239-240).   In order for a catechist to grow and continue to be formed they must be provided an integrated formation which assists them as they themselves grow and develop as a person, as a disciple of Jesus and as a faith-filled Catholic.


Here are a few ways to assist catechists in their ongoing formation:

~ Promote the reading of spiritual books and CD’s (especially regarding aspects on the spiritual life).

~ Always encourage them to grow in their spiritual lives.

~ Provide retreats, evenings of reflection, and opportunities for spiritual growth.

~ Help link the importance of how the saints and holy men and women relied on the reservoir they had through a life of prayer.  The success of the saints was not as much in the personal skills they possessed, but in their authentic witness of life that truly inspired those who encountered them.

Catechist Formation – Part I

For the last number of years I’ve tried to use a variety of video clips to help engage and catechize students.  Taking 30 minutes to an hour of class time to show a video is mostly an unproductive use of time.  However, using a 2 to 7 minute video clip from movies ( is a great site), commercials, and youtube can be a great way to make a particular point and expand on it.  Feel free to check out some of the clip I have on my blog page (go to the right side of the page).

How do you use video clips to teach?

The first summer I spent at my current parish I was talking to a catechist who said to me: “The Church doesn’t believe in Purgatory anymore do they”?  On another occasion I’ve had a catechist share how the Holy Spirit actually dwells in water in the baptismal font.  Also, I have heard of catechists doing nice crafts or activities that do not support the heart of the day’s lesson even if they get kids moving around.  These few examples point to the great need for the initial formation of catechists and their ongoing development.  In this post I would like to share what the Church in the United States (i.e., United States Conference of Bishops) has to say about how a catechetical leader (CL) has the responsibility to help catechist receive initial and ongoing formation.

Initial Formation

The National Directory For Catechesis (NDC) lists 11 points that should be considered regarding the initial formation of catechists (see pages 237-238).  Among those points I would like to focus on the first and fourth.  The NDC begins, “Initial formation of catechists most profitable precedes the beginning of their ministry and can employ different methodoligies.  Whether the training is done at a diocesan catechetical center or in the parish, it should be adapted as much as possible to the specific needs of the individual catechist” (pg. 237).  The final sentence before the list says: The initial formation of new catechists should:

“Help them develop an understanding of the nature and goals of catechesis.”

The Nature and Goals of Catechesis

What is the nature of catechesis?

The nature of catechesis is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and God’s plan of salvation to humanity.  Catechesis in its very essence is communicating or echoing a person and aiming to bring people into communion with Jesus Christ (cf. Catechesi Tradendae 5).  Catechetical Leaders whether on the parish level or the diocesan level need to help catechists understand from the beginning of their ministry that they are to proclaim the Gospel message communicated orally (apostolic tradition) and through the Sacred Scriptures.  This is what we know as the Deposit of Faith.

What are the goals of Catechesis?

The goals of catechesis are to 1) help bring about an understanding of the knowledge of the faith so that deeper conversion will be fostered and occur (cf. Catechesi Tradendae, 20).  It is also a part of the goals of catechesis to communicate what the General Directory and the National Directory for Catechechesis calls the 6 tasks:

1. Catechesis that promotes knowledge of the faith
2. Catechesis that promotes a knowledge of the meaning of the Liturgy and the sacraments.
3. Catechesis that promotes moral formation in Jesus Christ.
4. Catechesis that teaches the Christian how to pray with Christ.
5. Catechesis that prepares the Christian to live in community and to participate actively in the life and mission of the Church.
6. Catechesis that promotes a missionary spirit that prepares the faithful to be present as Christians in society.

Initial formation for those in ministry is essential to authentically passing on the Faith.  Communicating the nature and goals of catechesis cannot be assumed or overlooked.  I believe the following statement can be true in the Church as well as outside the Church: “There are not more than 100 people in the world who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive to be the Catholic Church”(Archbishop Fulton Sheen).

Even though our catechist don’t hate the church the aspect about “perceiving” what we believe can apply to them.  If catechists are not formed they communicate and pass on what they think we as Catholics believe and it can often be inaccurate to what we actually believe.

Thorough Formation

The 4th point listed in the NDC says that initial formation of new catechists should: “Provide thorough formation in the knowledge and understanding of our Catholic faith and practice, making the catechist aware of the social, cultural, ethnic, demographic, and religious circumstances of the people he or she will serve, so that the catechist can bring the Gospel message to them” (pg. 237).

There is a lot here to unpack.  Many challenges exist to providing thorough formation in the knowledge and understanding of our Catholic Faith when there is only a limited amount of time to equip catechists.  However, it is important to help provide and point towards important resources for catechists.  A brief introduction on the Catechism of the Catholic Church is very important as a catechist begins their ministry.  An introduction on how to use the Scriptures and help engage students in them is also essential.  Also, giving catechists various resources and showing them where they can find them (e.g., resources you have in your office as well as valuable websites that communicate the faith well are valuable for catechists).

What about You?

How does your diocese and/or parish help catechists attain a strong initial formation in the Faith?  What challenges do you experience in helping catechists acquire a thorough formation as they begin their ministry?

Other posts in this Catechetical Leader Series:

My last post in this new series communicated the call of a catechetical leader.  I would like, in this current post, to share briefly how a catechetical leader is a catechist first.

First and Foremost

The National Directory for Catechesis (NDC) speaks of the catechetical leader being a catechist first (pg. 226).  All the responsibilities given to them by the pastor are important, but they should always be aware that they are first a catechist in their ministry and secondarily a leader/administrator who helps carry out a program(s), train catechists (or provides avenues where they can receive training) and fulfill their general responsibilities.  This also means that the catechetical leader is to catechize throughout their ministry.

The Role of the Catechist

The General Directory for Catechesis (GDC) says: “No methodology, no matter how well tested, can dispense with the person of the catechist in every phase of the catechetical process.  The charism given to him by the Spirit, a solid spirituality and transparent witness of life, constitutes the soul of every method.  Only his own human and Christian qualities guarantee a good use of texts and other work instruments” (#156).  Therefore, “in every phase of the catechetical process” a catechetical leader is lead by the Holy Spirit to help be that instrument of handing on the faith to fellow catechists, parents, students, and colleagues.

The Task of the Catechist

The catechist is a “mediator” and one who “facilitates” the transmission of the faith to others (cf. GDC #156).  The aim of catechesis is to help the believer come to an understanding of God’s truths so that they may be transformed by them (cf. Catechesis in Our Time, #20).  The GDC speaks of this task of a catechist by saying: “Truly, to help a person encounter God, which is the task of the catechist, means to emphasize above all the relationship that the person has with God so that he can make it his own and allow himself to be guided by God” (#139).  A catechetical leader who is carrying out a vision in his/her parish (diocese or campus) must do everything with this in mind.  They must seek to provide those they serve with the ability to encounter God so that each person will accept, respond and grow in that relationship.  Every catechetical leader is called to lead catechists to grow in this encounter/experience of God who is the way, the truth and the life (cf. Jn. 14:6).  It is then that those they catechize will also be able to enter more deeply in their relationship with God.

What’s Next

Next week I will begin to explore the role a the catechetical leader and their responsibilities of the overall direction of their program.

The Call

The leadership role of a parish catechetical leader is crucial to the overall success of a religious education program.  In my first post on this series I shared how I would be exploring “the call and responsibilities of those who have a leadership position in the catechetical ministry of their parish, especially when it pertains to the religious formation/education of adults, youth and most specifically and commonly, children.”  I believe it is essential for a catechetical leader to be called to this ministry of passing on the faith.  The introduction of the NCD states: “The Holy Spirit has given all those responsible for catechesis in the Church a vocation and a mission to sanctity (pg. 20).”  Therefore, it is vital that all catechetical leaders live out their vocation which the Holy Spirit has initiated.

A Response

A catechetical leader, whether they have a PhD or minimal training, has been called to proclaim the Gospel, lead others to Christ and joyfully pass on the deposit of faith given to the Church by Christ and His successors.  Faith is a gift which follows a response.  God’s gift of redemption is a gift that seeks a response.  Working in a ministerial role in the Church naturally requires one to respond to Christ’s call “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 (NDC, pg. 54)”.

The Holy Spirit’s Guidance

I can remember as I grew in my faith, especially during my college years, how I experienced the call and desire to pass on the glorious heritage of the Catholic Faith and share it with others.  It did not happen all at once but over time through prayer, study and many encouraging individuals helping me discover and properly discern my call to ministry.  During my studies in theology, I was continually inspired and encouraged by the Holy Spirit to share my faith and help lead others closer to Christ.  I continue today to be grateful to this call and for giving me the grace to respond.

As a DRE or CRE how did Christ call you to this ministry?  Who helped you respond to this important work in the Church?

The United States has approximately 19,000 Roman Catholic parishes across the 50 states.  That means there are thousands of individuals who are helping lead, direct, coordinate and carry out the ministry of catechesis here in the United States.  This is no small endeavor.  Over the next few months I will be exploring the call and responsibilities of those who have a leadership position in the catechetical ministry of their parish, especially when it pertains to the religious formation/education of adults, youth and most specifically and commonly, children.

The National Directory for Catechesis is very clear on the importance of the leadership of those who are carrying out the ministry of catechesis which is first and foremost the Bishop of a diocese and secondarily the pastor of a specific parish.  Over the last few decades pastors have commissioned qualified (and at times not so qualified) individuals to assist in this apostolic work.

According to the National Directory for Catechesis, “The single most critical factor in an effective parish catechetical program is the leadership of a professionally trained parish catechetical leader” (pg. 224).  It goes on to stress the importance of having “a competent and qualified catechetical leader”.  What are the things that are foundational to a catechetical leader, often called a Director or Coordinator of Religious Education?

Here is a list below of what the NDC considers foundational to the individuals who carry out the work of catechesis in the parish and a what I will be covering in my series over the next few months:

~ The importance of the academic and spiritual formation of Catechetical Leaders who are catechist’s themselves as well as the one’s responsible for equipping and forming volunteer catechists in the parish.

~ How the catechetical leader carries out his/her responsibility of giving the overall direction of the parish catechetical program.

~ The importance of planning, implementing and evaluating the program you are responsible for.

~ The role of recruiting catechists and providing initial and ongoing formation for them.

~ Implementing diocesan and parish catechetical policies and guidelines.

~ The importance of collaborating with the pastor, other parish ministries as well as boards, committees and councils.

~ How a catechetical leader plays a role in the liturgical planning of the parish.

~ The need to give time and attention to ones own personal, spiritual and professional development.


Image by jscreationzs /

Do you ever wish for a brief summary of the Faith where in a nutshell you can give an explanation of the Faith?  The General Directory for Catechesis in paragraph 37 gives a great summary of Divine Revelation.  The central mystery of the Catholic Faith is the Holy Trinity and that is why I love the way this paragraph articulates how God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) has revealed Himself:

37. The “providential plan” (75) of the Father, fully revealed in Jesus Christ, is realized by the power of the Holy Spirit. This implies:

– the Revelation of God, of his “innermost truth”,(76) of his “secret”,(77) of the true vocation and dignity of the human person; (78)

– the offer of salvation to all men, as a gift of God’s grace and mercy,(79) which implies freedom from evil, sin and death; (80)

– the definitive call to gather into the family of God all of his scattered children, thus realizing a fraternal union amongst men.(81)

It is a new calendar year but not a new Religious Education year, HOWEVER, during the second half of the year how do you plan to continue to help your students grow in their love and knowledge of Christ and His Church?  Consider writing down a few goals that will help you build on what you’ve already begun.  For some it may be “beginning again” with renewed vigor as you seek to pass on our Catholic Faith!  God’s abundant Blessings!

Over the last week I have done 3 different in-services for different grade level catechists and aides as we prepare to get our year started.  This year our Religious Education Program (or as we call it in our area School of Religion) is taking the theme “Light of the World” based on Matthew 5:14-16.  Together with a team of  coordinators this theme was chosen.  We wanted a theme that we could focus on throughout the year.  Our emphasis on this theme is twofold:

1) We as catechists and aides are called to be a light to our students sharing our Faith and our love for Christ.

2) We want to encourage and empower our students to be a light in their lives.

I did an introduction to the theme at the beginning of each of the in-services.  In addition to talking about light I focused on our call as catechists to be holy.  Christ is calling us to be saints (see Matthew 5:48).  The more catechists and aides seek to grow in holiness in their own lives the more the students will see that and aspire to do that same.  We hope though our love of Christ and His Church our students will also seek to grow in their love of Christ and in their relationship with Christ.  Without this, all the facts our kids learn does not have much depth.

What have you done for your In-Services.  Is your parish doing anything regarding a theme?

If you are a new catechist or have not taught Religious Education for a number of years then you probably have a mix of emotions: excited, nervous, energized, overwhelmed, etc.  Sr. Carol Cimino, SSJ wrote a great article in September of 2008 in Religion Teacher’s Journal called “Don’t smile before Christmas and 9 other tips for new catechists.  It has a lot of great insights that I hope everyone who reads its benefits from.  Enjoy!

“Reprinted with permission from Religion Teacher’s Journal.  Effective July 1, 2010, Religion Teacher’s Journal is now Creative Catechist – A Religion Teacher’s Journal.  For more information call 800-321-0411 or visit”;

Joe Paprocki from the Catechist Journey shared the following 11 tips for lesson planning from his book The Catechist Toolbox.  I have added my thoughts in blue.  Enjoy!

Planning and preparation are key to the success of any catechist. Here are 11 tips to help you with your lesson planning:

  1. Long-Range Planning—The lesson you are planning is only part of a larger plan for the whole year. Make sure you get a picture of the whole calendar year and see how much time you have to carry out what you hope to accomplish. Get a good “feel” for how this lesson can build off of the previous one and lay the foundation for the next.  The publisher has a scope and sequence of how the lessons are laid out so be sure to take a look at it.
  2. Get to Know Your Text and Your Participants—Get to know your textbook’s philosophy, strategies, approaches, strengths, and weaknesses. Get a sense of the whole book and then zero in on a set of chapters or a unit to see how each lesson fits in with the whole. At the same time, get to know the participants in your group and how capable they are of handling the text as it is written. Make adjustments as needed.  It is worth talking with your DRE about how you can get the most out of your textbook.  It is important to keep in mind that the textbook is only a tool – you as the catechist are the most important in regards to transmitting the faith and helping your students come to know and love Christ more.
  3. Examine the Teacher Notes in the Catechist Manual—A catechist manual is often a catechist’s best friend. Most catechetical texts today have excellent catechist manuals that lay out the lesson much like a blueprint and offer step-by-step instructions. The more you familiarize yourself with the teacher notes, the better you will be able to implement your lesson and still leave room for spontaneity.  Be sure to look up the paragraphs to the Catechism that the catechist manual lists.  The Catechism is a great reference resource and gives the heart of what we believe as Catholics.
  4. Visually Imagine Yourself Teaching the Lesson—Use your imagination to visualize the lesson you are about to teach. Imagine every possible scenario and how you would react. Picture how much time each segment of your lesson is going to take. Keep a notepad nearby to jot down important thoughts or ideas that can now become part of your lesson. Write down a list of materials that you will need for certain situations. Imagine problems that might arise and visualize how you may best handle them. With this visualization complete, you will feel as though you’ve already taught this lesson once and are now building upon it.  These are great tips to keep in mind when planning your lesson.  Consider planning a number of days before teaching it so you have some time to think about the lesson before actually teaching it.
  5. Make Adjustments to Fit the Needs of Your Participants—No lesson plan is ironclad and unchangeable. Once you’ve picked up the main focus of the lesson, think of your participants and their unique needs and make any necessary adjustments. You may have participants that are not very talkative, but the lesson calls for discussion. Perhaps you will need to make an adjustment and allow for some nonverbal form of expression. Whatever the case, the better you know your participants, the better you’ll be able to make adjustments so that the lesson will be as effective as possible.  This does not happen all at once but as the year goes on you’ll continue to improve and become an even stronger catechist.
  6. Know Your Learning Outcomes (Objectives)—Know what your participants are supposed to be able to know and/or do as a result of this lesson. Don’t settle for the old “my objective is to cover chapter four” routine. Learning outcomes (sometimes referred to as “objectives”) are statements found in your lesson plan that state concretely and in measurable terms what it is that your participants should be able to know and do when the session is complete. Without these stated learning outcomes, you would never have any hope of knowing whether you’ve accomplished what you had set out to do.  If your textbook has not already done this you should write out: by the end of the lesson students will be able to…
  7. Follow a Catechetical Process—Think of your lesson as a movement: you want to move your learners from where they are to where Jesus wants them to be. St. Ignatius of Loyola described this as entering through their door but leaving through your door. This movement, called the catechetical process, involves four steps:
    • Engaging the life experience of the participant
    • Exploring the concepts to be taught (Scripture and Tradition
    • Reflecting and integrating the concepts with the lived experience
    • Responding with a new way of living
    • It is important to not focus on experience at the expense of what God has revealed.  I’ve seen at times that an emphasis on experience can be at the expense of what the Church teaches – just be sensitive to that.  At the heart of what we as catechists are doing is helping our students to come to know what God has revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church (Apostolic Tradition) so they can love and encounter Christ more fully.
  8. Get Your Materials Ready—Be sure that you have all the materials you will need to complete the lesson properly. There’s nothing worse than reaching a point in the lesson when you tell participants to cut pictures out of magazines only to find out that you don’t have scissors (or magazines). Visualizing the lesson ahead of time will help you to see what materials you will need that perhaps were not listed in the instructor manual.  This is one of the reasons looking ahead is so important.  Maybe your parish has a resource you can check out in order to prepare for next weeks lesson.
  9. Have Plan B Ready—By visualizing the lesson ahead of time, you may discover that what you’re hoping to accomplish may not work. Always have an option ready in case something falls flat or just isn’t working the way you had hoped.  This can be challenging because you only have so much time to plan to begin with, but consider some simple plan B’s: If the skits you had planned don’t seem like they’ll work and you planned 20 minutes for them what will you do? Maybe have the students answer some questions in small groups and then report to the group at large or maybe they just need to take a little time to pray – pray a decade or two of the Rosary to go to the church for a brief period of time to pray.  Consider having a question box that when things are not going great you pull a few questions out and answer them.
  10. Overplan—When serving dinner, it is always better to have more food than not enough. Likewise, when it comes to your lessons, it is always better to prepare more than you think you’ll need. Until you learn how to effectively gauge your time, it is quite possible that what you think will comprise an entire session will only cover half of the allotted time. When this happens, panic tends to set in. On the other hand, if you have more material than you need, you can relax and decide how to adjust your next session to make room for what you didn’t accomplish in this session.  The textbook gives so many suggestions that it’s difficult to discuss all the possible details and ideas the textbook gives or your DRE shares with you.  Consider what you might do if you have time.  Also, see what the saint of the day is and share about that saint if you have time.
  11. Pray—Before you sit down to plan a lesson, take some time to pause and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you. Do your planning and preparation in a prayerful environment. Light a candle. Put on some instrumental music. Place a Bible on the table next to you. Dim the lights. Ask the Holy Spirit to inspire and guide you and to give you the help you need to be focused, loving, and creative.  Here is a great prayer, but simple to the Holy Spirit: “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of thy Faithful; and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love. Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created, and thou shalt renew the face of the earth.”

Our Sunday Visitor is coming out with a book in August called Be an Amazing Catechist: Inspire the Faith of Children by Lisa Mladinich.  I had the honor of receiving it early from Lisa.  I am very much looking forward to reading it.  I love the title of her introducation: “A Quiet Revolution”… a catechist has the potential to lead “a quiet revolution” in their ministry.  When catechists passionately teach the faith and hand it on to their students in all its fullness they make a real difference in the lives of their students.  When catechists share their love for Christ and His Church wholeheartedly it cateches fire and bears much fruit.  Lisa calls the most important part of this revolution for catechists is “to deepen your relationship with Jesus Christ in His Church.  Through prayer and [the] sacramental life, you will find strength and encouragement – you will receive the graces needed to be an amazing catechist”.

I strongly recommend this book for DRE’s and catechists.

These are worth taking a few moments to reflect upon.

Eight Beatitudes for Catechists

Blessed are the catechists who listen to their students, especially the one with repeated questions, for they possess The Ears of CHRIST.

Blessed are the catechists who see the needs of their students, especially the ones unrecognized by others for they possess The Eyes of CHRIST.

Blessed are the catechists who speak kindly to their students, especially the ones without positive motivation, for they possess The Mouth of CHRIST.

Blessed are the catechists who gently touch their students, especially the ones who feel the stings of home violence, for they possess The Hands of CHRIST.

Blessed are the catechists who think prayerfully of their students, especially those who don’t know God, for they possess The Mind of CHRIST.

Blessed are the catechists who show love to their students, especially the ones with unlovable traits, for they possess The Heart of CHRIST.

Blessed are the catechists who walk patiently with their students, especially the ones lacking spiritual guidance for they possess The Feet of CHRIST.

Blessed are the catechists who persevere in their faith sharing ministry, especially when their efforts seem in vain, for they possess The Healing Presence of CHRIST and theirs is the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.

(Sr. Marie Roccapriore, MPF)

I found a good blog article articulating why Sunday Mass, the Eucharistic Celebration is so important.  The article can be found at Canterbury Tales.  Also, I recently discussed with a group of catechists how important it is to share with students that Sunday Mass is not optional but it is a part of God’s will.  We can’t shy away from sharing with students that it is a sin when people choose not to go to Sunday Mass because their lives are so busy and full of activities and other obligations.  Of course if students can’t drive themselves to Mass it is not sinful for them, however it is important to help them understand the vital importance Sunday Mass is to the life of a Catholic.

This summer I’m using a program put out by the Maryvale Institute and the Catholic Truth Society (out of England) called Echoes.  It is different than what many people have heard of – Echoes of Faith.  “Echoes” is a parish-based training resource and an initial formation program for those who are in parish ministry.  It is designed for anyone handing on the faith, whether to adults or children, providing a rounded formation in the central aspects of the Catholic Faith and how to transmit it to others.  It is designed to be taught in 11 hour and a half sessions, however for the last two years I have taught it in two five hour sessions.  It is a great resource and very valuable.  I have enjoyed very much being the presenter for these sessions.   Our Archdiocese recognizes this a basic level catechist certification.   I have the second session this Saturday (Come Holy Spirit).

I had posted this a while back under “The Ideal Catechist”.  I was looking to pass this on to some catechists and thought I’d post it again with a few edits.  Also, I think “The Effective Catechist” is a better title.

The ideal catechist is first and foremost a witness of Christ.  He/She seeks to authentically transmit the truths of the Faith to others by modeling Christ and allowing the Holy Spirit to speak through them. Here are a few characteristics (in no particular order) that an ideal catechist in a parish would seek to live out in their ministry as catechists.

1. Be active in the community where they serve.

2. Be committed to this apostolate (defined as an association of persons dedicated to the propagation of a religion or a doctrine).  It is more than merely volunteering.

3. Be enthusiastic about the Catholic Faith.

4. Be flexible to allowing the Holy Spirit to lead.

5. Have a growing knowledge of Scripture and Tradition (be immersed in growing in your faith).

6. Love those you are sharing the Faith with.

7. Be patient (meeting the students where they are at).

8. Be a person of prayer (don’t underestimate the power of praying for your students and your ministry as a catechist).

9. Be punctual: Teaching the next generation the importance of being on time is very valuable.  It makes a difference when they see us calm and collected when they arrive.

10. Be self-assured: Be sure of what you have prepared and trust the Holy Spirit to lead you.

11. Have a sense of humor – joy and laughter opens others up to the message you are proclaiming.

12. Have a willingness to be a team player – none of use does it on our own – we can always learn from others.

On March 15th Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the abundant fruits of World Youth Days that Pope John Paul II began 25 years ago.

Zenit, the Vatican News Agency, reported the following (my comments follow):

“Taking up one of the principle themes of his pontificate, Benedict XVI reiterated that in “the Lord’s look is the heart of the very special encounter and of all the Christian experience. In fact, Christianity is not primarily a morality, but [an] experience of Jesus Christ, who loves us personally, young and old, poor and rich; he loves us even when we turn our back to him.””

Today, there are so many young people and adults(i.e., parents) who have been poorly formed in their understanding of the Gospel and the Catholic Faith.  Not only do they have many misunderstandings about being Catholic but they have never really had a profound encounter with Christ and never learned how to foster a relationship with Him.  I think many are lukewarm about attending Mass or going to the sacraments because they do not understand what they are missing.  They are inclined to pick and choose those spiritual and religious aspects that they like and push aside the rest.  Also, they’ve heard that God loves them and have probably been told that numerous times in their life but they have never had a personal encounter that has impacted them.

Pope Benedict XVI continues: “In this love is found the source of the whole of Christian life and the fundamental reason of evangelization”.  If we have truly encountered Jesus, we cannot do other than witness him to those who have not yet crossed his look!”

The Holy Father encourages more than encountering Christ, but also focuses on the need to be a witness to a world that desperately needs the Gospel Message shared with them so that they themselves can come to experience Christ.  True freedom is what people want, not shallow notions or promises that help one “feel” like they are doing okay.  If they never receive more they will never draw closer to Christ and see why being a follower of Christ is greater than anything else life has to offer.

A few things on what we can do to continue to foster greater encounter to Christ:

1) Catechists should seek not only to pass on the information of the topic of the day’s lesson, but this Catholic Faith that we are passing on, this knowledge of Christ our Savior should draw students into the story of faith and inspire them to want to grow in their love of God and neighbor.  The more students are engaged the more disposed they become to encountering Christ in times of prayer and reflection in class.

2) We should seek to invite parents to a parish retreat where they can take the next step in their spiritual journey.

3) Invite parents, youth and young adults to a faith formation class or Bible study going on at your parish or a neighboring parish. The more we are fed in our faith the greater our desire to know Christ and  become more like Him.

4) Pray that the Holy Spirit will be present in their lives and assist them, in whatever way He chooses,  to have a spiritual encounter/experience.

Every catechist desires to grow in his/her ability to be a good communicator and witness of the Faith. Here are 10 skills that will contribute to anyone seeking to pass on the faith and engage the students you are ministering to.

1. Planning Good Lessons – taking the time to plan your lesson is one of the best gauges of weather your lesson will be successful or not.

2. Leading Prayer Experiences – Helping lead children in pray is a sure way of getting them not only to hear and know “about” God but also to encounter Him.

3. Communicating Effectively – It is important to find ways to communicate to students effectively. Often in our educational environment in the U.S. kids seem to allow very little to go from what they are hearing to what they are actually processing and actually comprehending.  Catechists need to communicate in a way that engages students.

4. Involving Children – The more you involve your students the more engaged they will be and the more they will enjoy their Religious Education experience.  Lecturing or reading from the text alone will not draw the students into the truths and message that you as a catechist are trying to communicate.  At the heart of our message is a person – Christ.

5. Establishing Discipline – Either you discipline the kids or they discipline you. In today’s class environment students that distract draw their classmates attention away from the lesson and onto the themselves.  Classroom time is very valuable and there is no time for students who seek to distract you (the catechist) or the other students from the precious little time you have with your students each week.

6. Using A Variety of Teaching Methods – one week break your students into small groups, another week have them work individually, and another week ask for volunteers, etc… Also, use different ways or means to communicate your message (art, video, music, illustrations to name a few).

7. Asking Questions Properly- if you ask questions that require yes or no answers that is all you will get.  Ask questions that will draw more out of your students and that will draw the students deeper into the subject at had.  Sometimes the very questions that are asked actually distract from the main points you want to make because students begin to share various experiences that don’t help focus on the lesson.

8. Leading Good Discussions – depending on the age discussion has the potential to really help students not only think and absorb what they are learning about but also to draw more out of them because they desire to share. It is not that they don’t have something to share.   It could be that they are not receiving the right questions that will draw them out and allow them to share.

9. Offering Children Positive Feedback – St. Paul said “Encourage one another while it is still today” (Heb. 3:13). Students desire to be encouraged in their lives. It is no different when it comes to their faith.  The only requirement is that you are authentic in your encouragement.

10. Working Well with the Text – The textbook is only a tool. It is not the crux of your lesson.  You as the catechist are the primary communicator, not the textbook.  You are the primary witness and messenger of the Good News, not the textbook or the video you show, or the activity you have your students participate in but you are the one who brings it together so that the students are able to grow in their knowledge of the faith and their relationship with God.  Yes the textbook can be a good guide for what you are going to cover but it should never be the sole thing you depend on to teach your students (I only recommend very small doses of reading out of the textbook).

What are the most important things to teach?  Since I only have so much time in the classroom, what do I have to teach?  You might have heard this asked before by a catechist.  I want to share 5 things that are essential components to passing on the Faith.

1. The Holy Trinity – The Father, Son and Holy Spirit How does each lesson relate to the Holy Trinity.  The essential and foundational doctrine of the Catholic Faith is the Holy Trinity.  If your lesson does point toward or relate related in some way to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit then it would be best if it was left out of your lesson.

2. Scripture – A driving force in the classroom. Do you use Scripture in your opening prayer?  Do you use Scripture when teaching about the specific topic of the day?  My professor use to always say – Is Scripture the driving force of your lesson?  Using Scripture is vital to passing on the faith to the students in our classrooms.

3. Tradition – Handing it on The Apostles began to proclaim the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all they met and encountered.  Then the successors of the Apostles did the same.  It was about 400 years before anyone referred to the New Testament Scriptures because it was not until the Council of Rome in 382 that initially made a decision which books were divinely inspired and which ones were not.  St. Paul said, “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter”. (2 Thes. 2:15). There were many things that were not written down.  This is called Apostolic Tradition (also known as Sacred Tradition) Many teachings and belief were passed on or handed down orally to fellow believers.  The Tradition of the Church is at the heart of what we teach in the classroom, not our personal opinions or only what can be found in the Bible.

4. Model’s of Faith – Saints There are thousands of models that the Church has at her fingertips to share with the students.  These saints lived for Christ and many were inspired by them and their own lives were transformed because of their example.  Continue to share about the lives of the saints in your classroom (even when they are not specifically mentioned in your textbook), because students love to hear stories about these interesting and fascinating people.

5. Prayer – at the heart of it all Help your students learn to pray.  Prayer is much more than mere words that we have memorized but a raising of the heart and mind to God.  Open and close every class in prayer and seek to provide prayer experiences that help your students depend their love for God.

sowing seedsThe Association of Catechumenal Ministry, an organization that focuses its work on catechizing adults who are preparing to come into the Catholic Church through the RCIA, articulates 8 key elements for authentic catechesis.  They are worth taking a look at for all in the ministry of passing on the Faith.

Key #1: Centered on Christ – (1 Cor 2:2)

“We must therefore say that in catechesis it is Christ, the Incarnate Word and Son of God, who is taught.  Everything else is taught with reference to him and it is Christ along who teaches.  Anyone else teaches to the extent that he is Christ’s spokesman, enabling Christ to teach with his lips.” (Pope John Paul II, On Catechesis in Our Time, #6)

Key #2: Systematic and Organic – (Acts 20:26-28)

“Authentic catechesis is always an orderly and systematic initiation into the revelation that God has given of himself to humanity in Christ Jesus, a revelation stored in the depths of the Church’s memory and in sacred Scripture, and constantly communicated from one generation to the next by a living active traditio.” (Pope John Paul II, On Catechesis in Our Time, #22)

Key #3: Associated with Life Experience – (1 John 1:1-4)

“No one can arrive at the whole truth on the basis solely of some simple private experience.  That is, to say without an adequate explanation of the message of Christ who is ‘the way and the truth and the life’ (John 14:6).  Nor is any opposition to be set up between a catechesis taking life as its point of departure and a traditional, doctrinal and systematic catechesis.” (Pope John Paul II, On Catechesis in Our Time, #22)

Key #4: Promotes the Sacramental Life – (John 6:56-57)

Catechesis always has reference to the sacraments.  Sacramental life is impoverished and very soon turns to hollow ritualism if it is not based on serious knowledge of the meaning of the sacraments, and catechesis becomes intellectualized if it fails to come alive in the sacramental practice. (Pope John Paul II, On Catechesis in Our Time, #23)

Key #5: Driven by Scripture – (2 Tim 3:16-17)

“The Ministry of the Word – pastoral preaching, catechetics, and all form of Christian instruction… is healtlhily nourished and thrives in holiness through the Word of Scripture.”  (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #132)

“The Church desires that in the Ministry of the Word, sacred Scripture should have a pre-eminent position.” (General Directory for Catechesis, #127)

Key #6: Fosters the Moral Life – (1 Tim 6:18-19)

“Conversion to Jesus Christ implies walking in his footsteps.  Catechesis must, therefore, transmit to the disciples the attitudes of the Master himself… This moral testimony, which is prepared for by catechesis, must always demonstrate the social consequences of the demands of the Gospel.” (General Directory for Catechesis, #85)

Key #7: Connected to the Ecclesial Community –(Phil 2:1-4)

“Catechesis runs the risk of becoming barren if no community of faith and Christian life takes the catechumen in at a certain stage of his catechesis.  That is why the ecclesial community at all levels has a twofold responsibility with regard to catechesis: it has the responsibility of providing for the training of its members, but it also has the responsibility of welcoming them into an environment where they can live as fully as possible what they have learned.” (Pope John Paul II, On Catechesis in Our Time, #24)

Key #8: Directed to the Life of Prayer – (1 Tim 2:1-4)

“When catechesis is permeated by a climate of prayer, the assimilation of the entire Christian life reaches its summit.  This climate is especially necessary when the catechumen and those to be catechized are confronted with the more demanding aspects of the Gospel and when they feel weak or when they discover the mysterious action of God in their lives.” (General Directory for Catechesis, #85)


I found this slide presentation and thought it was worth sharing.


Here is a great quiz put out by Catholic Answers about some key aspects of the Catholic Faith. Test your knowledge and see how you do.

birth-boucherCláudio Cardinal Hummes, Archbishop Emeritus of São Paulo and Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy in charge of all catechetical efforts in the Church wrote a beautiful Christmas Message to all who carry out the work of catechesis in the Church.  May it inspire you and draw you closer to Christ this Christmas Season.

Merry Christmas and God bless you and your family!!!    ~ William

Christmas Message 2008

I extend my joyous and fraternal wishes for a holy and festive Christmas, and that the year 2009 be enlightened, grace filled a full of accomplishments in the service of Jesus Christ and of our brothers and sisters, especially those who are poor or suffering. Christmas does not confine us to a commemoration of an extraordinary event in the past, recalled with gratitude and love, but it is also an event which is actualised in the present day, in our midst.

Jesus Christ comes because he loves us and wants to save us from evil: from every evil, and even from death. He comes to welcome us, to make us experience his love, to transform us into his disciples, true sons of the heavenly Father, to invite us to proclaim in the entire world that God is Love, and that he loves us unconditionally, without measure. Jesus comes! He becomes our companion on the journey of life. Let us be gathered to him. Let us allow him to overcome us and to make his dwelling within us. He will eat with us in an unimaginable communion, in which he will have us experience the mysterious and efficacious depth of his friendship and his salvation. Enlightened and transformed by this encounter with Him we will be able to proclaim him to every man and woman of our time. Behold, such is Christmas!

Cláudio Cardinal Hummes
Archbishop Emeritus of São Paulo
Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy


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