Pope Emaritus Benedict spoke back in 2010 to the Italian Bishops conference in Assisi about the translation of the Roman Missal in the context of liturgical reform.  He said that “all true reformers are, in fact, obedient to the faith.” He explained:

“They do not move arbitrarily, they do not claim any discretional jurisdiction over rites. They are not masters but custodians of the treasure that was instituted by the Lord and entrusted to us. The entire Church is present in each liturgical act, and adhering to its form is a condition for the authenticity of the celebration.”

The “reformers” he is speaking of are all the bishops, priests and liturgists who will be implementing the new translation of the Roman Missal.  I think the Pope’s message also applies to the work of catechesis when passing on the Deposit of Faith.  We cannot teach personal opinions or only the truths that “we think” are more relevant.  There is a temptation to side-step the more challenging teachings of the Gospel and the Church. The Lord has entrusted to His Church the full Deposit of Faith and we, in the ministry of catechesis, must never see ourselves as the “masters but custodians of the treasure(s) that was instituted by the Lord and entrusted to us.”

3 Ways we can do this in our Religious Education Programs:

1) Make sure and talk to your DRE about what are the fundamental truths of the Faith, e.g., Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, the Paschal Mystery, the Sacraments, the doctrine of sin, etc.

2) Be faithful to the teachings of Christ and His Church in your own life. As we allow comfort or lukewarmness to infect our own Faith lives, it becomes contagious and spreads to the programs we lead and the teachings we pass on.  The teachings of the Church are life-giving and inspire one to go deeper and grow in a relationship with God.

3.    Be sure to find small teachable moments to pass on to the parents as well.  It is becoming increasingly more challenging to encourage parents to attend any presentations about the faith.  Look to newsletters, emails, and small assignments in which students and parents can work together, so that parents can deepen their understanding of the blessings and joy of knowing the teachings of the Church and desire more fervently to live them in their lives.

Come Holy Spirit!


Lisa Mladinich came to the Land of Oz this past Sunday and Monday to share how to not only be an amazing catechist but to help catechists and their students love Christ and His Church more fully and with great joy!  She spoke at two different parishes (mine being one of them) during their catechist in-service to begin the year.  She also spoke at a third parish about how to be an amazing catechist through sacramental preparation.

Her In-Service was broken up into two main parts.  The first 45 minutes was an exciting presentation about numerous aspects of being a faith-filled and empowered catechist.  During the second part of the in-service she was not only very practical but very engaging.  She had 60 catechists on their feet learning about ways to involve their students and engage their minds and hearts.

Lisa’s enthusiasm, excitement about the faith and her experience of engaging students as a catechist herself throughout the years captivated and motivated so many of my catechists.  A number of them came to me afterwards or over the next few days sharing that they really “got a lot” out of the in-service and they hoped to see her again in the future.

 


Today we just completed our annual two week summer intensive School of Religion Program.  We had 198 students register for it this year.  It was a good two weeks full of activity and learning.  This program has been going on for about 8 years now.  Originally our parish offered School of Religion classes on Tuesday and Wednesday nights for 1st – 6th grade.  Once we began to offer the summer program (we do not offer 2nd grade in the summer)  we no longer offered Tuesday night classes.  Many parents really like the summer option because their kids are so busy during the school year that it is challenging to get them to class on a weekly basis.  There are pro’s and con’s to a summer intensive verses once a week for 9 months, but both meet the growing needs of parents and students.

Our Theme This Summer was Faith: Love it, Learn it, Live it! I copied the logo and put up sheets like this all around the building with different ways to apply the Live it, Love it and Learn it theme.

I want to share a few personal challenges I have during these two weeks:

1) The Parents: They are, as we always say: The primary teachers of their child’s faith.  Most parents however feel more comfortable having someone else teach them the basic tenants of the faith (more about that in a future post).  I worked really hard this year communicating with the parents and seeking feedback from them throughout the two weeks (mostly through email).  Each day I emailed the parents announcements and what their child would be learning (by grade level).  I also tried to include helpful tips for the parents, helpful parent websites on faith formation and valuable articles on helping their children grow in their faith.  One email program software we have will report how many emails were opened (some days were better than others).  I so desire to reach out to the parents and get them engaged so they can be empowered and enriched.  It is not easy.  I think some parents really did like the emails (which did take me about 2 hours to put together each day) but others were just too busy to look at them.  We need to find ways to equip parents who so often received poor faith formation themselves growing up.

2) Another challenge I have during our two week program is connecting with the catechists and aides in such a short period of time.  It’s great to work with and around them for the two weeks, but I just wish I had more time to process and see all that they are doing. They have great ideas and they bring so much to the table to share.  I also took the time each day to email them about important announcements for the next day as well as give them teaching ideas and inspirational quotes from saints, the Catechism and catechetical documents.  It is so important to help with their ongoing formation.

Sending these two emails each day took up my whole afternoon and took a lot of energy.  From an administrative point of view I’m glad the two weeks are over, but I’m sad because I wish there was more time to assist our students in their academic and most especially spiritual formation.

I will pray for our parents that they will continue to help their children grow in their faith and remember that these two weeks are only the beginning of what they should be doing now for the rest of the year until next summer (and throughout their child’s life).  I will also pray for the students that the Holy Spirit continues to speak to their hearts and minds.

Students just having a Q&A Session with our pastor.


Are there any key themes that should be a part of any classroom regardless of the topic of the day?  In 1973, the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops in their document “Basic Teachings For Catholic Religious Education” spoke of three themes which should “carry through all religious education” (pg. 3).  I would like to write more about this in the future but this is definitely a good start of what should be a part of one’s lesson during each class.

1. The Importance of Prayer

“This teaching will take place through experiences of prayer, through the examples of prayer, and through the learning of common prayers(pg. 3).”  Consider focusing on the following:
a. The example of prayer (how do you model prayer and draw your students into prayer as a catechist?)
b. learning common prayers (by memorization)
c. Experiences of prayer (opening and closing each session in prayer, praying with the Scriptures, prayer services, intercessory prayer, etc)

2. Participating in the Liturgy

The Bishops documents states, “Liturgy itself educates.  It teaches, it forms community, it forms the individual.  It makes possible worship of God and a social apostolate to men.  The Mass, the Church’s “great prayer,” is the highest, most noble form of the Church’s liturgy.  Effective instruction will therefore help every Christian participate actively in the Eucharistic celebration of his own witnessing faith community (pg. 4).”   Without  connecting students and adults to the liturgy we will struggle to draw people into participation and the very life of the Church.

3. Familiarity with the Holy Bible

At the heart of passing on the Faith is the use of the Scriptures.  The document goes on to say, “The Word of God is life giving.  It nourishes and inspires strengthens and sustains.  It is the primary source, with Tradition, of the Church teaching.”…The words of St. Paul should describe the Catholic students of religion: “From your infancy you have known the Sacred Scriptures, the sources of the wisdom which, through faith in Jesus Christ, leads to salvation (2 Tim. 3:15) (pg. 4-5).”  Using Scripture in the classroom to allow the students to become familiar with the Bible as well as showing them how God reveals His plan to us cannot be underestimated.

What themes would you add to this list?


“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.” (National Directory for Catechesis No. 19A)

I remember last year 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 we think about what we can do with our catechists this summer to help prepare them for teaching in the Fall.  Let us 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!  May God be with each one of you!

What do you do to train and form your volunteers?


Where do we find God in our everyday lives as Catholics?  There are so many examples we could give on where we find God.  Loyola Press is even having a video contest to encourage Catholic Identity and Community building on where we find God in our lives.

The question of where do we find God brings me to an additional question:  What does God reveal about where to find Him?  Here are a few things the Catechism says:

~The world, and man, attest that they contain within themselves neither their first principle nor their final end, but rather that they participate in Being itself, which alone is without origin or end. Thus, in different ways, man can come to know that there exists a reality which is the first cause and final end of all things, a reality “that everyone calls God”.10 ” (CCC #34)

~ “Man’s faculties make him capable of coming to a knowledge of the existence of a personal God. But for man to be able to enter into real intimacy with him, God willed both to reveal himself to man and to give him the grace of being able to welcome this revelation in faith. The proofs of God’s existence, however, can predispose one to faith and help one to see that faith is not opposed to reason.” (CCC #35)

~ “God, who creates and conserves all things by his Word, provides men with constant evidence of himself in created realities”  (CCC #54)

~ “Sacred Scripture and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God” (DV 10), in which, as in a mirror, the pilgrim Church contemplates God, the source of all her riches.  (CCC #97).

~“Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us,” is present in many ways to his Church:197 in his word, in his Church’s prayer, “where two or three are gathered in my name,”199 in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned,199 in the sacraments of which he is the author, in the sacrifice of the Mass, and in the person of the minister. But “he is present . . . most especially in the Eucharistic species.” (CCC 1373).   

When we ask our students questions like Where do you find God?, or Where to you experience Jesus in your daily life?, may we always remember that we want to link them back to what God has revealed.  We always want to connect them to some aspect Christian doctrine which is not stale and static but life giving and spirit filled.  God’s revelation and truth set us free (cf. Jn. 8:32) and gives us life (cf. Jn. 10:10).


Immaculate Mary, your praises we sing;
Who reignest in splendor with Jesus our King.
Ave, ave, ave, Maria! Ave, ave, Maria!

Last night our Family Formation students had class and discussed everything Marian.

My wife taught the 6th grade class and this is what she did for class:

1) She broke the kids up into 5 groups and they rotated to 5 different stations about Mary.

2) The 5 Stations explored the following:

1. Original Sin

2. What we as Catholics believe about Mary

3. Why wear a Scapular or Miraculous Medal

4. Developing a devotion to Mary in the Rosary

5. Marian Apparitions

3) After students spent time at each station they took a quiz reviewing what they learned at each station.

4) My wife shared that this not only helped them learn about Mary but it engaged them to a far greater degree than if they would have just talked about it with students sitting at their desks.

This brings me to a larger point regarding teaching on Mary.  I truly believe that by helping foster a devotion to Mary to your students it will draw them into their faith and increase their love for God and neighbor.  Mary is truly our model in faith and she draws us closer to Jesus.  It not only sounds good but it is true.  How many times have you heard people talk about their devotion to Mary as a way that had helped them grow in their faith?

Here are a few ways to help your students grow in their devotion to Mary thus leading them closer to Jesus:

 

1) Pray a decade of the Rosary as you begin or end class.  Consider picking one of the mysteries of the day (for example if you meet on Sundays or Wednesdays then choose one of the Glorious Mysteries to pray). Try to connect it to the lesson of the day or a way to ask Mary to bless your class.  I also pray at the end and offer it to Mary at the foot of the cross.

2) Point to Mary often in your teaching as a model of faith and response to God’s ways.  For example if you are talking about the Gifts of the Holy Spirit – point out how Mary shows us how to live them.

3) Pray a Marian Litany (two examples below)

Litany to the Blessed Virgin Mary

Litany to Mary of Nazareth

May today’s Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception be a reminder of Mary’s Holiness and our call to help our students grow in their faith and model her!

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