Catechetical Leader Series



How many times have you heard it said in ministry: “You can’t give what you don’t have”?  Everyone in ministry knows this intellectually.  Everyone also knows or has known someone in which this would be an accurate assertion of their struggles in ministry.  The final responsibility which the National Directory for Catechesis asserts of all catechetical leaders (CLs) is that they are to give “attention to their own personal, spiritual, and professional development” (pg. 225).

Personal

Wikipedia defines personal development as “ activities that improve self-knowledge and identity, develop talents and potential, build human capital and employability, enhance quality of life and contribute to the realization of dreams and aspirations.”  In ministry one of the goals is to be an instrument for Christ so that others may come to know and love Him.  Catechetical leaders need to take time throughout the year to be aware of the areas that will help them keep everything in perspective and have a good work/life balance.  I’ve seen CL’s neglect their own personal development and get so focused on what is in front of them that their family and friendships suffer.  Without the proper self-knowledge and awareness of the need to continually develop and grow personally we will not have the perspective necessary when ministering to, for and with the People of God we serve.

Spiritual

The Spiritual life is a journey of “casting your net out into the deep” (cf. Lk. 5:4) in order to become more like Christ, more holy, more faith-filled, more on fire for God and more united in mind and heart with God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Resources in the spiritual life abound from books to devotions to the offering of talks and retreats in each diocese.  A catechetical leader’s call is first to this vocation of holiness.  The more a catechetical leader develops their own spiritual life the more their ministry efforts bear fruit and multiply.  This aspect of development cannot to overemphasized regarding its proper place.

Professional

Many of us get what we probably call “junk mail” advertising how to lead productive and concise meetings, how to work well with difficult people and how to resolve conflicts, etc., all touting professional development.  We can learn a lot from some of these one day seminars.  Most dioceses offer professional development opportunities not only that help you improve on your catechetical skills in the classroom but also those skills that leaders need in order to organize their program, equip volunteers and lead others at the parish and diocesan level.  Granted our definition of success is not in terms of power or wealth but in terms of using our gifts to be a fitting instrument of the Gospel to those we serve.  Even if you can’t go to a national conference seek to take time to grow and work on those professional areas that would benefit your ministry.

Each of these areas of development are important in the role of every catechetical leader.  Through our own development we are better able to help others develop and become the best versions of themselves and help lead them to Christ.

What do you find is important in your personal, spiritual, and professional development?


But I’m Not The Liturgist

What does being a catechetical leader (CL) have to do with liturgical planning?  Many people in CL positions do not have much to do with liturgical planning especially as it relates to the Sunday liturgies or any other liturgy for that matter.  The National Directory for Catechesis articulate one of the responsibilities of a CL is assistance in liturgical planning (cf. Pg. 225).

Manifesting Christ

The Second Vatican Council said: “It is through the liturgy, especially, that the faithful are enabled to express in their lives and manifest to others the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church” (Sacrosanctum Concilium [SC], Constitution on the Liturgy, no. 2).  The Liturgy, says Msgr. Francis Kelly, “contains the Church’s greatest and most effective catechesis.  During the course of the liturgical year, the whole mystery of Christ is relived and the inexhaustible riches of its grace for our lives are assimilated” (The Mystery We Proclaim, pg. 42).  It is therefore important for CLs to be involved in liturgical planning so as to help those they serve be more fully drawn into the “fount from which all Her power flows” (SC, no, 10).

Parish Planning

Many CLs are DREs who have the responsibility of coordinating sacramental preparation for First Reconciliation, First Eucharist and Confirmation.  In each of these there are aspects of liturgical planning that CLs need to be involved in.  Another example would those CLs involved with RCIA.  There are a number of Rites that are a part of the RCIA process and therefore require the CL to collaborate and work with the priest and liturgist/music director.

How Are You Involved in Liturgical Planning?

What are the ways you find yourself involved in liturgical planning as a CL?

 

For other posts in this Catechetical Leader Series click here.


Does the left hand know what the right hand is doing?

Have you ever been in a work environment where you felt like you were spinning your wheels because the various groups or ministry heads in the parish refused to work together on a consistent basis?  At times in parish life it can be frustrating because of the lack collaboration.  The National Directory For Catechesis speaks of the responsibility of the catechetical leader is to seek “collaboration with the pastor, other parish ministers, and appropriate committees, boards, and councils” (NDC pg. 225).

Working Together

In my parish, an “inter-ministry” team was formed which drew all the main ministry heads together to discuss how we can together serve our parishioners and fulfill the parish priorities that had been established.  The aim of this group was to go beyond the all to common approach of each ministry being a “silo” amidst the other “silos” (e.g., Youth Ministry being completely separate from Religious Education and those two being separate from Adult Faith Formation, etc.).  This has helped cut down on different ministries trying to do similar things and discovering that by working together we can better meet the needs of our parish community.  So, how come we don’t meet our desired result or help to get more people involved?  Often it’s because various groups or ministries are not working together.

Meeting the needs of the parish

It is easy to speak of the importance of collaboration, but really seeking to accomplish it is what matters.  Even Jesus, the second person of the Trinity did not do it all on his own and he chose 12 apostles to continue the ministry he had begun and to teach in His name.  In addition 72 disciples were chosen later to go on mission.

At the heart of why various ministry heads, boards, councils and committees need to work together is to be able to more fully bear fruit and fulfill the mission of the Church as well as the particular mission of your parish.  Most parishes have a “parish mission statement” that articulates the heart of your parishes identity and desired goals.  Therefore, it is extremely advantageous to partner and collaborate so the fulfillment of these goals can be achieved.  If you are a catechetical leader then consider reflecting on how you are doing this and ways you may need to improve.  If you are a catechist, consider how you are working or not working with other catechists and the director of your program to build community and work together in your ministry.

Some Tips from a leadership professional

John C. Maxwell is a leadership guru that I enjoy reading.  I’ll conclude by sharing what he said about collaboration in his book, The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player:

Collaboration is the key word when it comes to meeting challenges as a team. Cooperation is merely working together agreeably, but collaborating means working together more aggressively. Every team player must bring something more to the table, and not just put in his minimum required work.

A collaborative team player needs to change in four key areas:
Perception

A team player must see his teammates as collaborators, not as competitors. Their skills and talents must complement one another, rather than be made to compete against each other. Competition within the team will only hurt the team.

Attitude

Be supportive, not suspicious, of your teammates. Always assume another person’s motives are good unless proven otherwise. If you trust people, it naturally occurs that you will treat them better, and a collaborative spirit will grow within your team.

Focus
Concentrate on the team, not yourself.Think of progress as a relay race, where you must pass the baton onto your next teammate. Do not ask “What’s in it for me?” but rather “What does this do for the team?”
Results
Create victories through multiplication. Remarkable results can be achieved when you harness the skills and talents of all your individual team members. Several heads are always better than one.
To be a collaborative team player…

•Think win-win-win.
•Complement others and their unique gifts.
•Take yourself out of the picture. Stop promoting yourself and ask how the team would do if you were not in it, propose ideas that will not involve your participation but will promote other teammates.

As catechetical leaders and catechists we can do great things through Christ who strengthens us if we collaborate with one another.  Come Holy Spirit?

What are ways you have collaborated in your parish that has helped you, the staff and fellow parishioners?


The last 3 posts in this series have been on the responsibility of the catechetical leader (CL) to provide formation for catechists.  I would like to now turn to the next responsibility mentioned by the National Directory For Catechesis – policies and procedures.  The NDC states the importance of the “Implementation of diocesan and parish catechetical policies and guidelines, including the areas of catechist certification and supervision and administrative policies related to negligence, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and the safety and protection of minors.”  Wow, that is a mouthful!

I’d Didn’t Sign Up For This

No, most catechetical leaders don’t find much inspiration from the policies and procedures that are created from their diocese or parish.  However, policies and procedures are necessary in order that the overall program is carried out and certain things are in place to protect both children and adults.

What They Are

It’s important to define the difference between a policy and a procedure.  Dictionary.com defines a policy as “a definite course of action adopted for the sake of expediency, facility, etc.”  It is, therefore, a predetermined course of action that is being asked of catechetical leaders (from the diocese), parents or parishioners (diocesan and/or parish level).  A procedure, on the other hand, is “how” the policy will be carried out.

I found some great points about policies and procedures that I think are helpful from AMEinfo.com:

The major differences between policies & procedures are identified below:

Policies:
• Are general in nature
• Identify company rules
• Explain why they exist
• Tells when the rule applies
• Describes who it covers
• Shows how the rule is enforcement
• Describes the consequences
• Are normally described using simple sentences & paragraphs

Procedures:
• Identify specific actions
• Explain when to take actions
• Describes alternatives
• Shows emergency procedures
• Includes warning & cautions
• Gives examples
• Shows how to complete forms
• Are normally written using an outline format

Policies & procedures are required when there is a need for consistency in your day-to-day operational activities. Policies and procedures also provide clarity to the reader when dealing with accountability issues or activities that are of critical importance to the company, such as, health & safety, legal liabilities, regulatory requirements or issues that have serious consequences. (AMEinfo.com: Why are policies and procedures important).

Here is an example of how the Archdiocese of Chicago articulates their policy and then lists the procedures:

1601.1. Policy: The Parish shall have a parish handbook of guidelines and
policies of religious education. The handbook shall be in accord with Archdiocesan policies. The Parish shall make the handbook available to parents, catechists, and all interested parishioners.
Procedures
a) The handbook includes such information as:
-the parish statement of catechetical purpose;
-schedules of religious education offerings;
-procedures for registration, cancellation of classes, emergencies;
-policies regarding fees, attendance at classes and disciplinary
procedures;
-information on parish policies regarding preparation for
sacraments;
-policies regarding the health, safety and welfare of children;
-a statement of the parish’s non-discrimination policy;
-information on programs for persons with special needs; and
-pertinent Archdiocesan policies.

It goes on, but the above is a good example of the “what” and “how” of a policy and a procedure.

Here is a parish example:

Policy: The following is the St. Ann Sunday School Well-Child Policy. We will work to adhere to this policy for the safety and well being of all the children.
Please keep your child at home if any one of the following has occurred within the last 24 hours:
Fever/Vomiting
Discharge in or around the eyes
Green or yellow running nose
Excessive coughing
Diarrhea
Questionable rash
Any communicable disease

The Procedure: A quick health check will be conducted when you bring your child to the classroom.  A child will not be admitted if any of the symptoms above are present. (from St. Ann’s Parish in Coppell, TX)

The Business Side of Things

Making sure that policies and procedures are created and implemented is an important component in the overall responsibilities of a catechetical leader.  This is what I call the business side of the Church.  Without proper policies and procedures problems and even scandal occur.  This is often the least enjoyable part of the duties of a CL, but nonetheless, essential.  Proper policies and procedures ensure professionalism, safety and order which are all important in catechetical ministry.  With these in place the Holy Spirit is able to more clearly work among God’s people.


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.

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.

Examples

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


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:


Calling All Volunteers

We are now ready to take some time to discuss another important responsibility of a catechetical leader (CL): The recruitment of catechists and volunteers for your ministry.  One thing all CL’s have in common is that we are always looking to recruit volunteers.

Recruiting others to help in your ministry is vital.  The General Directory for Catechesis says: “The vitality of catechesis in recent years has been amply demonstrated by many positive aspects.  Among them…the great number of priest, religious, and laity who devote themselves with enthusiasm to catechesis, one of the most important ecclesial activities (#29)”.  I love that last part where it states how the ministry of catechesis is one of the most important ministries in the Church.  Not all volunteer positions are equal.  Calling forth catechists who will be a true instrument of passing on knowledge of the Faith and help assist those they serve come to a greater transformation in Christ.  This is not an easy task when at times CL’s are glad to just have people who come forward to be a part of their ministry.  I’ll discuss more about the ideal catechist in a future post in this series.

The First Catechists

Jesus gives a glimpse of recruiting others when He called His Apostles (see Matthew 5:18-22).  Their calling was simple yet personal.  Jesus did not expect perfection from the beginning, but through continual formation assisted the apostles to be the ones who would be fishers of men (cf. Mk. 1:16-18) and laborers in the field (cf. Mt. 9:37-38).

How to Recruit

There are many things a CL could initiate to recruit volunteers.  Here are two things to consider:

1) Communicate

Share with others that you have a need.  Many CL’s use the bulletin, send emails, print flyers and make announcements.  Whatever you do, seek to let others know what God is doing in your ministry and that you need others to assist.  Some ministries have specific times of the year where the recruitment of catechists and volunteers is more frequent (e.g., catechists for religious education programs are often recruited a couple of months before it begins).  The key is communicating your needs and the rewards of being a part of your ministry.

2) Personal Invite

The most effective way to recruit individuals to assist you in your particular ministry is to give a personal invitation.  When the bulletin or newspaper asks for volunteers in general many feel like it is too impersonal or there are others out there who will say yes.  However, when they are given a personal call, email or face to face invitation (often the best) that speaks much more clearly and personally to them.

Many Are Needed

A CL is no “one man show”.  He/she must recruit others to help fulfill their ministry responsibilities.   Recruiting can be very challenging, especially today’s where everyone is so busy.  The rewards of talented, enthusiastic, faith-filled volunteer catechists outweighs the many challenges that come with sharing the Gospel with others.  Continually look to the Holy Spirit to provide those necessary “laborers” for your ministry.

What are things you have done to successfully recruit volunteer catechists?

Check out the other posts in this series:

P.S. The day after I posted this  entry I found a good post called interviewing volunteers by mpower28.com.



We are now ready, after establishing that the role of a catechetical leader is a calling and how they are catechists first, to discuss the responsibility of the catechetical leader as they give the “overall direction of the parish catechetical programs for adults, youth and children (NDC pg. 225).

The responsibilities of catechetical leaders can vary greatly from parish to parish.  The DRE or CRE at one parish is only in charge of elementary school age children and possibly middle schoolers.  AT another parish the DRE/CRE lead both religious education and youth ministry.  Still other parishes have this same catechetical leader also lead RCIA.  Whatever your responsibilities, providing the overall direction is foundational to building the kind of program you believe will assist at accomplishing the mission of the Church in general and parish in particular.

3 important steps in carrying out the overall direction of the program(s) you lead:

1. Vision

It is essential to have a vision for how the program(s) you lead will accomplish desired objectives.  Everyone wants to help others grow closer to Jesus, but how can you and those who assist you accomplish this outcome?   Pope John Paul II spoke of the primary goal or aim of catechesis this way:

“The primary and essential object of catechesis is, to use an expression dear to St. Paul and also to contemporary theology, “the mystery of Christ.” Catechizing is in a way to lead a person to study this mystery in all its dimensions: ‘to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery…comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth …know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge…(and be filled) with all the fullness of God'(Eph. 3:9, 18-19).  It is therefore to reveal in the Person of Christ the whole of God’s eternal design reaching fulfillment in that Person.(#5)”

He then says probably the most quoted line of the entire document: “Accordingly, the definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ: only He can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity” (#5).

It is very important to list practical ways you hope to do this in your ministry.  Will you do this by helping catechists create better lesson plans and/or help them by providing articles that assist them in their spiritual growth?  Maybe its finding ways to concretely build and bring a greater awareness in your parish of the value of the program(s) you lead.

2. Communication

Recently my pastor said: “We over communicate and are under-informed”.  This being said, it is important to be purposeful when communicating with your catechists/volunteers, parents, and your staff.  The more those involved understand what to expect, what is going on and what is coming up the more they are able to help fulfill the vision and objectives of your ministry.  Communicating with the staff and the general parish about your ministry is important to help give them an understanding of why your particular program/ministry is working to fulfill the mission of the parish.  Examples of ways to communicate include but are not limited to: emails, the bulletin, personal conversations, and regular meetings.  Successfully communicating allows a catechetical to takes steps to fulfilling the overall direction of your program(s).

3. Evaluation

How is your program going?  Is it in need a a total over-haul, some renewal is certain areas (as if we don’t all need that on a yearly basis), or should it be eliminated.  Take the time to evaluate.  Evaluation can occur in two ways: 1) regularly assessing specific aspects of ministry (e.g., Are we returning people’s calls in a timely fashion?).  2) Quarterly or bi-annually (e.g., have catechists fill out evaluation forms in the middle of the year and at the end of the year.  Also, consider emailing a few questions out quarterly to get feedback from catechists, volunteers, or parents about how things are going.  Just be careful of only doing it once a year…I find it challenging to have your volunteers reflect on the whole year and get the valuable answers that you want.  Breaking it up can really help.  Evaluating your program(s) will allow you to continue to grow, impact others and keep you focused on what is most important in your ministry.

May you continue to grow as a catechetical leader in your ministry and as you help carry out the overall direction of your parish program(s).  What components are important in helping a catechetical leader bear fruit as they provide direction in their program(s)?


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.

 

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