As we continue to celebrate the 5th Anniversary of my blog, The Catechist’s Journey, here is another guest blogger. Marc Cardaronella is the Director of Religious Education for Holy Cross Church in Champaign, IL. In a former life, he was a Naval Aviator but gave that up for a less thrilling and infinitely more satisfying career working for the Church. He has a Master’s Degree in Theology and Christian Ministry with a specialization in Catechetics from Franciscan University and works primarily in adult formation, RCIA and catechist training. Marc also works as a Regional Diocesan Director of Religious Education for the Diocese of Peoria organizing regional catechist workshops, training and parish catechetical programming. You can find Marc online at his blog, Evangelizing Catechesis , where he writes about catechesis and evangelization. He lives in Savoy, IL with his wife Shannon and their two boys John and David. Thanks, Marc for sending the following along for my readers!
How Knowing Your Students Can Help Them Know Christ
by Marc Cardaronella
Catechesis should be personal.
Think about how Jesus dealt with people. He took the time to listen to them. He asked them what they desired. He spoke to their hearts. We can’t have the same insight as God. But it’s important for catechists to get to know their students as much as possible. When you understand what’s going on inside, you can tailor your catechesis to meet their needs. Here’s a story where this made all the difference.
As the RCIA director at my parish, I try to get to know all the candidates before classes begin. Once I had a pretty difficult case. This man’s father was an atheist philosopher and brought him up that way. He was interested in the Catholicism because his wife was Catholic. He wanted to learn and he might want to join, but he said there was no way he’d have faith and believe in God. Of course, that wasn’t an option. To be baptized, he needed at least some faith. The line was drawn in the sand. He thought religion developed in societies over time as a way to keep people in check. It was the opiate of the masses. While he talked, I prayed. I was daunted! How was I going to get through to him? What would I say? I asked the Holy Spirit for help.
After about 45 minutes, I got an inspiration. What if, I asked, religion was more than just a construct of society? What if something deep inside us yearns for union with God because that’s how we are made? I told him about creation, original sin, and separation from God. I explained how the chaos and evil in the world were the effects of this. I asked him to consider a different viewpoint. Perhaps religion isn’t imposed from outside but wells up from within. People long for relationship with God because they’re supposed to have it, but don’t. Jesus established the Church to help us get that relationship. We don’t work right without it. The world doesn’t work right without it.
I had proposed his idea but inverted. He listened and was intrigued! He joined the RCIA and, of course, I kept hitting the same points many times along the way. But I was only able to do this because I knew what was on his mind. After a few months, he wanted to join the Church and surprisingly…he believed! When I asked him what did it, he said, “It’s kind of like that line from the movie Jerry McGuire…you had me at hello.” Taking the time to listen and understand at our initial meeting opened him up to consider faith in God. The rest of my lessons hit home because of this.
The takeaway? Get to know your students as best you can. Ask them about their interests and hobbies. Encourage questions and pay attention to what they say. When you understand what makes your students tick, your catechesis can better meet their needs and help them meet Jesus.