A Catechist’s Bill of Rights – The Right to Formation and Training

constitution-62943_640Today we hear a lot about people demanding their rights! Fortunately, we live in a country that guarantees those rights according to the Constitution.

If there were a “catechist’s bill of rights,” one of those rights would be training and formation and I wish that more catechists would speak up, demanding this right. I’ll never forget my friend Brian Lemoi, Director of the Catechetical Office in the Diocese of St. Petersburg, FLA, telling me that, when it comes to catechist formation and training, “we owe it to them!”

Recently I received an email from a new catechist pleading for help because she was recruited as a catechist and then told that she had to submit detailed lesson plans and homework assigments a week before class so that they could be posted on the parish religious education Web site for parents to access. I have no problem with that – it sounds like a good plan. Unfortunately, the DRE neglected to provide training for catechists on how to prepare a lesson plan! This poor catechist is now totally demoralized and thinking of quitting.

We owe it to them!

Catechists, if you have not received training, support, and formation to fulfill your call to serve as a catechist, you should “demand it” from your catechetical leader, pastor, and/or diocese. If they cannot provide you with hands on training and formation, they should at least point you in the right direction where you can find it. Do not be shy about asking for the help that is owed to you. You have a right to training and formation!

About Joe Paprocki 2158 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.

8 Comments on A Catechist’s Bill of Rights – The Right to Formation and Training

  1. Lisa writes:

    Joe,

    Do you have any feel for how many catechists have to create their own lesson plans? We create the lesson plans (well, I do) based on what I would teach if I was in the class that night. Our teacher manuals are awesome and have the wraparound configuration with talking points, suggested activities, etc. In the back of each chapter in the manual are three brain based learning activities. I typically select one and also prepare the items needed for that.

    So, we give our catechists the schedules, the lesson plan (overview), the materials they need (copies of worksheets, games, activities, crafts and/or DVD’s) to use during class time. They pick everything up on their way to their rooms and drop off extras plus supplies at the end of class.

    Just curious as to how many DRE’s just give a manual and/or schedule to a volunteer and expect them to do it on their own?

    Part of my job description is also to provide catechesis and formation for our volunteers so we do that through meetings (with a focus), presentations (What Happens to Me When I Die?) and longer programs (A Biblical Walk With Mary starts next week).

    We are looking into a book read, too… we’re actually looking at the Under the Influence of Jesus that some guy you might know penned…

    Just curious!

    Thanks,
    Lisa Jachimiec
    St. Leonard Catholic Church and School
    Muskego, WI 53150

    • Hi Lisa and thanks for your comment. God bless you for doing so much to support your catechists! I’m sure they are deeply appreciative.

      In my experience, the majority of catechists are on for preparing their own lessons while a significant minority prepare lessons for their catechists as you do. I have no problem with letting catechists prepare lessons on their own but we need to assist them in learning how to do that.

      I think I DO know the guy who wrote that book! He would be very honored to have you select it. Be sure to check out the discussion questions that are now available for Under the Influence of Jesus – http://www.loyolapress.com/assets/lp/discuss-questions-undertheInfluence.pdf

      • Amen to both responses…I took a break this year after teaching 1-2 classes per year for the past 6 years because we had no support at our parish. I saw the RE Director 2x in 2 years…at the opener session for each year. I got disheartened and did not feel supported in the ministry. You get tired and need the occasional bit of encouragement or ideas to vary your style and make the class more fun! We are lay people who are not trained teachers and have jobs and families in addition to our call to teach the faith. We don’t have tons of time to write lesson plans and research various teaching styles/activities for the classroom.

        • Thanks for you comments, Liz. Sorry this was your experience and unfortunately, it’s all too familiar. I’m not trying to dump on DREs because many of them are not supported by their pastor or diocese. It is a systemic problem that the Church needs to work on.

  2. Wow. I was never shown how to create a lesson plan, take attendance or assign homework. Thank goodness I read Joe’s book the summer before I began teaching!

    My DRE generally doesn’t talk to us unless we have done something wrong, in which case she will let us know, right before or after class, in the hallway or wherever. This year I am teaching several classes and I’m already thinking I bit off more than I can chew.

    As for formation opportunities, my diocese offers classes online and in classrooms and they are helpful. But my parish seems not to care much about it. They never discuss it and do not recognize catechists who complete all the courses needed for certification; I know because I have done so.

    But preach I shall, in season and out of season…. for the love of Jesus and those teens and tweens headed towards confirmation!

    God bless you Joe.

  3. What I’ve started to do with my Catechist team is before we begin a new course (we do a three year rotation of two semester courses for junior high) I hold a formation day for them and any parents or adults interested in joining us. It runs from 9-12 and there are a total of five workshops: three in person and two will be recorded and posted online for the team and adults to watch when time permits. The first one is coming up in January on Social Justice!

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