My good friend Tom Quinlan, Director of the Catechetical Office in the Diocese of Joliet, IL, recently sent me a copy of something he shared with his catechetical leaders to help communicate expectations for catechists. I’ll let Tom do the explaining:
As a former parish director of religious education, I found it important to provide catechists with a covenant each year. This catechist covenant would detail what was being asked and expected of them in their role as catechist. The first year I developed this catechist covenant, I explained it to the entire group of catechists in the spring. This way everyone was on the same page as to what I was asking of them in their role for next year, as well as why. From that point on, I made this catechist covenant a part of the interview process for new catechists. I wanted to proactively discuss these points with them so that they always knew what would be asked of them upfront. (We would also talk about how the parish would serve them.) Doing so set the understanding and tone for the relationship between me and the potential catechist. It lessened the likelihood of misunderstandings later and it broadened the catechist’s appreciation for the role. So, what are some elements that I included in this catechist covenant? Things that should be understood as part of the deal when being a catechist…
- Prayer: Be a person of prayer, for yourself, the children and their families.
- Sacramental Life: Actively practice the Catholic faith within the context of the parish.
- Preparation: Take sufficient time to ready yourself for the session you will lead.
- Arrival: Be in position to greet each child in a calm and welcoming manner.
- Environment: Attend to and care for the physical setting of the session.
- Parents: Connect with parents and foster a cooperative relationship with them.
- Flexibility: Being well-prepared means you can pay attention to dynamics and modify a lesson as appropriate.
- Collaboration: Relate to and share with other catechists (especially in your grade level).
- Ongoing Formation: Continue your own faith development in accord with the parish plan for catechist formation.
- Communication: Share ideas, needs, concerns, etc., with the grade-level coordinator and the catechetical leader.
In the catechist system I inherited and maintained as DRE, catechists understood that monthly gatherings (for prayer, formation, lesson-planning and fellowship) were part of the deal. Leaders who don’t currently have such an understanding in place should know that creating such a culture will take time and patience. As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. But growing a highly-functioning system for the care and formation of catechists is job one for any catechetical leader and deserves careful attention. I encourage DREs/CREs to consider developing and sharing a covenant of some sort with current and then prospective catechists. Create one that expresses the parish’s holistic understanding of the role of catechist. Catechists will find it helpful. And you will find it easier to hold them accountable to an appropriate standard, if necessary, down the road.
Thanks, Tom! Great stuff, as always!