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Many who serve in catechetical ministry believe they are answering God’s call. While introducing myself to parents and students on the first day of religious education classes at my former ministry site, I mentioned that I drove an hour one way to get there. One very confused dad asked, “But why are you here?” Without hesitation I responded, “Because I am called to be here.”
I genuinely believe God asked me to serve this community. With time and familiarity, however, I found myself asking, Why am I here? What is it I am called to do? More importantly, I found myself asking, How can I help others understand the importance of the scriptural imperative of being called? Called to what?
Like Samuel in the Bible, God invites each of us not only into a relationship but into service for the Kingdom of God. By virtue of our Baptism, each of us has a responsibility for making a difference in our world. For me, being of service to the world does not always imply explicitly outward service like helping in a soup kitchen or building a house with Habitat for Humanity. The more important task is developing an attitude of charity in everything I do until it becomes who I am. This, for me, is the greater challenge and the one I want to share with those in my community.
When called by God while sleeping in the temple, Samuel wakes Eli each time he hears God, because he does not realize who it is that calls. In time, Samuel becomes familiar with the ways of the Lord and becomes devoted to serving the Lord. How do we help those we serve become familiar with the Lord and his ways of calling us? How do we nurture in others an attitude of charity?
To foster a servant’s heart, we must develop healthy habits and attitudes. By providing opportunities for students and their families, we emphasize that our response to the Gospel has hands and feet. Some typical ways often include collections for those in need, helping our neighbors, and supporting local, national, and global initiatives for justice and peace. Many of these programs have valuable educational tools to help us teach children and families the impact our efforts can make in the lives of others.
Other ways to develop healthy attitudes within our students and their families emphasize our duty to be other-oriented, being mindful of the effects of our words and actions on those around us. Children of all ages can become prayer partners, spending the school year, or a liturgical season like Lent or Advent, focusing on the spiritual needs of another. Programs that reward “peacemakers” for positive, helpful, and caring actions can also set a tone of charity within a school or parish. The goal is to reinforce charitable attitudes in a world that often encourages negative ones.
As catechetical leaders, we are called to encourage the children in our care to listen to God’s call to care for one another. The message of the Scriptures reminds us that our Christian focus must be outward rather than inward. While our inner journey and our spiritual health are important, they are not the primary tasks of our vocation but tools to be used to build God’s kingdom.
This article is by Kathy Olenik Henry. Now an Educational Consultant at Loyola Press, Kathy has been involved in the faith formation of children and adults for 20 years. She holds a Masters in Religious Education from Loyola University, New Orleans, and has served as a catechist, DRE, youth minister, and retreat director. She lives in Ohio with her husband and five sons.