In an ideal world, all of our recruitment for catechists would have wrapped up early in the summer, so that now we could just move forward with training, formation, and the start of the catechetical year. In reality, however, we know that last-minute openings pop up, and catechetical leaders find themselves scrambling to do some last-minute recruitment of catechists. It’s important to remember that, while time is short, we must not compromise on our standards and settle for any “warm body” to fill these last-minute vacancies.
To assist catechetical leaders in filling these vacancies, my friend Tom Quinlan, the Director of the Religious Education Office in the Diocese of Joliet, one of the best in the business (and brand new daddy!), shares the following tips:
This is the time of the year when many parishes are still looking to fill some remaining slots for the new year. Here are some important things to consider, whether you are still in need of catechists or not:
- Use current catechists to provide witness sharing at Masses (and elsewhere) to inspire other parishioners to prayerfully consider whether they are called to explore being a catechist.
- Be careful to not send a message in your catechist recruitment efforts that you’ll take anyone who steps forward. Some people have gifts for effective ministry as a catechist…and some do not. A process of discernment is necessary. (There might be other roles for some…other than being a catechist.)
- Be sure to properly vet new catechists. They should be a parishioner for six months or longer. If they have been a catechist previously, contact their prior parish(s). Conduct a check of references. Have a conversational interview, where you and the catechist get to know each other. And trust your instincts. Remember, being a catechist is a ministry of the Church and a privilege.
- Engage in year-round recruitment for catechists. Don’t just think of this as a May-through-September effort. Even if you finally have all your slots filled, you can never have too many substitute catechists and aides. Perhaps the person who comes in over the winter can observe sessions and assist a catechist, which would help to prepare them for next year. Year-round recruitment…will lessen the crunch next fall.
- Take special care of your new catechists. Give them the formation and training they need. Match them up with an excellent mentor catechist. Observe them during session after a few weeks and give them all the support and direction needed for them to be comfortable and grow into their potential. Lead with affirmations but also include discussion of growth areas.
Of course, any new catechist can benefit greatly from my free archived webinar: Getting Started as a Catechist.
Thanks, Tom, for sharing your wisdom! What advice do you have for last-minute recruitment? Where can/should a catechetical leader look for prospective catechists?
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is a major contributor to Finding God, the faith formation program for grades 1-8 based in Ignatian spirituality.