Prayer is an essential component in the life of a catechist. Prayer helps us stay connected to Jesus Christ, the Master Catechist who works through us in our ministry, who strengthens us with the grace to do our ministry well, and who desires to be in relationship with us and with our students. How can we help our catechists maintain a life of prayer? Here are three ways.
1. Keep it simple.
We often think that prayer always has to be a grand ritual or a solid hour of peaceful contemplation. Encourage catechists to pray in small, simple ways on a regular basis. Every week I send my catechists an e-mail with instructions or reminders they may need for class. At the bottom, I include a short prayer for them to use as they prepare for their class. Sometimes the prayer is based on the liturgical season or a feast day. Other times it is a prayer of serenity or encouragement when I sense they are getting burnt out. I also include prayers for the needs of the world. Including prayers in my weekly e-mails to catechists is a simple way to for us to remain connected between classes in a fellowship of prayer. Catechists will often use the prayer with their students as well.
2. Fill their cups.
Catechists are busy people. Many of them have full-time jobs, they care for their families, they shuttle their children to and from activities, and they spend time serving the parish. Throughout the year, they can become stressed and overwhelmed. If their own cup is not full, they will not have anything to pour out to others. Offer catechists a retreat to fill their cups. For example, I cancel our classes the week of Ash Wednesday and have the catechists gather at their regular class time. I ask some teenagers to provide childcare in the room next door. I ask our pastor or someone from our parish staff to lead them in a prayerful hour-and-a-half retreat. The catechists always appreciate the break from teaching, and this retreat, while brief, is just what they need to connect with the Lord and refresh themselves for this ministry.
3. Teach the teachers.
One of my favorite workshops I offer catechists is about different styles of prayer. I model how to lead prayer in the classroom and adapt it for different age groups. We spend the entire workshop in prayer: abbreviated versions of lectio divina, centering prayer, the Liturgy of the Hours, imaginative prayer from the Ignatian tradition, coloring or doodling to help one enter into contemplative prayer, and more. This workshop serves two purposes: it introduces the catechists to new types of prayer they might not be familiar with, and it will help them become effective prayer leaders in the classroom.
How do you engage your catechists in experiences of prayer?