For many faith formation leaders, this time of year is filled with the critical evaluation of our programs, our curriculum, and our catechetical efforts over the past 9–12 months. We invite feedback from catechists, parents, and sometimes the students as well. We assess our successes and our challenges, seeking to adjust and improve what we do as we plan for next year. As a busy DRE, I know I often used the same evaluation tools year after year, receiving virtually the same feedback all the time. While much of what I received was affirming, I’m not sure how much it helped me to evaluate what was happening in my programs.
It seems to me that sometimes we need a change of perspective in evaluating faith formation programs in order to grow in new and fruitful ways. I invite you to try the following reflection to see what I’m talking about.
Close your eyes and imagine the Crucifixion scene. Take in as many details as you can. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you notice? Where are you standing? Who is near you? What are people saying? How do you feel? Stay with this image as long as you can, absorbing the scene in your mind’s eye.
Are you standing in front of the Cross, looking up at Jesus?
Now, slowly walk around behind the Cross. Feel the dirt and stones crunch under your feet; see the dust stirred by your movement; watch how others shift as you move. Take your place behind the Cross, and imagine the scene again. Now what do you see? What do you hear? What do you notice? Again, stay with this image as long as you can, taking in every detail possible.
Do you see Mary, John, and Mary Magdalene? From this view, can you see the expressions on their faces and notice the loving attention in their eyes? Are they clinging to each other, crying, praying? Can you hear the soldiers’ mocking and derisive laughter and see the looks on their faces? Are any of them reconsidering what they have done? Where are Jesus’ garments and the tools of the Crucifixion? Do you see Jerusalem, the city spread out before you? Look at the Cross. Can you see Jesus’ body shaking and blood running down the Cross, pooling on the ground? What does Jesus see? Can you feel the love he pours out on the world?
The Crucifixion is such a familiar scene to us. We reflect on the image of the Cross regularly, hang it around our necks, display it on the wall, and carry it in procession. But do we really absorb the fullness of the image? Aren’t we really just seeing one perspective? Is this a bit myopic? Does the scene change its impact when we change our perspective?
In the same way, how do we view our efforts at faith formation? Do we always look at our programs from the same perspective? Is there another way to view the religious education of children and adults? What would happen if we completely altered the way we perceive faith formation?
Ask yourself, What can I do this summer to adjust my perspective of my religious education efforts so that I see my programs in new ways? How can I see my efforts as Jesus sees them?
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.
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