Catechists are my favorite people. Why? Because catechists are intentional about their faith in a way that many Catholics are not. Catechists are very much aware of the call to live and preach the gospel in word and deed. Catechists are hungry to learn. Catechists are eager to get others excited about their faith in the same way that they are. And catechists like to have fun!
I consider myself lucky to be part of the community of catechists in the United States—nearly 500,000 of us. That sounds like a lot, but when you consider that there are approximately 65 million Catholics in the United States, catechists make up less than 1 percent of the population of Catholics!
I am an eighth-grade catechist in a parish in Evergreen Park, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. (For more about me, click here. To watch my introductory video clip, see below.) We are several months into our program, and things are coming along very nicely. I am teamed with another catechist, Patty, and together we have established a rapport with the kids. Rapport is so important—and so elusive. The key to good rapport in teaching is to remember that we, as catechists, are not called to be the kids’ friends. We’ve gotten to know all their names. We treat them in a friendly manner, with courtesy and respect, but with an air of authority that comes from being entrusted with proclaiming the gospel. To teach with authority, as Jesus did, is not to be authoritarian. Rather, it is to teach in such a manner as to make it possible to act on what is being taught. Patty and I have made it clear that we take our roles very seriously. The kids seem to respect that—they don’t want their time wasted. With this approach, we have been able to nip some immature behavior in the bud and establish an atmosphere that communicates deep respect for our faith.
How is your catechetical year going so far? What kind of start did you have? What challenges are you facing? What joys are you experiencing? What does it mean for you to teach with authority?