Feed the Catechists!

And I’m not just talking about food.

Last night, I was with about 40 catechists from 2 different parishes and the interesting thing was that all but 2 of them were returning catechists! That rate of return is a testament to the care and support of their catechetical leaders who are both very professional and have outstanding vision for the catechetical ministry. They know how to “feed” their catechists.

We catechists owe so much to our catechetical leaders (DREs) who provide support, guidance, and resources so that we may be more effective catechists.

Let’s pray that the Church and especially pastors continue to find ways to offer the same support and care for catechetical leaders. Too many parishes are trying to do without DREs, thinking that all that they need to do is order books and fill catechist slots with warm bodies while saving money with reduced payroll.

This approach is like shooting ourselves in the foot. In the short run, parishes without DREs will have leaner budgets and the RE program might maintain itself for the most part for a few years. However, in the long run, there will be no vision for growing the catechetical ministry to better form catechists and to make adult catechesis the priority it should be. Catechists who are not supported, formed, and nourished quickly burn-out and drop off and a vicious cycle begins of constantly recruiting new catechists who will never get proper formation and will not last. And without proper formation, the quality of catechesis suffers, and eventually the catechetical program becomes moribound.


About Joe Paprocki 2742 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.


  1. last year was my first year of teaching. i had no idea what i was getting into and i am a convert as well so i do not know every prayer the children had to learn and that did not impress any of my 30 students at the 6th grade level that i had last year. i also had at least 5 ADHD children that i could not get under controle so i felt very upset and overwhelmed last year. this year i am teaching again with a bit more wisdom then last but still not really ready. I was told I will be placed in the available space and 3 spaces are not filled. sign up is next week and the following week classes begin 2 teachers short. Kindergaurden, 1st and 6th…..i cannot prepare myself when i do not know which i will be teaching. I told her that i will return to the 6th grade teaching if she thinks it is easier to find volunteers for the lower grade levels. i am better prepared if i do teach 6th grade again and understand that i might want to buy my own extra bibles and dry erase markers, pens, pencils and any others supplies needed. i’m a full time factory worker as well so doing this one hour of week is a challenge when i am mentally exsausted upon arrival.

    God Bless you

  2. Tina,
    Wow! I’m ovewhelmed at your situation!

    First of all, you have such a wonderful selfless attitude. You are willing to share your gifts in a challenging situation without, apparently a whole lot of support, and while working very hard to pay your own bills.

    Having said that, there are a few issues that disturb me, not the least of which is asking a first-year (or any year, for that matter) catechist to teach 30 – THIRTY – 6th graders. Your DRE should be told that such a class size is unnacceptable. As a rule, a catechist should have NO MORE THAN 15 – FIFTEEN – STUDENTS! Ideally, about 10! If there are that many students, the DRE needs to recruit more catechists.

    The next thing that I find upsetting is that you are being made to wait until the last minute to find out what you are teaching. That leaves you with so little time to prepare. This too is unfair to you.

    Third, catechists should not have to buy their own materials and resources. If the parish is on a very low budget and the catechist wishes to do this out of a sense of stewardship, that’s fine, however, in most cases, the DRE should cover those expenses.

    Finally, and most upsetting, is I don’t sense that any support is being offered to you by way of catechist formation. I think it’s wonderful to invite converts to share their enthusiasm for the faith as a catechist, however, a lot of support is needed to build familiarity with Catholic Tradition.

    Tina, you are a trooper, however, I feel you are being mistreated and taken advantage of. Your situation would be difficult for ANY catechist…even one who’s been teaching for 30 years!

    I hope and pray that you will be able to talk to your DRE about these situations which are unnacceptable, plain and simple. At the very least, your DRE should be able to recruit some aides or a co-catechist so that you can have more adults available for crowd control. Even Jesus had 12 Apostles to help him with crowd control!

    If there is nothing that can be done about it and you venture into this year with the status quo, your growing wisdom and experience will indeed help you, however, you may want to consider eventually looking at serving as a catechist at another parish where you will find more support.

    God bless you, Tina, and please keep in touch!

  3. As a practical suggestion, ask the daily Mass bunch if someone will be your prayer partner and mentor for the prayers that have to be learned. Maybe one (or more) of them will come in and listen to the prayers, so that burden is taken off. Also, when you introduce a prayer, post it on the wall, if you can, and use it for beginning and ending prayer for each class, until they are more familiar with it. Telling your students why you never learned these prayers before and how much you desired to become Catholic is in itself a powerful witness. Faith is caught before it is taught.

    I have been a catechist for many years and am trained and certified as an elementary teacher as well, so I tend to do things in the “school model” but that is not always the best way (not even for me–then I have to rethink), and you should set up ways that are more comfortable for you (sit in a circle, groups of 3 or 4, etc) Perhaps you can recruit a parent or two to help you at least with traffic flow.

    Anyway, Tina, I have put you on my prayer list and will pray for you during this year.

  4. Hi Tina 🙂

    I’m newer to the Catholic faith as well (only I’m still waiting to be baptized, etc.) I also teach a pre-k/kindy CCD class in my parish. You really have been overwhelmed with everything! It’s hard enough as it is. I don’t have any real advice, cause my class only had 6 kids, and help was available if needed (and one morning I did need it, my own son has a *severe* tantrum/meltdown. You know the kind that makes you want to find a hole and quietly sink into? LOL).

    Although, if I were in your shoes, I do think I would recruit one or two of my own helpers. If your DRE isn’t helping, then speak up to a couple people you think may be open to helping and draft them for your class room. It sounds like a difficult situation all around.

    Here is a link for a yahoo-email group . . .
    (Hope that worked!, if not hopefully Joe can fix it 😉 ) Try signing up for it and posting to see in anyone there has helpful suggestions. With the state of some religious ed programs, you cannot be the only one facing a difficult situation.

    All my best, and prayers!

  5. Ali, thanks for the input. One caution I would offer is recruiting helpers on your own. Today, everyone who is to come into contact with children must have background checks and participate in a Protecting God’s Children program such as VIRTUS. Be sure you are in communication with your DRE over this!

  6. Oh, wow.

    I really think that Tina needs to talk to her DRE about how unacceptable this is. It might be the wake-up call s/he needs. We have to remember that not every parish has a professional DRE. Some parishes can only afford part-time volunteers to serve in that function. And Tina, if you don’t get help from the DRE, your pastor needs to know about this sitation. It’s not fair to you and it’s especially not fair to the boys and girls in the classrooms.

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