Online Catechist's Retreat – Week 3: An Openness to the Church

Welcome to Week 3 of our Online Catechist’s Retreat (The Spirituality of the Catechist) as we take a look at the second characteristic of our spirituality: An Openness to the Church.

Thanks so much for insights posted last week on the theme of our openness to God! Your stories were very inspiring as we venture forth in this retreat. If you’re just joining us, you can go back and “catch up” and then come back to jump in to week three.

As we did in previous weeks, I invite you to begin this week by viewing the following brief video introduction on the theme of An Openness to the Church.


An Openness to the Church

Openness to the ChurchWhen I was teaching in the high school seminary here in Chicago some years ago, I recall talking to my students about the religious life and explaining the evangelical counsels: poverty, chastity, and obedience. After a thorough explanation, I invited the students to ask questions or make comments. One young man said, “I don’t know about this poverty, chastity, and obedience stuff…that seems pretty challenging. I think I’d rather get married.”

Right. Go for the “easy life!”  🙂

I went on to explain that all of the baptized are called to practice the spirit of these counsels: poverty, chastity, and obedience and that those in religious life dedicate their lives to a heightened practice of what we are all called to live.  I explained that in a marriage, we practice

  • poverty (a detachment from possessions – e.g. parents share all of their possessions – home, furniture, cars, stereos, money, food – with their children);
  • chastity (faithfulness to one’s sexuality – e.g. married people are celibate to the entire world except for one person…their spouse);
  • obedience (accountability – e.g. family members do not come and go as they please but remain accountable to one another).

In other words, these 3 counsels remind us that we are members of a community – not isolated individuals.

Today, in Western culture, individualism is worshipped. Society’s mantra, as articulated by Oprah and Eckhart Tolle is “You are your own best authority.” In other words, no one can tell you what to do. It is no wonder that all of the superheroes in contemporary movies are loners: Batman, Ironman, the Hulk…today’s versions of The Lone Ranger.

As catechists, we have a profound sense of community. We recognize that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. We are not inviting others to a “me and God” experience. We are inviting them to an “us and God” experience. We take great inspiration from men and women religious who live lives of poverty, chastity, and obedience – exemplifying for us that living in loving relationship with community is key to our salvation. The catechist’s spirituality is characterized by an openness to the Church.

You and I have been called to serve as catechists. We have a vocation. Vocations come from the Church. We serve the mission of the Church and have been authorized (entrusted with the responsibility) to proclaim the Gospel message faithfully.

Living in community is not easy. It requires sacrifices. Sometimes the life of a lone ranger is appealing. Our true calling, however, is to live in the image of God who is, in essence, loving community: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

In all that we do as catechists, our goal is to initiate/apprentice others into the life of the faith community. It is our responsibility, then, to know what the Church teaches and has entrusted to us to transmit. We dedicate ourselves to learning about the Church and its teachings so that we can more effectively invite others to enjoy the fruits of belonging to Christ’s community of faith, especially if we teach that the Church is a hospital for sinners (like ourselves) and not a museum for saints. We are all broken and in need of healing grace. The Church is the vehicle of this healing grace and we are blessed to participate in its life.

In the days and weeks ahead, let us continue to deepen our openness to Jesus’ Church – the Church that has called us and sustains us.

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Week Three Reflection Questions (click here for week-3-reflection-questions; a downloadable pdf) – over the next few days, feel free to ponder these reflection questions pertaining to this week’s theme. Then, return here to Catechist’s Journey and share some of your reflections with your fellow retreatants.

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For Further Reflection: Saint Anthony of Padua taught his monks to love the Church:

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Spiritual Exercises – During the course of this week, practice one or more of the following spiritual exercises designed to deepen your opennes to the Church. Feel free to share the fruits of your exercises with your fellow retreatants by posting your comments any time this week.

  • Think about your oldest Church-related possession. Is it your First Communion prayer book and Rosary? Is it a scapular? Is it your baptismal gown? Locate this special heirloom that represents your relationship to the Church. Place this treasured heirloom in the space where you pray for the coming week as a reminder of your relationship with the Church. Read and reflect on John 17, Jesus’ prayer for the Church.


  • In the coming week, pray each day for a different person who was instrumental in entrusting the Catholic faith to you. Reflect on how these people did so and how you can emulate them in your vocation as a catechist. Prayer in a special way for the leaders of the Church: the pope, bishops, clergy, and lay ecclesial ministers who are responsible for transmitting the faith.


  • In the coming week, spend some time reflecting upon your own understanding of the 4 “pillars” of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: the Creed, the Sacraments, Morality, and Prayer. Reflect on one pillar a day over the next four days. Journalabout your own understanding of these pillars: (Creed) what beliefs are at the core of your Catholic faith? (Sacraments) how have you/do you encounter Jesus in the Sacraments? (Morality) what is your understanding of Catholic morality? (Prayer) Why and how do you pray? Which of these areas do you feel you need to work at in terms of deepening your understanding of the Catholic faith/your openness to the Church? Commit to pursuing an opportunity this year to do just that.

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Recommended Reading on the topic of openness to the Church:

My Life with the Saints (James Martin, SJ)

A Well-Built Faith: A Catholic’s Guide to Knowing and Sharing What We Believe (Joe Paprocki)

May Crowning, Mass, and Merton: 50 Reasons I Love Being Catholic (Liz Kelly)

My Best Teachers Were Saints: What Every Educator Can Learn from the Heroes of the Church (Susan Swetnam)

Ecclesiology: The Church as Communion and Mission (The Catholic Basics Series)

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


  1. Week 3 reflection questions – Question # 8 was an easy one for me to answer. I didn’t have to really think about it that much because whenever I think of the words, Catholic or teaching, or even Baptismal Duty, my 20 year old son, Hector and of course my mom, come to my mind. My mom was a catechist, although it was for a couple of years that she taught, but she did answer the call from the Holy Spirit to fulfill her obligation to the church and God in her best way. My son, Hector, has served one and a half years on NET, and he is so strong in his faith and openness to the church, that I admire and actually look up to him and his ways. Sometimes we forget that we can actually learn from those that are “younger” than us and especially our own kids, but I myself, try to emulate his ways because of his sincerity and devotion to Jesus for our Catholic faith.

    • What an amazing experience young people must have being a part of the NET – National Evangelization Team. I have been blessed to connect up with a number of the teams during the years in our area. They are so inspiring … 10 or 11 young adults living and traveling in a van for months … praying together, deepening their faith, energizing youth around the country to draw close to Jesus. Their enthusiasm and spirituality fires up the young souls they touch. They are also a great witness to all of the adults, too. Congrats, mom, and raising a son willing to open his life to the Lord in a powerful way.

      • I read your comment and the reply which followed…I feel compelled to ditto this response! Good, no great job mom, you have given the world a servant for christ and their is no job more well done then that! I have a friend, Michael Hernandez, who will be serving on NET, this year! Please help us, keep him and all future NET members, such as my daughter, Kirstie…may they remain blessed for the journey…God Bless!

  2. Well Joe, the Reflection Questions for this week, all I can say is WOW.
    I listened to Week 3 the first time at 6am this morning. I listened again this afternoon. I have read the 10 reflection questions 3 times now. My mind just races with each one. I just can’t stop thinking about them, but there is no way to express my thoughts in print. It is now 10:00 pm only one person has left a comment so far. Are we the only 2 that have been here today? Or is my mind, not the only one racing. I will be watching to see what others can express. This is one of the times I would rather be with every one in person.

    • Interesting thoughts, Barb. Let’s see what pans out. Some folks are more comfortable writing than others. Pondering the questions is the real work of a retreat. Yes, speaking in person would be ideal. An online retreat is a wonderful experience but can only accomplish so much. Perhaps you and other catechists will be able to bring some of these issues to discussion with your fellow parish catechists at some point. I appreciate your thoughts.

  3. After reading over the reflection questions I kept coming back to number 4! My challenges and frustrations with my family life! I have 4 boys (13.10 and 8 year old twins). Everyday is a challenge, but in a good way. My boys mean everything to me! I look at each day as a new day, a do over if you will. Although we may have hit some obstacles the day before (fighting, name calling, refusal to do summer homework) we start each day with a smile and new attitude. Kids are so forgiving. I only wish I as an adult could be as quick to forgive and forget.

    I know that God is with my husband and I each day. He guides us and leads us in the right direction with our boys. They are a gift from God and we try our best each day to treat them as such. We do our best to attend church each week and each time I tell my kids to try and get one positive thought from the mass. Maybe it is a favorite song or a favorite reading. There is always something positive coming out of a mass… just have to search to find it. I hope that one day my boys enjoy going to church as much as we do. I also hope that they learn to trust God and know that we are in good hands with Him!

    • Polly, wonderful thoughts. You might consider comparing your family relationships to your relationship with the Church…any similarities? Anything you can learn from your family relationships to help you with your relationship with the Church?

  4. These questions are really getting me to think… grandparents and parents were definitely the ones who taught me love of God and love of Church. Growing up in the Pullman area we belonged to a Polish church…we are of Polish descent. In 1958 our school’s children received First Holy Communion in 4th grade…surrounding parishes was 2nd grade. In my heart I was ready from the day I understood what the Eucharist was….I felt this calling from Our Lord to come to Him…so when I was 7 years old I went to a church that was closer to home and at Communion I went up and received Our Lord. I was so happy….went home and shared what I did with my Mom and Grandma….who I thought were going to pass out when they heard what I did….however, they sat me down and said that now I would have to wait to go back to Communion when I was in 4th grade…and to cherish what I just experienced. I never told another living soul what I had done….I knew I loved Our Lord and I loved my church…..I helped the Sisters all the time in taking care of the church….it was my home. Church to me today is the people I worship with….the community that comes together…a deacon told us once that if what you hear in these 4 walls stays in these 4 walls…then we are not being church….what we hear in these 4 walls has to be taken out and shared with all of the people outside….that is church. That is how I feel about my parish…it is my home.

    • Dear Karen,
      First off, are you the lady who posted week one about Catechizing the girl with CP?

      I can so relate to the 4 walls . . . however taking the Good News outside our safe haven can be downright terrifying.
      I find the saying of St. Francis Assisi very helpful: Preach the Gospel at all times, use words when necessary.
      Because I don’t really ever picture myself standing in a room full of strangers saying, “Jesus is Lord!” No matter how fully and deeply I believe it.
      If however, someone asks me how am I managing to live, I might say, “God is driving my bus, I am just trying to stay in my seat.”
      Or when it is revealed that I have 10 children, people say, “God bless you!” And I say, “Yes, indeed He already has blessed me.”
      Do you have ways that you might share of how you catechize outside your 4 walls ?

  5. Great questions Joe. They provide a stretch, making me think deeper, which is leading to the renewal and growth I was hoping for in this Retreat. I continue to uncover many areas where I can celebrate my learnings and still continue to become better in my vocation as a Catechist.

  6. The family heirlooms intrutsted are stories of difficulties and suffering’s put into God’s hands and how He intervened to heal and save.
    The spiritual union with church family members is the same as nuclear family members: the shared pain and sufferings with others and the joy of being able to come together with others to make a difference through prayer.
    The understanding of the interconnectedness of us all to each other.
    The revealing of the interconnectedness with God already going on in our lives and how being open to his guidance in prayer can bring us the happiness we seek.

    • Thank you for reminding me that the entrusted heirlooms can be stories. They don’t have to be material goods. My family is all about the stories, and I guess that’s why we keep retelling them. Kind of like we keep retelling Bible stories, right?

  7. Openness to church is really what I get about being a Catholic. This worldwide presence that started with a dozen people memorializing a poor carpenter, at His command. So much good is done daily by the millions who make up this community.
    In the Riverside, CA parish that I grew up in, my parents were highly involved and because of that Church was a second family for us. On Sunday, and more than that, the members were drawn together by joys and troubles of their daily lives shared mutually. I remember several occasions where the tight community would be rippled by discontent due to a change (new pastor, Vatican II, building a new church). And my parents response was always the same: work through this time of trial, because even though the details of the practice of our faith may change, the TRUTH remains, and that is our support in this earthly journey. They didn’t preach this, they showed me, by continuing to be active in spite of the things that they didn’t particularly like.
    Even so, when I was a young adult, I did question this kind of blind loyalty: “How can the Pope be INFALLIBLE?” “Do I really need to listen to THE SAME THING every single Sunday?” (Such a smartypants!)
    When my husband and I went to get married, the priest (a friend from college) wondered why we wanted to marry in the church, if we weren’t even practicing our faith regularly: “What is the point?” Thunderstruck by the logic, my eyes were opened to my parents’ wisdom in giving me the foundation of Church. You can’t really be a part of something, if you don’t show up to the meetings. The faith doesn’t have a chance to grow if it lies there, naked on the top of the dirt. You need to water and care for the seed, cultivate it in the rich soil of your heart. And then I became focused on passing the faith my folks had given me on to my children.
    Like my parents, I am not really much of a preacher . . . but could certainly practice my faith by showing up to the meetings. And so it began.
    My husband did not follow this path initially; we went to a baptismal retreat in preparation for our 4th child and the catechist asked the question of the attendees: Why are you baptizing, if you are not practicing your faith regularly. “What is the point?” This brought my husband into the fold and for a good many years we practiced faithfully together. Presently he has moved off the path, but we have given the foundation to our children, and YES! it isn’t easy. We do have the kind of community that I remember and hoped to pass on. And NO! my kids don’t really seem to appreciate it – yet. Perhaps some of them never will be “card-carrying Catholics”. That is not my battle to fight. Mine is the weekly attempt to show up to the meetings. And the daily attempts to preach by what I practice.
    Don’t know if I will ever be an actual catechist . . .

    • EllenA,

      Your posting seems so typical of so many people I know (not to mention me). I have realized that being a catechist doesn’t necessarily mean that we are in the classroom but, rather, just living by example even when it is a struggle. My wife will “come and go” with her enthusiasm for the Church (although she is always by my side at Mass) and sometimes she will ask me when I am going to get tired of being so excited about our faith . Never! I guess it was about 2 years ago when I “kicked it up a notch” on my excitement. I used to think I would lose interest also but I know now that He’s got me….and I’m hooked. I give you a lot of credit for hanging in there.

      Good Luck
      Greg (card-carrying Catholic)

  8. Hi everyone! I just flew in from Plainfield, IL to Albuquerque, NM and will staying with my daughter and son-in-law for the remainder of the summer. Before going to Plainfield and St. Mary Immaculate, I had taught 8th graders for seven years at St. Jude Thaddeus Church in Albuquerque. I would like to share my journey as a catechist in answering question #2.

    I began teaching when I was 16 years old in Stuttgart, Germany. My Dad served in the Armed Forces and our family was stationed in Germany for three years. My Mother would always invite whoever was our Chaplain to come and share our Sunday dinners and we would get to know them well. As it turned out, one priest did approach my Mother to ask me to help them with a First Holy Communion class mixed with all ages of children. He thought I would be able to handle this class because of my eight years of parochial elementary schooling. This was my first introduction to openly accepting a call to teach about my young love of God and Church.

    My second experience as a Catechist was when my own children were pre-school age and a catechist was needed and I responded with excitement and almost a feeling of duty especially since I would be working with each of my own children outside our home. At the time I was also studying pre-school/kindergarten education at college. I learned how music is so very instrumental in working with our pre-school/kindergarten age groups and found the record “Hi, God” to use which can now be purchased on a CD. What a joy these little ones were!

    For many years in between I just couldn’t manage to continue as a Catechist. I had a full time job plus my family. But, after my husband died 10 years ago and I decided to move to NM and the kids were all grown, I knew my grandkids were in need of my love of God and Church. I became quite involved with St. Jude’s who opened their hearts and arms to me. I started out as a Greeter, met a woman who in turn volunteered me as a Catechist when St. Jude’s was begging for help. She later told me that she just saw something in me that made her think that I could do this task well. St. Jude’s 8th grade catechism class consisted mostly of the History of the Catholic Church. I love History! I was scared going from pre-school to Jr. High age but the Holy Spirit assisted and gave me the strength to bring my love of God to them.

    While at St. Jude’s I continued as a Greeter; started the Ministry of Consolation; became a Lector and Communion Minister. Almost every year one of my eighth grade students would invariably ask if I were a Nun. And, that is another story!

  9. I’ll try Joe,
    #1. Family heirlooms, Will be passed down to anyone who is interested in them. My own children, ages 36, 33, and 31 are not into that yet. But older nieces are. I plan on passing them on soon. More than the material things, this question made me think about the verbal stories I heard from parents and grandparents. I have passed them on to my children through the years. I should write them down.
    #2. I went all through Catholic Schools. Religion, was always an interest to me. I remember pretending to be a nun before I started school. Wearing a black half slip on my head for a veil. I remember many of the stories the nuns told that were not in our books. I not only listened to them I was observing them. I could not understand why a person who gave their life for God, was not happier, or kinder, or understanding, and more patient. In my life I did meet 2 that did portray the way I thought it should be. The first one was in 6th grade the other in high school. The one in high school I heard left the convent. By now, you might be asking did I think about being a nun? Yes, all through school from 2nd grade on. I talked to my parents about it when I was in 8th grade. They told me to wait till after high school and see how I felt. As I got older I wondered it I would be going for the wrong reason. The movie the trouble with angels came out and I could really related to that. No, I never entered the convent, but I was still wondering if, it was a calling I had and was ignoring, the night before my wedding?
    My husband is not Catholic. He was raised Baptist but not practicing his religion. I did attend some services at his church. Knew his pastor well and read some of his books he wrote. I attended a bible study on the submissive wife. And watched PTL television on nights my husband worked. During those early years of marriage I was not attending mass. All of those experiences formed who I am today. Even though I was not a practicing Catholic, I could never have joined another church. As I came closer to Jesus, I now wanted to be with him more. And when my oldest child started school I started back to mass. My husband did not go with me. When the children were all grown, I had to go to mass by myself. Rather than beg Jack to go. I started praying to God to have him go with me. One Sunday morning as I was ready to leave, Jack said ” You want me to go with you?” And he has been with me every Sunday after that. No, he did not turn Catholic. If God wants him to be Catholic, He will make it happen.

    The calling to be a catechist, It was the RE asking for help, they were in need of teachers. My children were raised, I had the free time, and I felt I something to offer. Life has drawn me closer to God. The love I now have for God, and all his children, makes me realize I too want to see them all in heaven.

      • Thanks Joe,
        1 and 2 took me a long time to write, yet it was easier than the rest are.
        #3 a sense of belonging to the Church…
        Church, we the people, the believers, Christ’s Church.
        Yes, I am one of the believers. I do have a strong sense of belonging. I take the question of, do I think my sense of Church needs to be strengthened to mean. Am I satisfied with where my faith is now? If that is what you mean, the answer is no. My sense of belonging to Christ Church should grow, through prayer, reading and service. I feel I am not what He wants out of me yet.
        But if I look at these questions as Church, refering to Catholic Church. Meaning Catholic people, Catholic teachings, I see completely different thoughts.

    • “If God wants him to be Catholic, He will make it happen.” Love this. Thirty-six years married and still working on this in my life. There are the times when I see couples sharing being Catholic together that I miss it in my life. I learned long ago that pushing it, forcing the issue was not the way. I have to remember that God is working in everything, through everyone. My husband is my “soulmate” … who I thank God for everyday. Someday, maybe.

  10. 1- Family heirloom that has been entrusted to me and that I hope to pass on to my children and they can pass to theirs is ; the good family values and teaching that I have received.

    2- Growing up I always had God in my life in one way or another; Sunday School, my grandmother, my great aunt who would always told me stories about Jesus that were told her, for example I asked why the coconut had three holes insteadof one big one and she told me the story of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus walking in the desert and they had walking for a long time untill they came to a palm tree and Jesus seeing that His parents were thirsty took the coconut and put his tiny little fingers over it so they could have a drink. One of the intelligences is spirtuality and I feel that I always had a special relationship with God I have always felt close to Him. From learning from my extended family about God and after getting over my fear of teaching religion all I want is to teach my students to see God all around us like the coconut. I was not asked to teach, but oue DRE had a difficult time with teachers so I volunteered to help her and I hope to stay as long as God needs me.
    4- a chanllenge would have to be my husband because although he believes in God in his own way. He does not want to be close to the church. Sometimes the fact that I teach CCD affects our relationship. He will come to church with us on special events only(Childrens’ Communion, Confirmation) but that it is it. I don’t believe in pushing religion on anyone I think God comes to us when the time is right and I know it will come to him soon.

    One of the sacrifices maybe would be having to drive one hour early on Saturday mornings to teach, but once am there I see Jesus in the students face and my day is just fine. or when they express that htey are happy to see me and ready to learn together it make less of a sacrifices have to miss my whole Saturday to teach for one hour.

  11. The challenges I experience with the Church have to do with experiencing some poor leadership at times. When people aren

  12. The questions this week are very thought provoking for me. The family heirloom that I’ve been entrusted with is my grandmother’s sewing box. It was something that she handed down to me rather than something I just picked out after her death. It still has her button collection and wooden spools of thread among other things. When I see it, I remember her. Funny, I’ve never thought about passing it on until I read the question. I’ve also never really thought about passing on the stories that are associated with it. The question reminded me that I have a responsibility to share that information with my children or perhaps some day my grandchildren…if I have any!
    I am enjoying the retreat. I appreciate the videos and extra reading material but I also enjoy reading everyone’s comments. Thanks to all for your efforts.

    • Julia, what a beautiful image…grandmother’s sewing box. That’s precisely the kind of image that we catechists need to keep in mind when thinking about being entrusted with and passing on the Gospel. Something deeply personal that has been handed down to us…not just something we picked out. Thanks.

  13. I grew up in my parish and my church community is like a second family to me. I want to share the following that I saved from our parish bulletin from May 2008.

    This is my Parish
    It is composed of people like me. We will make it what it is. It will be friendly, if I am. Its pews will be filled, if I help to fill them.

    It will make generous gifts to many causes if I am a generous giver. It will bring other people to its worship and fellowship if I bring them.

    It will be a church of loyalty and love, of fearlessness and faith, and a church with a noble spirit, if I, who make it what it is, am filled with these qualities. Therefore, with the help of God, I shall dedicate myself to the task of being all things that I want my church to be.

    • This piece from your bulletin touched me, too. Our parish has been living through a number of dramatic changes … multiple new pastors, programming, etc. The answer for their hurt, concerns is to find another parish. “This is my parish” places the power for healing, change with each parishioner. My prayer is that the finger pointing at the pastor will change to opening eyes to the importance of each person making a difference, making a commitment.

  14. I think it took me awhile to respond to this week’s questions because each one could be a chapter to a novel in progress! I remember substituting in a public school and one of the students wanted to talk about the TV movie “Jesus of Nazareth” ( am I aging myself or what??!! ). When I told him I couldn’t in that setting, he closed the door and said: ” Don’t worry – we won’t tell anyone!”
    It was then that I knew I had to teach in a Catholic School! Some 30 years later,
    I cannot imagine doing anything else! Though there are ups and downs and plenty of mistakes along the way…I am humbled that God has given me this gift. My only prayer is that He will let me continue to do so. If not, I know He will lead me to a new road…scary? perhaps! But I know He will be with me.
    The Church is my family. I receive strength, encouragement and love.
    I am learning more about the power of the Eucharist – through Mass and Holy Hour. Now … I need to trust in the healing graces of nightly examination of conscience and Reconciliation. I want to pass all this on to the students whom He has entrusted to me for so short a time.

  15. The questions this week have seemed difficult. Finally, tonight I realized why they seemed that way. In reflecting I realized I have some strong feelings about the way our RCIA program is handled.
    My church is my extended family. I love the people in my parish and enjoy helping in any way I can. I am very frustrated in working on the RCIA team as I feel we are very limited in the number of sessions we have. I have mentioned this, but the pastor is adamant about only 8 weeks of meetings.
    Also, I feel the RCIA is poorly organized. We use Fr. Mark Link’s book, but I feel there should be more in depth instruction. Participants are not taught about the fundamentals of the church, prayers, actual process of reconciliation or receiving of communion. I do feel that the participants gain a deeper relationship with Jesus by the end of the program. I feel they are shortchanged in what we could be offering them.
    My biggest sacrifice is accepting how our pastor chooses to run the program. I experience the joy of seeing how people change as they go through the RCIA program. My greatest joy is witnessing the administration of the sacraments. Seeing the transformation that takes place in the hearts of the participants.

    • Mary, I think you hit the nail on the head. Talking about our relationship with the Church is like talking about our family relationships and sometimes that’s not an easy thing to do. We often struggle in our family relationships and the same is true of our relationship with the Church. To live with an openness to the Church is not something that comes easy for catechists, yet it is something that defines us. I appreciate you sharing your strong feelings.

  16. The Church is made up of “saints in the making”…read the following this morning… it caused me to smile…hope it does the same for whoever reads it, as well…
    “Lives of the saints are valuable not only for the virtue they reveal but also for the less admirable qualities that also appear. Holiness is a gift of God to us as human beings. Life is a process. We respond to God’s gift, but sometimes with a lot of zigzagging. But even saints must grow out of immaturity, narrowness and selfishness. It is because they

      • The quote came from a commentary on Saint
        Cyril of Alexandria from the book entitled:
        Saint of the Day – 5th revised edition, available
        via St. Anthony Messenger Press. You can also sign up for a free Enewsletter on the saint for each day via

  17. This week’s retreat: Openness to the church has been enlightening. Enlightening because of the 10 questions! The questions required deep thinking, something I enjoy! I read through most of the comments and I loved what Val had to say about her family treasure being stories! Awesome reply!

    The history of my family is focused a lot around creative expression:

    sculpting: (deceased uncle; Albert Bertoncini, has sculptures of saints in downtown Chicago church & Italian Museum in Northwest suburbs )
    music: (grandfather; Eugene Lenzi, played for Chicago Symphony, church, my sisters wedding, gifted violinist).
    writing: poetry, stories.


    Question #5 was my stump question.
    My quest for the finding of the true Sabbath day ( Saturday or Sunday ) began about 3 months ago. Research supports the true sabbath as Saturday. Research suggests it was the RCC that changed the sabbath to Sunday. Sunday is accredited as the first day of the week. I find this to be somewhat confusing and question #5 makes me want to ask: God said to keep holy the sabbath…, I know there are masses held on Saturday evenings, but it is traditionally known as Sunday being the day of rest and keeping holy, Are we celebrating the sabbath on the wrong day? Why the change from the RCC from Saturday to Sunday? This was a human change. This is bothersome to me.

    • Rita, what an amazing family legacy! So many stories must be attached to those family members!

      You ask a good, honest question. Christianity designated Sunday as the day of the Lord because it is the day that Jesus rose from the dead. In addition to being a day of rest, it is a day for Christians to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. Every Sunday is considered a “little Easter.”

  18. After my father’s passing I was given his New Testament from when he served in the army during the Korean conflict. I will do my best to keep it in good condition and away from the dog (he is a chewer.) My sense of belonging goes back to about 15 years ago when I was working in Washington, D.C. and went to a different church every Sunday including the National Cathedral. The only churches I felt comfortable in were St. Matthews Cathedral and also the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. I realized I was meant to be a Catholic. While looking at the cathedral after mass the archbishop stopped by and introduced himself. None of the ushers at the National Cathedral went that far.

  19. Hmmm. Where to start with such a late posting of week 3. I read Joe’s questions on Monday of week 3, and although I thought about them all week, I just didn’t feel like I could come back to them. I’m still thinking about why that is!

    Anyway, just to share a few of my answers to some of the questions:

    Question #3 regarding my sense of belonging. My sense of belonging within the Church actually overwhelms me. I can think of numerous times within the past couple years when I’ve had questions and regardless of who answered them, whether pastor or DRE or someone at the diocese, I was SO warmly received with an answer. I’ve often said “I felt like they were waiting for me to call them”. I often try to share with others (whether friends that have fallen away from the Church or a brother that may be skeptical of the help anyone in the parish could give him), if you don’t reach out, you will never know.

    Question #7 regarding deepening my openess to the Church. I KNOW that I must read, read, read, in order to deepen my openess to the Church. I have taken a couple online courses through some Catholic sources. I have often felt intimidated about reading the large amount of writing that there is out there on the Church but these online sources have taken a lot of the fear away for me. I’d recommend them for anyone.

    Question #9 regarding how my openness to the Church affects my role as a catechist. Live by example? I think it is ONLY my openness to the Church that will allow me to be a good catechist. Activities like this retreat, for example, have given me the confidence to volunteer to be more active in our parish’s planning for next year (like being on a Catechist Advisory Team for example).

    One thing I would like to share. I spent some time with a gentleman this past weekend at a retreat house activity that we are both involved in and, although I am always struck by his devotion and love for the Church, I can’t help but feel sometimes like he may be “closed” to certain things within the Church. My observation of him somewhat capped off my reflection from the week with regard to being open to the Church. Obviously, there are things that some do (whether it be our own diocese, or the Franciscans, or the Jesuits, or the Univ. of Notre Dame) that will drive us nuts, but that’s what a family is! Loving our brothers and sister no matter what.

    It’s taken me years to “get it”, but with every passing year and every passing class I take or class that I teach or Mass I attend, I realize more and more that we are really the Body of Christ. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to getting back into posting in our “retreat house” this week.

  20. I know I’m a bit late responding to week 3, but I wanted to comment on my greatest influence towards openness to the Church. Besides the fact that my entire education was spent in Catholic schools (from kindergarten through the great Jesuit institution that is Fordham University), my greatest inspiration to becoming a catechist was my aunt who runs the religious ed program at our local parish. She is a lay person who has devoted her life to fostering faith in children, not only through instruction, but by her awe-inspiring example. I constantly use her as an example of someone who knows how to “live the faith” without necessarily “force-feeding” it upon you. She talked me into teaching my daughter’s class several years ago, and, although I was a bit apprehensive at first, I have loved every minute of it! And that’s my tribute to my “Zi”, a true unsung-hero!

  21. I am a little late with my comments on week 3. I love the video clip where Joe shows us the family jar, how it is entrusted to him, not his alone, his to hand on-that imagery is powerful. I have a similar item, it is an oversized rosary from Italy that belobnged to my dad. I use it to demonstrate how to pray the rosary–now it has a two fold purpose. But who will receive it, who will it be entrusted to when I can no longer do this ministry? Will it stay within my own personal family or will it be passed on to a member of my family of faith?

  22. Sometimes, I feel my faith has come to a low, I don’t feel as energized, because I allow those, who do not seem to be allowing their hearts to be led by the Holy Spirit, to bring me down. I am human. But, then as I spend some time returning to this on-line retreat, I see that the Holy Spirit is working through me in “little ways”. I tend to think that if I’m not sitting and opening my bible or closing my eyes in intentional prayer time, I am not connected to God. Yet, I have little conversations with God throughout my entire day. I choose to use Facebook as my outlet to evangelize (which also helps keep myself focused on our Lord), especially when some tend to use FB offensively. I am not judging these persons, but I know we are all called to greatness (some just haven’t figured that out yet), and I am humbled that God is using me to do His will, even if I don’t see the fruits personally. I have a collection of various religious items that are meaningful to me. I could not pinpoint one special item in particular, because I realize each is important in its own way… much like each of us. We all have individual gifts given to us by God. Together, when shared for His glory, we see that each is significant. You can’t choose one over another. God wants us to experience them all in order to grow in holiness. I’ve learned the best way to help children see the Holy Spirit at work in their lives is to just share how He’s been present in my own. And, recently, I’ve been feeling the Holy Spirit calling me to share my love of prayer with others in a special way. Please pray for me that the Holy Spirit will continue to reveal His will of how I might use this gift to help strengthen the faith of others, as others have strengthened mine.

  23. I don’t have very many items from when I was growing up , except for a broken First Holy Communion rosary, a small statue of Mary and baby Jesus, and a few Holy cards that the sisters gave to us in grade school..
    I do cherish them though and fond memories return, esp of my First Holy Communion day and how joyful it was ..
    Being a catechist, I am mindful of trying to give the children I teach, small items for their prayer corners at home or something they can put in their pockets, during the year I am with them .. memories for them to have and cherish too .

  24. First of all I would like to thank Joe for bringing this retreat to our attention. The questions really make one think and analyze the role that the Church plays in one’s life. I think that understanding that the Church can be like a family, sometimes imperfect, helps infuse a stronger relationship in our membership with her. On that note, I will spare you my challenges and frustrations I’ve encountered but do so want to share with you a special hierloom that has been entrusted to me.

    I have two antique chairs that belonged to my sweet Grandma Corrine. Every time I look at them I am reminded of her light-hearted classy true femininity passed on to my daughters. I always remember my Grandma Corrine as someone with so much joy. At 70 years old she was able to stand on one foot and pick up a hankerchief on the floor by her teeth. We would often attempt this feat together during our visits. She also loved to curl my hair in rags. The chairs are formal and point to her appreciation for simple elegance and good posture. I will someday pass them on to one of my daughters. I hope they will treasure them as much as I do.

    p.s.-It is not always easy to find time for simple elegance with five kids running around!

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