As many of us are beginning our catechetical year, I thought it would be helpful to share some inspiration sent to me by my friend and colleague, Tom Quinlan, the Director of the Religious Education Office of the Joliet Diocese. Tom has written the following piece titled “Be An Evangelizing Catechist!” Thanks, Tom!
- Pray for your children, your families … and for yourself! Pray privately and within the liturgical/sacramental life of your parish community.
- Provide a gentle, firm, consistent presence. Be there early to welcome each participant by name. Strive to achieve respect prior to seeking to be liked.
- Listen to and remember the significant things going on in your learners’ lives. (This presumes that an environment is fostered where they will feel comfortable sharing.)
- Create a physical setting that is comfortable and conducive to meaningful learning.
- Come to the session well-prepared … and thus, more confident and more relaxed.
- Find ways to reach out and connect with parents (or guardians). Parents are much in need of re-evangelization and faith formation today. Strive to bring the learning home for families to continue together!
- Minister in relationship to other catechists. The personal bonds and creative sharing will be a blessing to you and your ministry…and theirs!
- Pray well with your participants. This means:
- Dedicate sufficient time and quality to the experience
- Incorporate a liturgical dimension (including ritual action) that fosters a Catholic sensibility in the children and makes Sunday Mass more meaningful
- Allow them to participate in substantial and creative ways
- Give them the opportunity to encounter the sacred up close and personal…incorporate a meditative silence, involve special items from their families, etc.
- Help them to gain a command of:
- The Catholic approach to scripture
- Distinctive elements of Catholic faith (i.e. various prayer traditions, the Pope and apostolic succession, Eucharist and our sacramental system, Mary and the saints, social justice teaching)
- Remember that children (and adults) learn more, and more deeply, by doing than by listening…and the most by teaching. Use this to find creative ways to make the learning deep and lasting.
- Always strive to make connections that show relevance:
- Between the issues of the day/their lives…and what we believe
- Between what we believe and how we are called to live … discipleship lifestyle
- Teach Catholic faith fully and faithfully. And share your faith experience insofar as it can strengthen the process of learning and integration.
- See yourself as more than just a medium to Catholic faith. The catechist is an embodiment of Christ and the Church!
- Help your learners to experience Catholic faith and community as good news. We learn more when there is joy and humor, enthusiasm and hope.
- Don’t pretend to have all the answers. Be with them on this journey of faith discovery. Try to find answers from good sources, when possible. But also help them grow comfortable with the concept of mystery, the unknowable dimension of God.
- Utilize a variety of learning modes so as to form the whole person. Since catechesis is much more than a strictly academic subject, care must be given to create a learning dynamic that attends to intellect, emotion, spirituality and human experience in proper balance.
- If there is a parish Catholic school, make creative connections:
- Catechist to teacher
- Student to student
- Encourage your learners to be evangelizers, in their actions and in their words, at home and in the world.
- Be open to the Holy Spirit, both in prayer beforehand and during the session. On occasion the lesson plan will need to be adjusted.
- See yourself as a work-in-progress. Engage in catechist formation that develops your knowledge, your skills and your interior faith life in a way that is integrative. Seek out opportunities to grow as a person of faith, not just as a catechist. (Remember to log your efforts that can count toward catechist certification, too.)
Thanks for posting this. We have a few new catechists this year and I will share this with them.
This is yet another great list! I especially like #2. I tell my own kids, and my students: I don’t care if you like me, I don’t care if you love me, I care that you do what you’re supposed to do.
And they do…and are happy.
Some items on the list I can personally vouch for: 2, 5, 6, 9 thru 16, 18-20.
Thank-you !!!!!!! Very timely introduction to the new school year. My class is the grade 7 confirmation and I was delighted by this list. I will print it out for the other teachers.
Tom is the RE director in my diocese and I wasn’t going to comment on here about this posting…but….I keep coming back to Tom’s list. For me it is the ultimate checklist of where I have been and where I need to go. I’m learning that looking back at where I’ve been gives me tremendous motivation to keep going when it comes to being a catechist….and what I need to do next. #20 on this list is something I would emphasize even for veteran catechists. Maybe I’m selfish but my experience is that, being a new catechist, I learn a ton from these veterans that are in the various faith formation classes I take.
I think I’m probably the ultimate “work in progress” that Tom mentions…..
I am learning so much from you. I watched both of your webinars and loved them. This is my 1st year teaching which will be the 6th grade and it feels like I have so much to do since my class is Tuesday and today is Sunday and I have not even started planning yet. “Help me” is screaming inside.I worked with the older chidren last year as an aide and I have no idea where to start with 6th grade …So I will ask you all for a prayer that I make it through the 1st day.
Susan, thanks for your comments. Having worked with older children previously, you will have much experience to draw from. 6th grade is a very nice grade to work with. Be sure to set aside some time for planning today and your confidence will grow. Be calm and confident…you’re introducing them to Jesus who will be right at your side!
I want to express my deep gratitude to Joe for all he is doing to enhance our ministry. This blog, which will only become a more valuable resource over time, is yet another way Joe is blessing us with his gifts. I encourage everyone to work to share the good news about this blog…for those who are catechists and those who might be open to becoming catechists in the future.
Thanks, Tom! I’m grateful that we continue to have opportunities to collaborate in the catechetical ministry!