I spent a very enjoyable and productive day today with about 45 DREs in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, NY, talking about caring for our catechists. We looked specifically at how we can offer them formation in the areas of being, knowing, and doing, as outlined in the General Directory for Catechesis. In the course of our day, the folks offered lots of thoughts and comments. Here is a summary of just a few thoughts that are on their minds:
- most of our catechists are not professional teachers…they don’t know how to plan a lesson so we need to show them how to do that if they are going to succeed
- very often catechists have not been taught how to pray as an adult (reflectively, Ignatian-style, etc.) so they are hesitant to teach prayer to others. We need to help them develop their own prayer lives.
- Many of us grew up thinking that prayer was like sitting on Santa’s lap, asking for things. As we grew older and wiser, we learned that prayer is a conversation of speaking and listening to God. We need to help our catechists learn how to listen to God and how to recognize his presence in daily living.
- For many children, the catechist may be the only person in their life who is talking about faith, God, and prayer. The catechist may be the only person who prays with that child. Yes, we bemoan the fact that many parents are not involved in their children’s faith lives but we need to help catechists appreciate the fact that they may be the only faith figure in a child’s life and not to underestimate the good that they can do.
- More and more catechists are taking advantage of the 3-minute retreat and are using it as a form of daily prayer for themselves – an adult way to pray – and it’s making them more comfortable in leading others in reflective prayer.
- For many of our catechists, their last formal formation was their own 8th grade confirmation…we need to update them.
- If we can teach our catechists the importance of a prayer center – a table with a cloth representing the liturgical season, a Bible, a candle, holy water, etc. – that can go a long way toward helping them to establish a climate of prayer in their classes.
- The best teachers know how to connect with the “culture” (not necessarily ethnic/racial, but more often, age group) of those they teach while at the same time, not trying to be friends with the kids but maintaining a role of authority – being respected is more important than being liked.
- The best teachers have a way of helping kids understand how the subject matter pertains to real life.
- Catechists need to know that prayer is what enables them to transform what they are doing from the mere teaching of a subject to a true encounter with a living Person: Jesus.
Great thoughts and ideas, folks! Thanks!