I received this email from a self-described “newbie-DRE” who is looking for some advice. Let’s help her out!
Does anyone have practical suggestions for saying “no” to a potential catechist who responds to your “call”? My assistant and I feel that he wouldn’t be able to control a classroom, and he has no filter when speaking so he tends to over-share about his personal life. Something about his personality is just giving us a bad impression on his ability to teach effectively. But when I am begging the parish for volunteers every week, how do I say no? Thanks for any advice!
– A newbie DRE
While this person has responded, that doesn’t mean that your process is over. Tell him that the next step is a formal interview in which you present some specific expectations and a role description. Ask him specifically about the issues you are concerned about. Then, tell him you will get back to him after some discernment and then communicate your concerns to him at which time you can talk to him about some other role in the program where his gifts might be used, if appropriate.
Obviously it’s a hard situation. It sounds to me like most of your concerns are about the catechists personality (as opposed to his knowledge/relationship with God). My first thought is that a lot of people don’t want to volunteer because they aren’t sure they are “qualified”…. maybe you could find someone to pair him with and hopefully that person could help with keeping the classroom under control.
Just say no. Your intuition is there for a reason.
We have an application process in my Diocese, but I wouldn’t draw it out for too long… or he might get his expectations up.
Another thing would be if you think you’ll have your volunteers in place that you could delay by doing an interview and discerning… then you could say you have enough catechists.
But, offer him another volunteer job like being a Eucharistic minister, or an usher.
Usually if you have doubts, it won’t be better… in my experience it will end up worse because you will have upset parents and have to get rid of someone that the families will see in Church.
I agree with Joe who responded and I would like to add that we never know how God uses us, volunteers, in someones’ life. Remember the apostles themselves were not perfect nor many Saints, perhaps God has sent you someone who has a talent that can be used while at the same time an opportunity for him/her to learn and be an instrument in someone’s or in the parish, GOD IS WISE all the time, and lastly, discernment, ask the Holy Spirit to guide.
Liddia, I agree with your view on this matter. It is about opportunity and discernment and being present to the possibility…
I currently recruit my own catechists. I no longer post anything in the bulletin because of things like your situation. It becomes very difficult to let a volunteer go when you’ve asked them to join and then find out these things. I’d encourage you to see if he has gifts that can be used in other areas. Your instincts are more often than not, right. If he is involved in other areas of the parish encourage him to continue with those and let him know you will get back to him if there is a need in the program that he will be able to fill. I agree with Liddia that the apostles were not perfect but we are also here to ensure that the students receive a good education and a safe and positive experience and that their parents are entrusting them to us.
Is it possible to share with them that you really need assistance in this volunteer area (e.g. Hall Monitor) or maybe that you really believe he would be be better suited for RCIA or helping with an Adult Bible Study in the parish. I also like the idea of putting him with someone else, especially a catechist who would be able to be upfront enough about what is best not to share with the students.
Yes- maybe he could be a catechist’s helper and have that experience damp down some of his excesses.
I agree with Joe – just because he came forward does not mean he should be chosen; it is important to follow your gut! That being said, I would encourage him to go through the process – if you have one – such as background checks, etc. I also, if everything seemed in order, would ask him to start by working with an experienced person until you are truly comfortable with letting him continue.
Last year I had to let a volunteer catechist go while I was still asking for volunteers. This is a hard situation for anyone. But I agree with what Joe said, tell him that the next step is a formal interview and then you will need to consult with your formation team about his acceptance. The other thing you can do is offer them an alternative. Lots of times they just want to serve in any capacity. If you don’t want them teaching see if they will monitor the bathrooms or the hallways, be an office aid or even work in another ministry. What I have started to do now is when I recruit catechists I put it in the bulletin or on the website stating Interviews are not going on for those wishing to join the Catechist Ministry. Those interested should contact etc… this way they know upfront that their is a process that you require.
I think many of the comments received are good. Like so many have written, this individual has obviously been called by God. Important to always recognize an individuals gifts. Many times we can be short of catechists and may not have sufficient time to do training. I have learned to place new catechists as an aide with a seasoned catechist for their first year. The seasoned catechist becomes a mentor to the new catechist.
I would have a very prayerful personal meeting with your perspective catechist. I always have a personal interview with new catechists.
Ialso personally touch base with all catechists at the end of the PSR year.
Talk to him about the following:
• How is he feeling God’s call?
• What are his credentials?
• What is his experience with children?
• What are his gifts, talents?
• How does he bring God into his daily life with family, friends and coworkers?
• Talk about his prayer life.
Is it possible that you could use him as an aide with a very strong catechist?
God bless you in your ministry.
Dear “Newbie” DRE,
There are usually a number of ways people can help in the catechetical program. If he really wants to work in a classroom, would it be possible to pair him up with one of your more experienced catechists. In that way, he could be exposed to good classroom management routines, as well as good tactical approaches to sharing the faith. Certainly there is a lot to be said for sharing one’s own “faith journey”; however, the experienced catechist knows how to incorporate such witness into the framework of the day’s lesson. It is usually great if the experience can be tied to the Scriptural reading for the day’s class. Otherwise, there is always a need for hall monitors, office helpers, or people to handle needed phone calls. If the teachers can provide a “helper” with a form that outlines the basic content of the day’s lesson with a follow up assignment, the helper could call the parents of students who are absent. This would certainly take some of the burden off your regular catechists. It would provide an extra “personal” touch that was the hallmark of Jesus’ ministry. By building up the importance of these “helping” positions to the perspective catechist, you can affirm his eagerness to serve. This will also provide you with more time to observe and assess his personal skills. I hope that some of these ideas are helpful.
May God continue to bless you as you perform your leadership role in this important ministry.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Glenn A. McCarthy
Saint Gabriel Parish, Bronx, New York
I agree with pairing him up with someone. We require catechists to be a member of the parish for 1 year prior to teaching or assisting. Our classes have a catechist and an assistant. He could help as the assistant. But, you’ll have to pair him up with a teacher than can quiet him down when needed. Or you could find another position for him. Maybe organizing the children’s masses? Maybe organizing a Rosary recital session with the older kids. Gather the older students and teachers in a large room. Maybe he can talk about the history of the rosary. Something like that. But, I too agree. I belong to a small parish and I’ve asked people myself. Haven’t had to put a notice in the bulletin in a while. People usually will say yes, when they are asked. But hesitate to volunteer because they feel they don’t know our faith well enough to teach. I explain to them that we are all volunteers. We’re Mothers, Fathers, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, etc. That’s how I got started. Started teaching when my nieces and nephews were in the program. Been doing it every since. 14 years now. As I say “It will all be good”.
As DRE one needs to be sensitive to the people God is sending us. Are we meeting their needs? Why has God sent this person to us?