Editor’s Note: Several of our new Catechist’s Journey contributors will be familiar to those of you who read DRE Connect. Today, we share with you one article in a series by Joyce Donahue. This post originally appeared on DRE Connect.
This is the fourth article in a series about the spiritual life of catechists, inspired by the list of characteristics in the National Directory for Catechesis.
In the film The Blues Brothers, the main characters, trying to raise money to keep their Catholic school open, proclaim: “We’re on a mission from God!” That’s not a bad motto for any Catholic. Like Jake and Elwood, all of us are on a mission: to evangelize.
Go and Make Disciples (USCCB, 1992) cites Pope Paul VI, who wrote that, “The Church exists to evangelize.” The bishops continue, defining evangelization: “At its essence are the proclamation of salvation in Jesus Christ and the response of a person in faith.” (10–11)
How do catechists serve the mission to evangelize? As essential players, specially called to proclaim the Gospel and to provide opportunities and encouragement for a response of faith. The time catechists spend face-to-face with young people may be the only encouragement they get to pray or develop their relationship with Christ and the Church. The work of catechists is crucial to the ongoing faith life of children and youth.
The average catechist probably doesn’t fully understand how that relates to the way he or she teaches. I encourage DREs to raise catechists’ awareness of evangelization and to help them practice evangelizing catechesis—catechesis that brings people into encounter with Jesus Christ and encourages a living and lasting faith.
How should we create evangelization expectations for catechists? We must equip them to:
- Engage in personal prayer and spiritual growth practices, so as to have a living faith to share.
- Know and be able to share the kerygma—the story of salvation and how Jesus Christ saved us through his Paschal Mystery, as found in Scripture.
- Pray effectively with young people, providing opportunities for silence, meditation, use of imagination, journaling, and personal discernment—dedicated time for encountering God.
- Connect prayer experiences to liturgical seasons and symbols and to Sunday Mass readings.
- Be unafraid to illustrate faith concepts by sharing stories of moments in their personal faith journeys or other creative stories of faith.
- Go beyond the lesson plan to bring young people in contact with solid examples of how Christian faith is lived. Seeing the actions of mature Catholic disciples leaves a more lasting impression than just reading about them.
- Include the whole family in faith formation whenever possible. Send home family projects, discussion-starters, and prayer ideas.
- Form community. For instance, invite families to sit together at Mass and then gather for doughnuts (or lunch) and conversation afterwards. (I knew a first-grade group that did that on a monthly basis with great success.)
Evangelizing catechists are more likely to make a difference. They will have a more lasting effect on the lives of young people they encounter and on the faith of future generations.
Read the first three articles in the series:
The Spiritual Life of Catechists, Part 1: Finding and Sharing Love and Joy
The Spiritual Life of Catechists, Part 2: Authenticity of Life
The Spiritual Life of Catechists, Part 3: Personal Prayer