Last year was my rock-star year: I graduated with my M.Div., moved to a new state, learned the ropes of ministering as a DRE in a parish with over 800 children, planned a wedding and got married, and recovered from a stress fracture in my foot which required me to wear a boot for several months way too close to my wedding day. I was unstoppable.
Recently one of my catechists asked me how it felt to be in year two. Was it so much smoother than last year? “No!” I honestly replied. This year has been a mess from building renovations requiring us to move planned functions, to overwhelmed catechists, to angry parents, and to serious behavior issues. I found myself at week two in tears, curled up on my couch with a bag of Hershey’s Kisses and a new husband who was clearly wondering what he had gotten himself into.
The next day as I trudged into the church, I stopped in the Eucharistic Chapel. “I’m never going to get through this year without you,” I half-accusingly prayed.
As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I realized that I hadn’t been following my own advice. Just a few short weeks before, I had been telling the catechists that God had called them to this ministry and that God would grant them the gifts to see it through successfully. “Catechesis is God’s work,” I said, “and when we do it prayerfully, God works through us, providing what we may lack.”
I had spent the last two weeks on my own, thinking that I needed to have all of the answers, instead of turning things over to God. Just admitting that I do not and could not be expected to have all of the answers was a great relief. This realization made me think about the other bits of advice I have shared with my catechists that I had not been following myself.
“Your family comes first.”
I am always humbled by what catechists will sacrifice for the sake of their ministry. But when family members are in the ER, their own children have special performances, or it is their 25th anniversary, family comes first! This is why we have substitute teachers. But do I put my own family first? With evening parent meetings, religious education classes, middle school programs, catechist trainings, and RCIA classes, I often work late into the evening and see my husband only as I crash at the end of the day. The fact that he works in ministry and often works evenings too (and of course, never the same evenings) doesn’t help the matter. How can we put each other first and still be where we are needed for our ministries? God, help me to live a healthy balance of family and work priorities.
“Take care of yourself.”
Again, catechists are often so dedicated to their ministry that they show up for class with tissues and cold medication in hand. I’m the worst offender! In my mind no one else can lead opening prayer, no one else can monitor dismissal, no one else can chaperone the middle schoolers. Do I take enough time to nourish myself spiritually, physically, and emotionally? If I am hanging on by a thread, am I really going to be as effective as I could be in my ministry? God, help me to fill myself with your goodness so that it can flow to those around me.
“Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.”
It happens. A lesson flops, the date of a parent meeting gets printed incorrectly, we make a bad decision, or, worse yet, we are faced with a decision we have no idea how to make. But as I tell the catechists, teaching is trial and error. Is not leading the program trial and error as well? When I err is when the Holy Spirit really goes to work. The program will never grow if I am frozen from the fear of doing the wrong thing. God, help me to live without fear of the unknown.
As DREs, we give a lot, often too much. It’s time that we take a little of the advice we give. What if we lived the way we want our catechists to live? What if we practiced what we preached? It’s time for me to start. Thanks, God, for the wake-up call.