We’re Doing This Apprenticeship Thing All Wrong!

One of the most exciting and challenging ideas that the General Directory for Catechesis brought us is the concept of apprenticeship.

This comprehensive formation includes more than instruction: it is an apprenticeship of the entire Christian life. (67)

The whole idea, of course, is that those seeking to enter more fully into discipleship are to be mentored into the Christian way of life. This is the basis of our Catholic practice of providing sponsors for those preparing for Initiation into the Church.

In the catechetical ministry, many of us have been exploring this concept of apprenticeship and seeking ways to shape our efforts around this approach. Unfortunately, we have been doing one aspect of this all wrong! Too many of us have been thinking of ourselves (pastoral staff) as the mentors and everybody else as the apprentices when, in fact, our parishes are FULL of potential mentors who we should be training and empowering to work with apprentices.


Case in point: I’ve been asked to do a parent First Eucharist meeting early in 2015. For too long, I’ve approached these gatherings as though I am the mentor who is there to apprentice these young parents into their role as the primary catechists of their children. The fact is, the parish already has a number of parents who have successfully walked with their children through First Eucharist and can now share their wisdom and experience with other parents. In other words, my job as the “presenter” for this First Eucharist parent meeting is to work with the DRE to identify and invite some parents whose children recently received First Eucharist to share their stories with this year’s parents as I facilitate that discussion. Speakers like me swoop in and swoop out of a parish; however these parents that I’m speaking of—these mentors—remain visible in the life of the parish, living and breathing role models who can mentor young parents and apprentice them into embracing their role in their child’s faith formation.

Here are some questions that I will give the panel of mentors to reflect on in preparation for them to share their stories:

  • What moment stands out for you as you look back on your child’s preparation for and reception of First Eucharist?
  • What does it mean for you to have your child regularly receiving Eucharist with you on Sunday?
  • How did you contribute to your child’s preparation to receive the Eucharist?
  • Why was it so important for you to bring your child to receive First Eucharist?
  • What obstacles did you face along the way and how did you deal with them?
  • How do you respond to your child when he or she expresses reluctance or asks why they have to go to Mass?

What other questions can you suggest that “mentor parents” might respond to at a First Eucharist parent meeting to help “apprentice parents”?

About Joe Paprocki 2741 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.

8 Comments on We’re Doing This Apprenticeship Thing All Wrong!

  1. I agree… but it’s hard as a DRE to find the parents who will step up or be involved even in one parent meeting. Parents are so busy. Others are lukewarm.
    I was taught the apprentice model for youth ministry as well. To get the kids in youth ministry and train them to be the leaders. I’ve tried that for 5 years and every year the kids don’t make it a priority.
    Parish ministry is tough!

  2. I am so glad that I read this post prior to planning our first First Eucharist parent meeting! I’ve been at this 23 years and was mulling over what resources to dig up from the past or where I might find new stimulation…and the Holy Spirit provided this blog post and a webinar with Tom Quinlan (I’ll be using some of his ideas at the next meeting). Anyway, I emailed known mass-attending parents of 3rd-5th graders to see if any would agree to being part of the panel you describe. I had only 8 replies, and 4 were “yes” (3 men and one woman). The four of them came very well prepared to witness to their faith with answers to your questions that came from deep places. I was amazed at what I heard. The parents in attendance voiced their appoval of the meeting to me and to the panelists, who have all shared their phone and email as a resource for thes families. Thank you so much for sharing such a blockbuster idea!

    • Wow, Marty, this is so outstanding! The fact that you got 8 replies and 4 positive is actually pretty impressive! I have no doubt that some of the parents who voiced their approval of this format will be willing to be on a panel next year! Thanks for sharing your experience.

      • After reading your thoughts on using our “veteran parents” to mentor new families I felt inspired to email all the families with children who received First Holy Communion in May to give me feedback on their experience, using many of the questions that you suggested. I will let you know if I receive any responses. I am hoping that any parent who responds may be willing to share their experience with our newest group of parents in the fall!

  3. I like this project. I’ll do, also I’ll invite the families with special needs kid.
    Joe, I want to say thank you for all the information that provides us. By the way, was a pleasure to meet you in the NCCL. (I am the person who asks you about Spanish material).

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