Today, we take a look back at an article originally written in 2011. While the author has moved on to a new position, his advice is still relevant.
In the midst of an RCIA presentation, I told the group about the many people who had sought my counsel over the last several months. While we were without a full-time pastor, it seemed like I needed to install a revolving door to my office.
These folks, mainly parishioners, wanted to talk about addictions, family crises, financial difficulties, mental illness, and struggles with their children, just to name a few. I know my limitations, so I referred most to one of our local professional counselors. I also recommended that they talk with a priest. But many continue to seek out my advice. Just this one aspect of my life as a DRE can be a bit overwhelming.
In fact, many of us in catechetical leadership are called to wear many hats, and our professional lives can become quite stressful. Add in our own personal situations, and we too can find ourselves seeking good counsel. Where do you turn? How do you remain healthy in the midst of all the daily stress?
These two questions were asked by one of the people I was speaking to in our RCIA group. They were great questions, and gratefully, I had the answers on the tip of my tongue.
Over the years, I’ve worked hard at creating a support system that allows me to be successful in ministry. I couldn’t do what I do without utilizing it on a regular basis. If you came to me for advice, here are 11 Ideas for Protecting Your Faith While Leading Others I’d share with you.
- God has to be the focus of everything you do. Bring God into every situation, and always direct others to do the same.
- Join a prayer group. I belong to an ecumenical group, and we have been meeting once a month for years. Because all of us are in ministry and belong to different churches, there is a great freedom to share without risk.
- When in doubt, seek out. It’s important to know your limitations. Most of us in catechetical ministry are not trained counselors, and we can’t solve everyone’s problems on our own. Send those who need it to professionals who can handle the situation better than we can.
- Find a spiritual director. My recommendation would be that this person not be a member of your parish staff. Some might need to meet monthly, others every few months.
- Make an annual silent retreat. Many of us in catechetical leadership give retreats but fail to take one ourselves. I love Ignatian silent retreats, because they force me to slow down and be quiet with the Lord.
- At least twice a year, participate in a Day of Reflection. These mini-retreats help to reorient our lives to the One who called us into this ministry.
- Realize that you can’t solve everyone’s problems. If you’re like me, you have a hard enough time solving your own. Offer prayer and support, but avoid becoming overwhelmed.
- Have intercessors praying for you and your ministry. These people can be friends and family. When I’m facing an especially tough situation, I send a prayer request to one of the Carmelite monasteries. The good sisters never let me down.
- Develop friendships outside your parish. Several years ago, I joined a master gardener group in my county. Although I love to talk about God, sometimes plants provide a nice distraction.
- Make a weekly Holy Hour. Our parish has perpetual adoration, and I make a regularly scheduled Holy Hour each Saturday afternoon. This gives me a wonderful opportunity to give God thanks for all the favors I have received.
- Think about teaching. For years, I found myself consumed by administering a huge faith formation program in a parish of nearly 5,000 families. Then I read Joe Paprocki’s discussion here on Catechist’s Journey about teaching a weekly religious education class, and how it kept him focused on the real reason why he was involved in catechesis. This resonated with me, so this year, I’m teaching a fourth-grade class. That 75 minutes has become one of the highlights of my week. God has used my 14 kids to remind me of the reasons I got into this profession to start.
I’m sure you can add many of your own thoughts to this list. We all need gentle reminders about the importance of taking care of ourselves. If we want to be effective as catechetical leaders, we have to realize that we are works in progress and that God wants to use us to help bring about his kingdom.