At this time of year when recruiting and training catechists is a top priority, it’s a good time to think about what we can realistically do to help nurture and form the spirituality of those who will have direct contact with the children in our communities. Much has been said about preparing catechists for their ministry. But what about caring for the catechist as a spiritual person?
New catechists often come to us with a bit of fear and trepidation along with the excitement of a new venture. Experienced catechists may come with varying degrees of confidence and/or over-confidence. They may feel refreshed and ready for a new year in the classroom. Or they may feel they’ve done this so long that no preparation is required. What can we do as catechetical leaders to ensure a healthy level of prayer and spirituality before the year begins?
Start by praying for your catechists, collectively and individually. If your program is large, you may find it difficult to pray for all of them individually. If this is the case, consider praying for all of the catechists in a particular grade level each day of the week. Send a note in the mail, a postcard, or an e-mail to each of them, personally welcoming them and letting them know you are praying for them. Include a prayer or Scripture passage you think might be helpful or meaningful. Encourage them to pray for God’s guidance in their ministry, for their students and their families, and for your parish.
Consider offering a day or evening of reflection for catechists, or include extended time in your catechist meeting specifically for prayer and reflection. Sometimes just gathering and praying with others who share a common ministry can invigorate and energize a group. Is there a regional or diocesan event for catechists they can attend that goes beyond the nuts and bolts of theology and classroom maintenance? Make shared prayer a priority.
Be sure catechists are aware of, and have access to, resources they can use on their own for personal study and growth. One of the hallmarks of using an Ignatian-based curriculum (for me) is having a program that addresses the spirituality and formational needs of each catechist. Are catechists aware of all the resources in their catechist manual? Have they been directed to the publisher’s website? Do you make available catechetical magazines or spiritual resources for their personal use? Does your parish have a library, and can you work with parish staff to suggest resources already on hand?
Remembering to minister to those who minister to children can be overlooked in this busy season of preparation. What else can you do to start the year off right?