During Advent and Lent, the Church prepares for the feasts of Christmas and Easter. Similarly, summer is the season when catechists prepare for the upcoming catechetical year. The more time we take to prepare, the more comfortable and confident we will be echoing the Word of God in our classrooms.
Prayer, Prayer, and More Prayer
The most important thing we can do to prepare for the new catechetical year is to pray. Through prayer, the Holy Spirit reminds us who this ministry really belongs to: God, who completes his work through us. As a director of religious education, remember to pray for your catechists. At meetings and workshops, through e-mails and phone calls, you can surround your catechists with prayer so that they know they are spiritually supported. Call to mind the names of each of your catechists; imagine the gifts each one brings to the classroom; consider the struggles and challenges they face in this ministry; pray for their families and pray for the students entrusted to them. Pray that their needs will be met and that they are always aware of God’s presence in their lives, particularly in the classroom. Enlist the families in your program and the larger parish community to pray for the catechists too.
Make sure that you pray with your catechists as well. One beautiful practice I recently started is to pray as a group for each individual child in our program. At our orientation meeting, I pass out the class roster to each catechist and during our prayer the catechists speak aloud the name of each student in their classes. The catechists appreciate this prayer; it helps them take seriously the spiritual responsibility they have for each child.
The best time to share resources with catechists is right before the year begins, as they are starting to plan their sessions. This is the perfect time—the relaxed mindset of summer has faded but the stress of teaching has not yet kicked in. Share articles from Catechist’s Journey, books such as The Catechist’s Backpack by Joe Paprocki and Julianne Stanz, and other helpful websites or lesson ideas. Include links to helpful resources in your e-mails, pass out books at meetings or when catechists drop by the office, and reach out to individual catechists when specific resources come to mind that they might find useful.
As you prepare for the beginning of the new catechetical year, remember that even the most seasoned catechists can improve their ministry. However, knowing how to make changes in one’s lesson plans or teaching style is often difficult. One helpful way to know which changes to make is to think of one thing from the previous year that worked really well and one thing you would like to change. Share your best practices with one another, and help solve your common struggles. As a director, you can offer specific ways to help catechists with their goals as well. This is a great discussion for meetings before classes begin.
What do you find helpful when preparing catechists for the new year?