I’d Like to Pick Your Brain!

reader feedback

One of my biggest goals with this blog has been and continues to be responding to the most critical needs of catechists. We take great pride here at Catechist’s Journey in remaining in touch with the real issues that affect catechetical ministers day in and day out. With that in mind, I’d like to pick your brain! As I set out to plan the topics I will address in the coming months, I’d like some input from you.

If you are a catechetical leader, what do your catechists most need to…

  • learn about?
  • be challenged about?
  • be affirmed for?
  • be aware of?
  • get better at?

If you are a catechist, what do you most need to…

  • improve upon?
  • deepen your knowledge of?
  • get better at?
  • be challenged about?
  • understand with greater clarity?

If you are a parent of children in faith formation, what do catechists and catechetical leaders most need to…

  • be aware of?
  • get better at?
  • understand about parenting and family life?

If you’re someone else who is passionate about the ministry of catechesis, what do you think are the most pressing issues of our time that need more attention?

I look forward to hearing from you! Leave a reply below.

About Joe Paprocki 2745 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.

45 Comments on I’d Like to Pick Your Brain!

  1. As a catechist, I find it especially frustrating to cover Sunday Mass material only to have maybe 20-25% of my students attend weekend Mass. They are approximately 12-14 years old. So of course I get mostly blank stares when I attempt to review previous week’s Sunday lesson. This hasn’t lessened my desire to keep plugging away at our weekly material! I encourage my students to remind their parents on Sat/Sun that it is “Mass time” but not sure that is winning any success! We have considered having our pastor kindly send home a letter on registration night, reminding parents of their “opportunity” to grow in their faith as a family by attending Sunday liturgy. Maybe this would help?

  2. Hi Joe,
    As we work with families in our program more and more of them are in “mixed” marriages (one Catholic spouse and one non-Catholic spouse). Many times it is difficult for the Catholic spouse to live his/her faith fully, sharing it with his/her children if the non-Catholic doesn’t show support. How can we support these families to become “more” Catholic in their faith?

  3. As a Catechetical leader, I like to utilize my brief but quarterly catechist meetings in a way that feeds my catechists spiritually. I found a great little mini (15 minute)retreat video series that was awesome but can’t seem to find anything else like it out there. Do you have some suggestions on ways I can offer them this little spiritual lift?

  4. 1) There is very minimal or none at all training for the parents of the students receiving instruction. maybe meeting once a month required attendance

    2) Meditative prayer or prayer instruction of any kind. To all students in Religious Education ( relationship with God) heart knowledge? Through prayer

    The norm is at to start the class with a prayer and end with an even shorter prayer if done at all at the end of the class parents generally do not pray outside of Sunday mass

  5. Hi,
    I am a catechetical leader. I feel that my catechists need to be affirmed, more than just on Catechetical Sunday. Parents should, if they don’t already, get to know who is teaching their child and cooperate with them for a better learning experience.
    Pressing issues in our time, wow, there are so many. Prejudice, hatred, violence, anti everything. The list could go on and on.

  6. Hi,
    I need to be affirmed in how to better explain to our hispanic parents that “padrinos” are not needed for the celebration of First Holy Communion. How can I explain it to them? In our parish we are allowing the padrinos to process in with the children, (their godchild),to sit with them, but they are not going up to receive with child. Often times the padrinos are not their baptismal godparent. We are trying to respect cultural traditions, but it is very difficult to catechize the Hispanic community on this issue? Your help would be greatly appreciated. Plus ideas on how to have parents more engaged in their child’s faith life. Muchas Gracias!

  7. Teaching 4th graders is very rewarding. I just find it hard
    When that a lot of parents are more interesting in sports Than the CCD program. Very few parents go to mass it seems that they feel that sending there children to CCD instr. seems to fiullfil their duties. The children are loving. It is sad when you hear that they could not make it to mass. I send notes to the parent as to the importance of this. Very little interest.

  8. A few observations from outside of catechetical ministry … I notice the struggle over Sunday class time and how many catechists lament that kids and even some parents forego Mass for the convenient weekend class time that overlaps the liturgy schedule. Which sometimes feeds into success being measured by the number of warm bodies that show up. The same question I ask of liturgical ministers I oversee: have I given them enough to inspire their own development from believer to disciple? How to work against each classroom being its own ministry silo, and faith formation as a whole being one of the biggest ones? Does it work to offer adult/couple opportunities at the same time young family members are in class? The only time I see a faith formation class conducted in church is at a sacramental rehearsal, and I wonder: is this a bad thing? A missed opportunity? And as for Sunday Mass, one of my liturgy commission member once seriously opined: what if you have nothing to offer them on Sundays?

  9. As always, getting parents to recognize their important role as domestic church is maddening. We catechists have children for 1 hour, 15 minutes, 32 weeks a year. Throw in those children who are playing sports, traveling, etc. there does not seem to be enough time in their lives for a faith foundation. I teach 2nd grade with Sacramental Prep done on week nights but have to have a vote in which night as to not interfere with practices or games. What will help?

  10. I always struggle with how to encourage an actual relationship with God, especially for the little ones (I teach 1st grade). I didn’t grow up Catholic (or religious at all), so don’t have a personal experience to look back on, so I don’t know what is “normal” here, especially for the kids who aren’t getting much at home. What should my expectations be? How do I help them to grow closer to God and not just learn the information.

  11. The center of all my thoughts is how do I convince all of them – catechists and kids – that we gather not for content but to lead them always toward Christ and their example to each other should lead the way? How do you transform teachers to “faith formers”?

  12. After reading through others’ comments, I realized my concerns are similar to many other catechists. How can we reach the entire family? What works to help the parents understand the importance of having them be leaders of their own domestic church? Our staff is trying to incorporate once a month family classes, followed by participation in Holy Mass as a group. Does anyone have any successful ideas to share?

  13. Joe, thank you for the great tips and resources you have had on Catechist Journey webpage to this point. As a parish catechetical leade, I see one of our biggest challenges as being not only schooling our children on the teachings of the Catholic faith, but also how to help them grow as disciples… to lead them into a real encounter with Christ that develops into a deepening relationship. How can we best do that within a classroom setting, within family sessions, and through tools & encouragement provided to parents?

    One of my challenges with catechists this year is to get them to take advantage of the new online faith formation and certification process offered by the Archdiocese of Chicago. Catechists taking the time to pursue certification has been an ongoing challenge.

    Our volunteer catechists should be affirmed for their desire to make a difference, and to give back in appreciation for the blessings they have received. Everyone has busy lives. Those who have responded to the call should be affirmed in making the sometimes tough choice to step forward and make sacrifices. Catechists should be affirmed in the genuine love that they share with the children entrusted to their care and their families.

    Catechists should be aware of how much we as catechetical leaders appreciate them. I am not one who affirms others naturally. I have to be intentional about giving affirmations. I ask my administrative assistant for help, and she has been great. Any creative suggestions would be appreciated.

    I think communication is something we all could continually improve upon. If we are to effectively engage parents in the religious formation of their children, then catechists have to continually communicate with their parents. I ask our catechists to send home a parent letter after each session. Catechists have to look at how they can better communicate with their catechetical leader, and let her/him know of their needs. It’s frustrating when you learn about things they needed in an end-of-year catechist survey.

  14. We have for the last 7 years done a program for First Communion 1-Grade 4 before the 10 Mass. It would never be 100% but can see in comparison now the kids that have had a program tied in with Mass compared to when I took over the program those classes were mid week and the absolute vast majority of all the kids never went to Mass. We did an Ash Wednesday when I took over the program for those grades when they met Grade 5-8 and it was a complete disaster because almost all kids had not gone to Mass since they made their First Communion and their behavior was a nightmare. Fast forward and the Ash Wednesday Mass the last three years the majority of the kids had experience with Mass maybe not weekly but they were wonderfully behaved and knew how to participate in Mass.
    We have a Sunday grade level liturgy for each grade plus All Saint’s Day Mass, Blessing of their Advent Wreaths at Mass, Bambinelli Celebration, Blessing of their Missionary Childhood mite Boxes, a huge Palm Sunday Children’s Celebration plus First Communion 1 has two special Masses and First Communion 2 has three special Masses. Is it perfect no but compared to what it was it is completely different. Kids feel ownership in their parish. Once they are in middle school always have a good group that helps the younger kids. Plus the parishioners love seeing the kids participate in these special Masses

  15. A better way of connecting with parents and helping them teach their kids daily at home.

    Basically, nothing we do in an hour a week, 9 months a year will matter if it’s NOT happening at home.

    But… the idea of whole family catechesis is still really unfamiliar, so we need some sort of a turn-key solution we can sell the parish on.

  16. As a catechetical leader I would like to learn more about family centered catechesis. I believe that parents need catechesis as much as the children and am interested in ways to include them in warm, welcoming and effective ways.

  17. Please don’t give up because parents aren’t bringing their children to Mass. We can never say that catechizes is a waste of time as we don’t know what the Holy Spirit is doing to those young minds. When I was young we had no transport and the only way we could go to Mass was to hitch a ride with other people! My mum was too embarrassed to do this so she stayed home for years. I made excuses for her as she was a convert while my Dad was an Irish Catholic.
    When I was a teen, we had a new order of priests who gave new life to our parish with music and concerts and lots of visitations. Suddenly my Mum became the star of the parish as she could play the organ very well. I often say that God has a great sense of humour.

  18. Thank you Joe for all that you do and especially thank you for Catechist’s Journey. It has really helped me in my ministry of being a catechist.
    I have the same question as many who have commented: how do we get the parents involved and participating in weekly Mass? I am sure this will take baby steps.

  19. Our catechists need to understand that the work they do right now is may not grow and blossom for years. The seeds they plant and care for are a work in progress. Don’t get discouraged if it seems like your time and efforts haven’t made a big difference now.

    They need to challenge themselves to be aware of their own spiritual growth – prayer – both community and personal, quiet time, what are they learning or beginning to think differently about as a result of their ministry?

    They need to be affirmed for not just preparing and teaching lessons, but for being the face of God to their youth and their community. They do this in many ways and not always in the classroom – perhaps by greeting a family or youth at a school event, in the grocery store, at Mass, etc.

  20. As a catechist, I need students who are curious, engaged and respectful. Curious enough to want to know something, engaged enough to keep on topic, and respectful enough to value everyone’s contribution to our tasks.

  21. My issue is stated at the end of this piece.

    Our church held three meetings over the summer for parents of students who are imminently, or within a year, of aging into sacrament prep. Attendance at just one was very strongly encouraged. Perhaps because these may have been perceived as required, they were well-attended. One or two more will be scheduled during the academic year.

    At the meeting, which they called a retreat, the FF staff presented on the importance, and suggested ways, to imbue daily family life with Ignatian spirituality. Then time was given for tables to discuss a) how each family could own this commitment, and b) how our church could better support their efforts.

    I was a table facilitator, and was struck by the candid remarks of one mom of very young children: “I can’t see myself talking bible verses all day long. It’s impractical.” To me, she was articulating a basic tenet of many families: how is this stuff really relevant to our daily lives?

    I think our church is off to an excellent start to confront this mindset. But your insights and support, for church leaders and for catechists, would be great.

    (My own experience is that toddlers are very knowledgeable about God. Why not– didn’t they just come from heaven?)

  22. This year will be my third year working with adults on top of 19 previous years working with children. Working with parents, grandparents, caretaker(s) or any member of the church parish is rewarding as well as working with children. One of the major differences is getting the adults out of the cars and parking lots to join a Sunday morning class for adults while their children are in separate classes. Our sessions are relaxed and centered around Breaking Open the Word for Sunday’s Gospel Reading {Pope Francis’ Joy of the Gospel}and discussing ways to apply the word into our lives. We open with prayer and a reflection about something some one has read or just talk about events of the week. No right or wrong answers most of the time, but sometimes we need to correct something about Catholic doctrine and/or we use Father as a resource (we meet in the rectory). They seem to enjoy the sessions, but some don’t attend regularly. I don’t have a particular question but suggestions are welcomed.

  23. 1. Integrating technology into catechetical sessions
    2. various models of adolescent faith formation to be able to need less volunteers
    3. getting the volunteers we do have to stop talking at adolescents all the time; how to shift the paradigm from teacher to facilitator…

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