I first volunteered to be a catechist 14 years ago at my home parish of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer when my son was preparing for his First Holy Communion; a few years later, a friend mentioned that our neighboring parish, St. Jude, was in need of additional catechists. I volunteered to be a substitute catechist, but soon became a regular catechist there, where I also prepared children to celebrate First Holy Communion, which has become my specialty!
While serving in two parishes can be challenging—for example, I work for two DREs who have very different personalities and management styles; I have to master different curricular materials; one of the parishes dedicates one Mass a month for children preparing for their First Holy Communion—I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have grown as a catechist by experiencing two different programs, and I like to bring some of the best practices in one parish to the other.
For example, one parish integrates the corporal works of mercy into the program. Throughout the year, the children in the program collect items for food pantries and nursing homes. The DRE invites missionaries to come and speak about their work, organizes a walk-a-thon, and has a special Lenten collection to benefit the Pontifical Mission Societies. The other parish does not have the same kind of focus. I can, however, incorporate some of the ideas from the former parish into my classroom. Last year, I included a presentation about Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Rice Bowl and handed out CRS rice bowls to the children in my class.
One parish has a lot of activities for children to participate in outside of class time. They put on a Christmas pageant and a Living Stations of the Cross, and host a carnival the week after Easter. Older students create and run games that help younger students show off what they know about the Catholic Church. My hope is that by sharing these ideas with the other parish, they might come up with ways the children their faith-formation program can serve their community.
Being a catechist at two parishes has helped me recognize and experience the catholic part of the Catholic Church. While both of the parishes are unique in their own ways, they are part of a single family. I get to learn from and work with two wonderful groups of catechists and two DREs. I discover new techniques for teaching lessons, learn new ways to share stories about the saints, and see creative activities to try out and share with others. (My favorite has been a traveling “Prayer Bear,” a teddy bear that goes home each week with a different child to encourage the practice of daily prayer. The Prayer Bear travels with directions on ways to pray and pages for the children to record how they prayed with Prayer Bear.)
What is the best thing about your program that you would like to share with another parish?
God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist offers powerful, meaningful lessons to help children and their parents understand, prepare for, and celebrate the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist.
You are such a gift to the Church, Cindy! Thank you for your years of service. You make a difference in many children’s lives!
Thanks so much for your kind words, Andrea.
HI Cindy, thank you for sharing with us your wonderful experiences and sharing with the children. I like the Traveling Bear that can help child to pray, where can we get this?
Dear Lily, It is just a regular teddy bear I bought. Then I buy a baby t-shirt and attached a cross shape to it for ‘clothes’. This year I started sending a binder for the children to record Prayer Bear’s ‘adventures’ and with some suggestions for how to pray with him (e.g. read a Bible story or story about a saint, say a prayer at bedtime, say grace before meals, etc.) Also, there is a prayer bear poem you can find online if you google for it. The kids really love Prayer Bear and eagerly wait for their turn to take him home.
I love the prayer bear and thought about doing that hear but I was concerned about the cleanliness of the bear. I’m a school nurse and see many children with various conditions that are passed down to others.
I can understand that and have thought of it but in circulating 4 bears over about as many years I haven’t had any reports from parents of things being passed on. I do ‘dress’ the bear in a t-shirt that can be washed. I guess I have to rely on the common sense of the parents in that regard.
Thanks, Cindy, not only for the articles published on Catechist’s Journey but also for your teaching, which has enriched the lives of so many of our young parishioners. Your boundless enthusiasm and knowledge are real assets to our PREP program!
Thank you, Mary for your catechetical ministry. Thanks also for your many encouraging words to me. You are one of those catechists I am blessed to learn from and be inspired by.