Navigating your first year as a catechetical leader can be exciting and daunting. I remember facing many hard questions during my first year as a DRE; I’m sure that many new DREs have faced similar ones. Some of the questions I frequently asked myself have helped me grow as a DRE.
What am I doing here?
I remember thinking that I had gotten in way over my head. Who was I to think that I could lead this program, form these catechists, and encourage discipleship in these children and families?
The truth is, I was in way over my head! But with God, all things are possible. God called me to this ministry for a specific reason, and no one else could do this job in quite the same way I did. I decided to schedule a regular “meeting” with Jesus in our Eucharistic chapel to make sure I was doing his work and not mine. With the Holy Spirit speaking and moving through you, you can help your families thrive in their faith.
How do I make a difference in this limited amount of time?
With all of the administrative work required to keep the program running, I felt like I didn’t have enough time to make a real difference in the lives of the children in my program. With only one hour a week with the kids, there was a limit to what we could accomplish.
To maximize my effectiveness, I spent time forming my catechists. Catechists are on the front lines with the children every week. The more spiritual and pedagogical resources we leaders can give them, the more effective they will be.
I also spent time with parents. Since parents are the primary catechists of their children, they will have the greatest influence on them. Engage parents when they call, e-mail, or stop you at the church or out in the community. Take time to ask how their family is doing and how the church can support them. Their answers will show you where to best focus your time and energy.
Will I ever see my family again?
When I looked at my calendar that first fall, I almost cried at all the things I had to do. Just looking at the calendar was exhausting! My first year was harder than it should have been, because I didn’t reach out for assistance.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Find a team of catechists and parents who are available during the day to help you with some of the administrative tasks, such as organizing, labeling, and stuffing envelopes. Form small committees to handle details like food, registration, or decorations for different events. When I was sick for a big event, my committee came to the rescue. They had it covered, and it was a success (even without me).
This lesson also taught me that I could take a couple of days off each week. My assistant reminded me of this when I was trying to figure out my hours for a family funeral; she said, “You know, the church will still be standing if you don’t come in until Tuesday.” Her comment rocked my world. She was right. I needed to give myself permission to take time off. Look at each week and pick two days to take off. Whatever days you pick—Friday, Monday, or a random Wednesday—be intentional about carving out that time and sticking to it.
What other questions have you faced as a new DRE? If you’re an experienced catechetical leader, what advice do you have for the new leaders?
The Effective Catechetical Leader series, developed in conjunction with the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership and written by some of the top catechetical leaders in the country, is the only series to encompass all the aspects of catechetical leadership.
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