Cool-headed, analytical, driven—these words were often used to describe Scott, a veteran soldier in the United States Army.
Yet, there he was, a shy grin on his face as he approached his pastor, who had called him forward to be recognized as a new catechist. He gratefully accepted his welcome gifts: the Holy Bible with his name engraved on the cover, a rosary carved from a native hard wood, and an official catechist name badge. When he turned to face the assembly, they burst into applause and many were delighted to witness his true nature as a humble servant of God.
“I’m proud to be a soldier for my country,” he told the assembly, “but I’m even prouder to be a soldier for Christ and serve as a catechist. This special Bible motivates me to frequently read and reflect upon Sacred Scripture. The rosary reminds me to pray always and be inspired by the courage of our Blessed Mother, the bearer of Christ. The name badge and the warm welcome I received connects me to my community of faith. We’re all soldiers on an important Christian mission.”
What Scott encountered was a level of affirmation that touched the mind, body, and spirit. Such affirmations are essential for recruiting and retaining catechists.
Affirm the Mind; Respect the Intellect
- Provide access to resources that promote continual growth in knowledge and understanding of Christ and the teachings of the Church.
- Have high expectations, and guide the lesson-planning process to ensure lessons are systematic and doctrinally sound.
- Invest in and monitor progress in the diocesan certification process.
- Reinforce learning at the local level. Books such as Joe Paprocki’s A Well-Built Faith are excellent resources for independent reading or use in group settings.
Affirm the Body; Respect the Environment
- Affirm each catechist as a vibrant member of the body of Christ by providing opportunities to connect the catechetical ministry to the whole parish community.
- When providing snacks or a meal, offer healthy alternatives such as refreshing water, herbal teas, and fruits that nourish the body.
- Ensure meeting spaces are clean and tidy. Physical space influences the physical body. Even the humblest meeting space can be transformed into a sacred space in which a catechist is comfortable and children or adults may thrive.
- Minimize distractions during meeting times.
Affirm the Spirit; Celebrate the Person
- Interact with each person on your catechetical team. Call each person by name.
- Offer a word of encouragement and/or appreciation.
- Attend Mass together, pray together, and bless each other as often as possible.
- Celebrate achievement.
I cannot imagine a Christian who does not know how to smile. May we joyfully witness to our faith.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) January 30, 2014
The following year Scott renewed his commitment as a catechist. During lunch with his fellow catechists, he expressed appreciation for the many ways Christ had transformed him through the catechetical ministry and community affirmation.
He quipped, “Being a catechist has helped to make me a more balanced person. Now I’m cool-headed AND warm-hearted; analytical AND thoughtful; driven AND mission-focused.” Everyone around the table smiled and nodded in agreement.
Well done, soldier and good and faithful servant.