Bishop Larry Silva stood at the doorway to my office holding a tray stacked high with freshly baked brownies. “Jayne, I’m here to say hello and to thank you for your hard work! Care for a treat?” He served up a brownie, and we chatted amicably for a few moments. I watched him make his way down the hall, stopping at each office to offer a sweet treat, recognizing the efforts of his employees and volunteers, expressing his appreciation, and sowing seeds of good will. His simple act of kindness had a profound effect on everyone. This humble man—whose schedule was busy and who undoubtedly had a gazillion other things on his mind—took the time to recognize and thank us. More than feeling good about ourselves, we felt like family on a mission, guided by a wise parent.
Public recognition can be passive, such as with bulletin or electronic media announcements, and active, such as being commissioned at Mass or engaging in personalized encounters. Indeed, our catechists deserve to be recognized for their contributions. Done well, public recognition serves to inform, invite, and inspire in the name of Christ.
Public recognition informs.
Public recognition can inform others about the scope of the catechetical program and promote a healthy sense of community pride. Consider highlighting a specific outcome of Christian discipleship: “Thanks to our catechists, our children and their families attended Mass together before preparing a meal and visiting with other families housed at an emergency shelter.” Or highlight their sacrifice in time and effort: “Collectively, our catechists dedicate hundreds of hours in service to the Lord and do so with a joyful heart.” Also highlight their diversity: “Our catechists represent cultures from around the world, and several are bilingual. We are blessed with the gift of learning to communicate Christ’s love for us in many languages!”
These are just a few examples of information that is worth sharing and celebrating.
Public recognition is inviting.
Catechists can also be recognized by the way you structure programs and manage routines. Take the time to know your catechists on a personal level so you can better align their gifts and talents with their assignments. Not only does this communicate your appreciation for them, it also makes the ministry more inviting for them and the children and families they serve. And always remember to routinely express your appreciation when you’re in the presence of the pastor, the catechist’s friends, spouse, and even his or her children.
Also recognize parents to make your ministry seem more inviting. A few years ago, one parish catechetical leader activated a small group of greeters who spent the first several weeks chatting with parents in the parking lot as they dropped off their children. Their task was simply to recognize and invite: “Great to see you. We have wonderful catechists who are excited to share the love of Christ with your child! Next week it would be great if you could join us for just a few minutes before class to pray with us before we begin our lessons.” Since then, parent involvement at the prayer circle has quadrupled.
Public recognition inspires.
Recognition inspires others to get involved. After all, a community that loves one another and takes time to recognize their good deeds is attractive. But as satisfying as patting one another on the back may be, recognition is not the same as self-congratulation; recognition serves as a way to praise Christ, who is our real source of inspiration.
When we recognize others for their service to the community, we inform, invite, and inspire others to share their time, talent, and treasure, and when the community comes together to work for God’s glory, we all get a glimpse of the Kingdom of Heaven. Public recognition aligns with Christ’s divine “retention strategy” that calls us back to catechetical ministry time and time again. And, as my colleagues and I experienced through Bishop Silva, when done well, public recognition reminds us that we are a family on a mission, guided by a wise and loving parent: God himself.
Catechetical Sunday is a great chance to give public recognition to your faith formation team. Give your catechists a gift book for only $5 each.
I think that this is a good idea and will incorporate it into a planned gathering of our parish catechists. Some are involved in both the Children’s Liturgy of the Word and the first Holy Communion program and others are just starting out. A quiet thank you hopefully will be encouraging. Between families, work, studies and parish ministries, we are a busy bunch of people who need to become a team.