Summer has arrived, and people in ministry often ask me, “Now what do we do?” As the director of discipleship and faith formation at my parish, part of my responsibility is to look at programs and determine how the people’s needs are being met, what changes might need to be made, and most importantly, listen to how the Holy Spirit is calling our programs to grow. After 20 years in ministry, I look forward to this time and the work it brings.
This summer catechists in our community will be preparing to use our new curriculum. We are moving to a format with weekly classes that are supplemented by parent sessions twice a month. As religious educators, we believe that parents are the primary catechists for our young people. How do we best communicate and empower parents to take up this role? Do parents understand and embrace this role? What barriers do they face in taking it up? Are there constraints on their time and availability? Do they feel like they lack knowledge to teach the faith confidently to their children? Is their own prayer life a struggle? Our role as religious educators is to understand the challenges parents face and offer resources to help them overcome those challenges. I can use the time in the summer months to gather and develop resources that I can then share with parents throughout the program year.
During the summer, my team of catechists—who form the backbone of every religious education program—will hone their craft. They will be trained in the content of the new curriculum and explore ways that they can bring the faith alive to the young people who will soon be in their classrooms. They will also have time to adjust to a new class schedule.
Most importantly, summer affords time for catechists to nourish their own, personal relationship with Christ. Catechists introduce young people to the person of Jesus Christ; they can only do that if they have their own relationship with him. Catechists are called to witness their faith so that young people have authentic disciples from whom they can learn. Summer is a perfect time for catechists to grow in discipleship. They might use the time off to go on retreats that help them develop and grow their prayer life and spirituality.
Over the years, I have witnessed catechists grow over the summer months. Taking time away to review, refresh, and regroup, their faith seems to come alive! Catechesis not only forms faithful young disciples; it nourishes the faith of the catechists themselves.
When catechists share and explain their faith, God reveals how he is active in each of our lives. So as we all step back this summer and reflect on the previous academic and faith formation year, may we all give thanks for the times God has been active in our lives and the lives of the young people we serve.
The Family Catechesis resources for Finding God and Christ Our Life combine parish-based group meetings and grade-specific instruction, without losing the core elements of our faith formation programs.