In a previous article I encouraged catechists—myself included—to move ever steadily toward God’s vision for us and the world. On this journey of accompaniment, we influence one another through our acts of Christian discipleship.
Charlie is a catechist and influential civic leader. He helped re-establish a medical center in a town near under-served rural communities. He explains, “It often took over an hour for an ambulance to transport patients to a full-service emergency medical facility. A disproportionate number of patients were dying in transport for the simple reason that they were too economically disadvantaged to live closer to town.”
Charlie has led numerous successful scholarship campaigns for local Catholic schools. He states, “For many students, financial roadblocks prevent access to the educational environment they need and deserve. It is lack of opportunity—not lack of ability. Being a faithful Catholic includes obeying God’s command to love one another, and for me this means helping our youth reach their fullest potential and use their gifts to help others.”
Carol’s influence is less public. As a single mother, she and her two sons lived in a rural community. Although she and many of her neighbors struggled to make ends meet, they supported one another as best they could, especially when it came to caring for their most vulnerable—children, elderly, and those who needed medical care. A catechist at her parish, Carol understood the importance of strengthening her family’s domestic church. She and her sons attended Mass regularly. She taught her sons to pray, to be aware of and respond to the needs of others to the best of their ability, and to be grateful even for what little they had.
One son is now a teacher. Her other son is Charlie.
“I would never force my sons to help others,” Carol says. “Instead we would visit our neighbors and listen to their stories of resilience and transformation brought about by simple acts of Christ-like love and kindness. At first my boys were intimidated by these home visits, but after a while they would offer to read a Bible passage, recite a prayer, or even hold an elderly person’s hand. I’m proud that they continue to help others now that they’re adults.”
Think about an influential person in your life, one who inspires you to be a better Christian disciple. Is this person sweepingly bold like Charlie, graciously humble like Carol, or maybe somewhere in between? Whatever the style, he or she likely exhibits certain behaviors that are worth emulating:
- Their stories and actions generate interest. When we are deeply rooted in faith, we bring our entire lives to our catechetical ministry, including our life stories. Whether we realize it or not, our students and their families pay attention to our shared insights and personal ethic, and they are influenced by our stories of dynamic discipleship. Pope Paul VI stated: “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, #41). To witness is to influence.
- They are authentic and trustworthy. Effective catechists are often known for their authentic humility, joy, compassion, and Spirit-filled desire to uphold Truth. Over time these attractive characteristics build trust with our students and families. They are willing to risk being vulnerable with us, share their own stories, and ask the questions that weigh heavily on their hearts. They are also more inspired to engage in active and meaningful stewardship.
God has set a vision for his people, and catechists are indeed influential guides along the way. May we continue to find strength in God and be open to his grace as together we grow in discipleship.