“But, really, is there such a thing as a catechist who is not creative? Creativity is what sustains us as catechists.” (Pope Francis at the International Congress on Catechesis, September 27, 2013) Catechists and catechetical leaders have certainly proved themselves to be flexible and creative during this past year and a half of upheaval. Many catechists and catechetical leaders exercised great creativity and “stick-with-it-ness” in reaching out to their students and families with great enthusiasm and dedication.
After all that has transpired as a result of the pandemic, we are likely facing a much more hope-filled and positive start to this catechetical year. As we accompany our catechists back this fall, here are a few ideas that may help you reconnect with your catechists and help catechists reconnect with one another.
1. Reconnect individually.
Reconnect with your catechists if you have not maintained regular and consistent contact with them since your program wrapped up. If you have not yet done so, reach out to them individually. Send them a card inviting them to have coffee, or give them a call and check in with them to see how their summer is going and what they are looking forward to for the fall. You may want to ask the following questions to help you assess your catechists’ needs:
- What can I do to help you prepare for the fall?
- How can I assist you in growing your own faith and the faith of your students?
- What are some of your ideas for the program this year? Is there anything that we could change or improve? What went well this year?
- What would make for a great catechist in-service?
2. Reconnect as a group.
The pandemic has shown us just how fragile life is and how fast life can change when we least expect it. Many catechists did their work individually during the past year due to COVID-19 restrictions. Consider inviting the entire group of catechists to a social gathering before any formal in-service workshops. Treat them to a nice meal or picnic as a group. Play a game, include an ice-breaker, and pray together. You may find the following questions helpful in guiding discussion:
- What are you looking most forward to this year?
- What do you miss when you are not in the classroom?
- What has been the best lesson that you have learned as a catechist?
- What has the pandemic taught you about your faith?
3. Plan a special catechist in-service.
Catechist in-service workshops and orientations are likely a regular feature of the kick-off to your catechetical year. Ensure that this year’s workshops are extra special. Using the feedback collected from your one-on-one conversations, plan to incorporate catechists’ ideas into your agenda. Ideas for dynamic workshops and orientations include:
- Prayer experiences that incorporate art, music, Scripture, and time for reflection.
- A dynamic and engaging speaker. (If costs are prohibitive, make the best use of technology by reaching out to your favorite authors or speakers and ask them to record a special note for your catechists. You would be surprised by how many authors would be honored to do this.)
- Witness talks from a former student or parents who have been inspired by the witness of your catechists.
4. Welcome catechists on the first night of class.
On the first night of class, model effusive and abundant hospitality for your catechists by leaving something thoughtful in their classrooms, such as a thoughtful note, flowers, candy, or a nice religious devotional item. If your catechists are still teaching virtually, consider having something shipped to their homes, or surprise them with a homemade meal.
5. Continue to accompany your catechists throughout the year.
Check in with your catechists before and after each class. Let them know you are there to serve them as they minister to God’s people. Enquire about their spiritual health and anticipate their needs by sending them reading material and other resources that they would appreciate. It is also important to remember some of the lessons that we all learned during the pandemic, such as the value of reaching out digitally to our parish communities and faith formation families and the value of interactive content that engages the heart and mind.
Parish faith formation programs and religious education programs in schools are at different stages in terms of reconnecting with catechists, students, and families, but hopefully these ideas will give you some starting points for easing the transition. How are you helping your catechists transition back this fall?