Stories on the Journey: How Did I Get into This?

stories from the field

We’re spending time this summer sharing stories from our experiences as catechists.

Today’s topic is, “How Did I Get into This?” Let’s hear your stories about how you came to serve as a catechist or catechetical leader. No two stories are the same, and I’m always amazed at how the Holy Spirit uses so many different techniques to call people into this ministry. Some feel pulled, others feel pushed, while still others feel as though they “fell into it!”

Share your story here on Catechist’s Journey by typing in the comments section at the end of this post.

  • Keep your story brief; one or two paragraphs is fine.
  • Return each day to read the stories that others are posting.
  • Feel free to comment on one another’s stories.
  • You need not share your full name; first names will do.

We did this activity some years ago and had so much fun. Take a look to get an idea of the kinds of stories to be shared.

I look forward to reading your stories. If they’re anything like the last time we did this, we’re in for a treat. Catechists are the best storytellers!

* All stories posted become property of Loyola Press and may be used in future publications. Read our full Site Comment Policy.

About Joe Paprocki 2751 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.

24 Comments on Stories on the Journey: How Did I Get into This?

  1. When my oldest was done with Girl Scouts (I did duty as troop leader 1 year), I needed another volunteer outlet. The DRE at our parish said she would give me an “easy” class, three-year-olds. I asked my daughter’s 1st Communion catechist, “What do you teach three-year-olds?” She told me if I could teach them to share and that God loves them, that would be enough. Well, it’s been more than 23 years now, I’ve taught various age groups, and I’m happy to say, the Holy Spirit keeps me coming back. I’ve taught several grades in the same class (three lesson plans a week). I couldn’t have done it without the Holy Spirit!
    My favorite memory is when a girl from one of my first 3-yr-old classes came to see me when she was home from college.

    • Thanks for sharing, Bobbi! I’m amazed at how many of these stories begin as though this happened a week or two ago only to find that, as in your case, that was more than 23 years ago! It is amazing how the Holy Spirit sustains us! God be praised and thanks for all you have done and continue to do!

  2. I remember working odd jobs while raising my children so as not to use the Daycare system. While doing that I volunteered at my parish for a variety of ministries and mission trips. When my kids got older they asked, “Why don’t you have a ‘real’ job?” I said, “‘Cuz all I ever had the dream to do was to serve God.” Since then I became a CRE as well as a volunteer and combined both “job” and JOY in my work/Christ Encounter life. I love it 🙂

    • Leave it to your kids to ask, “why don’t you have a real job?” LOL! I remember when I was a parish catechetical leader and my daughter did not want me to come to her school’s “career day” for the same reason…I didn’t have a “real job” in her mind! Well, we know that nothing could be more real than leading people to encounter Christ! Thanks for sharing, Karla!

  3. Looking forward to free time (I had just retired), I walked into my parish office to sign up for a Bible study class. An opening for Faith Formation Director had been advertised in the bulletin. I wasn’t interested. Afterall, I finally had Free Time. Before I left, I had filled out an application for the position. I was shocked. Once home, I asked my husband if there was any reason he could think of for me to withdraw my application. No help from that quarter.
    Two weeks passed so I figured I wouldn’t be considered. I was called to an interview. At the end of the meeting, the expected, “We have several persons to consider. We will be in touch.” Another two weeks or so passed, so I was feeling pretty confident and relieved that I would not be called. As I was leaving Mass on a Saturday morning, the pastor stopped me and asked me to wait as he wanted to speak with me. I figured he was going to apologize and say he had selected someone else. He offered me the position and I found myself saying, “Yes.”
    To this day, I believe the Holy Spirit took control of my tongue. I kept saying yes when I wanted to say no – to filling out the application, turning up for the interview and accepting the position. That was eight years ago. I am so very humbled and grateful.

    • LOL, Darlene, how’s that “free time” working out for you? 😉 You are so right that the Holy Spirit took control of your took and led you where you were not eager to go, but now, 8 years later, turns out to be just the right place for you! Thanks for sharing such an inspirational story.

  4. I had just graduated from university. We moved to a new town and a new parish. We registered at the new parish and since I didn’t have a teaching job yet I signed up to be a substitute for the parish day school. As it was summer, I figured that I could volunteer to help with Vacation Bible School. Sr. Jenny was delighted to give me a class of little kids. By the end of the week she decided that I would make a great CCD catechist. She signed me up to teach in the fall. I ended up teaching fulltime at the school and CCD on the weekends. After our second daughter was born I moved from teaching at the school and CCD to being the CCD Principal. From there I became the DRE. I’m still in the “business” as a Parish Director of Faith Formation sharing the Good News. Thanks Sr. Jenny (God rest her soul). The beginning of this was 49 years ago. One never knows where the Spirit will take you if you raise your hand!

    • 49 years ago!!! What an inspiring story, Margaret Ann! One indeed never knows where the Spirit will take one if we but raise our hand! There is no clear “career path” for becoming a catechetical leader and it is amazing how many different paths folks have taken to end up in the same role. Thanks for all you’ve done and continue to do!

  5. It was just over twenty-one years ago that I found myself alone after over thirty-six years of marriage to a clergyman. Wondering where I would worship that next Sunday, I felt led to go to the neighbouring Catholic Church – and that was certainly not something I had ever imagined but off I went. The liturgy struck me so deeply as it is all scriptural. After selling my home and settling into a new community, I began attending RCIA. I was a committed Christian but that experience at RCIA led me to tell God that if I could only be part of the RCIA team and lead people to Jesus, that would be a tremendous gift.

    God was faithful and I became a sponsor a while after being received into the Roman Catholic Church. A few years later I was asked to be on the RCIA team and then I became the Director of RCIA. Last year it was time to give that opportunity to someone else. What an amazing privilege to walk with people who are on the journey to faith in Jesus Christ! I will always be grateful for the joy of being a catechist.

    • Thanks Lynda! Your story is so inspiring! “if I could only lead people to Jesus, that would be a tremendous gift.” So well said and so true!

  6. My story is all about witness and invitation. Right after high school, my mom invited me to a meeting at our parish to learn about volunteer opportunities in the religious education program. I left that evening signed up as an assistant catechist for First Eucharist, the next few years I was a catechist for the Confirmation program as well as an assistant to the DRE. My faith life was transformed! I took a little break and when our children were just babies, I was invited to be a catechist at our new parish. (At that time my mom was a secretary at that parish. Yes, she had something to do with that invite, too.) A few years later, our pastor told me I would be the DRE the following year. My immediate reply was a big NO. Thank God, my dad and husband encouraged me to accept. It was the best decision. Twenty-three years and a few parishes later I’m working again with that same pastor. I love this beautiful ministry and the people that God has brought into my life on this journey of faith.

    • Thanks so much for sharing your story, Karen! These stories are blowing me away! How wonderful that your mom (and then your Dad and husband) played such a huge part in your call to the vocation of catechist! It is amazing that now, 23 years later, you are working with the same pastor again and doing what you love! Praise God!

  7. My story began 27 years ago when my oldest was in first grade. Faith Formation classes brought her to tears! She didn’t want to go, it was boring, etc.

    I couldn’t blame the volunteer catechists, they were just trying to help. So, when a second grade catechist position opened for the fall I snatched it up! Boy, did I learn a lot (and my daughter had fun!). I kept that position for several years, even tackled a couple other grade levels, while my kids were going through. I also got involved with the diocesan high school summer camp, helped with sacramental prep and RCIA.

    I was hooked on catechesis! At age 39 I enrolled in the Theology program at the local Catholic College and got my degree. I have been in parish ministry ever since!

    • Wow, Dianna, what a great story, and all thanks to your daughter! You had a desire to step in and to make things better for those who were “bored to tears” – this is often the indication of a vocation to catechesis/teaching. I had the same feeling as a high school student, sitting through some religion classes that were boring and feeling a call to “fix it” which led to my career in catechesis…now 40+ years later! How awesome that this eventually led you to getting your degree and serving in ministry! God be praised!

  8. When our second daughter was in second grade, the pulpit announcement asked for someone to ‘help’ the main catechist in third grade. I had never done anything like that before, but I thought – how much could it be? They had me pick up a catechist manual but didn’t know what chapter the catechist was on nor did they have the contact information for the main catechist (hmmmm..). When I showed up for the first class, they said she wasn’t coming in. Turned out that she didn’t show up for the rest of the remaining classes (about 4 or 5). Those poor 3rd graders who had me fumbling through lessons!!

    When I became a DRE many years later (who would’ve thought?!), I swore I would NEVER do that to any catechist (lack of communication, direction and help) – and, for 27 years, I haven’t. That first small, uncomfortable moment in the classroom was one of God’s ways to prepare me and give me perspective.

    • What an amazing story, Julie! Those kids were LUCKY to have you there to show them the way to Christ when the other catechist failed to show! And the fact that years later you became a catechetical leader!!! God is good!

  9. It was before i retired in 2015. My husband and I got invited to attend the Pre Cana Seminar and told that after the seminar we will be asked to give Pre Cana Seminar to the couples. The Seminar did not push through instead we were invited to attend the training for Catechists for one year and we did. We have been teaching elementary students in a public school since 2016. We feel great to have evangelized school children.

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Mariwilda! Glad there was a “plan B” in place for you after the Pre Cana Seminar fell through!

  10. Having been brought up in the Presbyterian church in Scotland I became a convert to the Catholic faith in my 30’s after my son was born. I went through the RCIA process and then undertook a diploma in catechesis and found myself part of the parish team working with children of various ages and adults on future RCIA courses. When my permanent employer some 20 years later was going through a reorganisation and I found my pharmacist role would no longer exist, my current parish priest took me aside one Saturday when we were setting up for a First Holy Communion Mass and said he was advertising a paid position for a Parish Catechist and if I was ever thinking of a career change he would welcome my application. The Holy Spirit was definitely working in this and I applied and was successful at interview (much to my surprise) and now 18 months later I am still really loving my role where I am bringing people and children of all ages to come to know Jesus and to have a personal relationship with him. I am so blessed to have this opportunity. I will be praying for all catechists as we plan for the next few months ahead.

    • Thanks for sharing Jan! I come from a background in pharmacy as well (though I did not become a pharmacist like my Dad, Grandfather, Uncle, Great Uncle, and brother (!!!) I worked in our family pharmacy for many years and continue to hold a pharmacy technician license. Anyway, the Holy Spirit was indeed keeping an eye out for you and for your parish! I hope you flourish in your position for many years to come!

  11. Having a child in 1st grade at our neighborhood public school meant that she would attend CCD every Wednesday afternoon. Another parent and I took turns picking the kids up at one school and dropping them off at another. Many years later it was announced at Mass one Sunday morning that this would no longer be the case and CCD would now be on the weekend and they needed volunteer lay teachers. Always wanting to be a teacher but never actually getting there [that’s a story for another time], I volunteered. I worked for the public school system for 28 years as the principal’s secretary and school treasurer before retiring while teaching CCD on the weekends.
    At the end of one year after my class had made their First Communion I sat down and wrote a letter to Father expressing how much I loved teaching CCD and thanking him for asking me back for another year. I mentioned how I had always wanted to teach but ended up working in the office, etc. at the public school. In his reply letter to me he said something that has remained with me all these years later. In May my 26th class made their First Communion and as I look forward to September and the start of my 27th year, Father’s words as to why I never taught in the public school remain with me….”God had other plans for you, He wanted you to teach children about Him.”

  12. Twenty-seven years ago I started as Parish Secretary in my parish. Sr. Michele, the DRE at the time was looking for a 7/8 grade catechist. After Mass one Sunday, I asked her if she had found someone. She said no and she would probably have to do it herself. I guess God had a plan because without much thought I was saying, I’ll do the class! I continued to teach and became the Youth Minister at my parish & a neigboring parish that merged together. then I became the CRE. I’m still a CRE at another parish.

    • “God had a plan” – that’s for sure, Cheryl! Like the Blessed Mother, you said “yes” and “gave birth” to a new life as a catechetical leader!

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