My good friend and colleague in ministry, Julianne Stanz, wisely reminds us that our faith is and must be “portable, shareable, and adaptable.” I couldn’t agree more! I’ve always used the word replicable with reference to catechesis, meaning that those we teach should be able to pass along or share with others what we have shared with them. The word catechesis means “to echo!” An echo is a replication of a sound, and those we teach must be able to echo what we have proclaimed to them.
Over the years, after I’ve given a presentation at a regional or diocesan conference, I’ve had folks in the audience come up to me and tell me, “I love how you make things so simple and easy to understand,” and ask if I can come to their parish to do the same presentation. I tell them that I can’t travel to individual parishes because of the high volume of requests, but I’d be happy to send them my slideshow so they can do the presentation themselves. Their first reaction is usually to laugh, because they think I’m joking. When they realize I’m serious, the next reaction is, “I could never do that!” After I remind them that they just told me that I made it simple, and I ask them to tell me what part of the presentation was so complex that they could never do it themselves. Most often, they say, “You’re right; I probably could do it myself,” after which I send them the slideshow!
I sometimes bristle when I encounter speakers and presenters on the catechetical circuit who present in such a manner as to be highly entertaining but completely unreplicable. Catechists return home having enjoyed the experience but with no new ways to teach. Of course, that makes the speaker seem irreplaceable, but it doesn’t serve the ministry. Each of us is called to be like John the Baptist: we do our thing, but then at some point we must decrease so that he might increase. It is the faith that we pass on to others, not some impression of how wonderful we are!
This is precisely why many of my books come with a Leader Guide so that people like you can easily replicate the experience of walking with others on the journey of faith. A good example of this is the free Leader Guide for my book, A Well-Built Faith: A Catholic’s Guide to Knowing and Sharing What We Believe that enables you to replicate, in your own style, the teaching that I have received from others and have been privileged to present to you. As a catechist, pastor, catechetical leader, OCIA coordinator, youth minister, adult faith formation coordinator, or diocesan faith formation director, you can use the Leader Guide with A Well-Built Faith in a variety of ways. To assist in your efforts, this Leader Guide (available under the Extras tab on the A Well-Built Faith webpage) provides 20 faith formation sessions—one for each of the 18 chapters, as well as the introduction and conclusion of A Well-Built Faith. Each formation session includes the following features:
- Focus—A clear statement of the theme of the session.
- Learning Outcome—A description of what participants should be able to know and do as a result of the session.
- Plan—A step-by-step process for facilitating the formation session in conjunction with A Well-Built Faith. Each session includes:
- an engaging opening activity
- scripting to assist the facilitator
- adult methodology that invites participants to interact in small groups
- references to the corresponding pages of A Well-Built Faith
- discussion questions for use in small groups or as a large group
- a closing prayer and Scripture reading
- Option—Teaching through Hymns is a list of suggested hymns that reinforce the theme of the session.
- This option invites you to link catechesis to liturgy by introducing participants to sacred hymns (traditional and contemporary) whose lyrics echo the teaching taking place in the session.
- Hymns may be sung by the group, by a cantor, or—if you have a playlist of the various songs—may be played on a portable device.
- The hymns may be included as part of the introduction or conclusion of each session, or they may be inserted at any point in the session to reinforce the content being taught.
A Leader Guide is simply a way of passing along to you that which I have received from others—something we learn from St. Paul. It is interesting to take note of a formula that St. Paul used several times in his Letters. He wrote, “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you, that…” (1 Corinthians 11:23, in reference to the Last Supper and the Eucharist) and, “For what I received I passed on to you, that…” (1 Corinthians 15:3, in reference to the Resurrection of Jesus).
Paul’s use of the word that in these instances is akin to saying, “and I quote,” which indicates that Paul is not passing along his own words or ideas, but rather, a Tradition that he has received from someone else and is now passing along. The implication is that others must now, in turn, replicate this action. Paul also indicates that what he has taught should be easily replicable when he writes:
When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God…I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
—1 Corinthians 2:1–5
When it comes to proclaiming the faith, we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us (our mentors and teachers) and invite others to climb up on our shoulders so that they might be seen and heard by the next generation of disciples. And, like Mary, the Mother of Jesus, we take no credit, nor do we magnify ourselves. Rather, we humbly pray, “My soul magnifies the Lord!” I pray that the resources I have been privileged to author, such as A Well-Built Faith and its Leader Guide, will enable you to replicate, echo, share, and pass on the faith that we ourselves have received from others!