How Do Things Look from Your Vantage Point?

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I kid my wife, on occasion, that the best weather report can be found by looking out the window and seeing for ourselves. While it can be helpful to get detailed satellite images and computer-generated forecasts from professional meteorologists, it’s hard to argue with what we see with our own eyes when we look out the window and gaze at the heavens!

In a similar way, it can be helpful to read professional research about trends in the area of religion and, specifically, in Catholic faith formation. On the other hand, sometimes the anecdotal information that we share as catechetical ministers can be a more accurate reading of what we’re encountering “on the ground.”

With that in mind, I invite you to share insights with me and other readers of Catechist’s Journey about how things look from your vantage point in terms of the following:

  • Mass attendance, especially by religious education and school families
  • Enrollment in local parish faith formation programs
  • Attitudes and behaviors of young people in the post-pandemic era
  • Greatest challenges facing you as a catechetical minister
  • Greatest opportunities you have as a catechetical minister

Take a peek out your window, and share your thoughts in the “Leave a Reply” space below about what it is that you are seeing from your vantage point when it comes to the state of faith formation in your neck of the woods. I look forward to hearing from you!

About Joe Paprocki 2742 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


  1. Surprising trend – every year or so we have a family of a middle school student sign their child up for religious education for the first time because the child has been asking questions about God which the parents don’t feel equipped to handle as non-practicing Catholics. While I wish all parents took their obligation to raise their children in the faith more seriously, I think it’s wonderful that kids are sometimes pushing the issue – and that their parents are responding. Better late than never.

    • Thanks for sharing Jen. Yes, this is happening more and more. As I’ve said before, it seems like children “out of sequence” is becoming the norm rather than an anomaly. Thanks for being so welcoming to people and for taking them where they are at as they begin their spiritual journey!

  2. At our church, we have an ever-increasing enrollment of children in our religious education program – we maintained faith formation over the pandemic, which I think helped to keep people here in the parish and to spread the word that we were open to neighboring church communities as well. Parents seem intimidated by the notion of at-home catechesis, which is making us evaluate what parent-focused catechesis is and how we can slowly and gently get our parents to a place of confidence that they have been and can continue to be their children’s most influential teachers. Weekend Masses are well attended by our religious ed families; we definitely see the uptick in attendance when classes are in session. I think the youngest children enjoy religious ed – they are more interactive with the teachers and less shy to ask questions or share. As the kids get older, I worry about them. They’re so self-conscious about how people see them and how they might be judged. I question how much they are able to learn when they don’t feel comfortable participating in class discussion. Which is why I see the value in family catechesis, because most children would consider home a safe space to explore their faith questions. But then we come around again to the notion that parents feel unprepared to take on the role of instructor. We are a work in progress.

    • Thanks for sharing Jennifer. How exciting that your parish religious education enrollment is increasing! I agree that maintaining faith formation during the pandemic probably had an impact on that. I agree that parents can be intimidated by the notion of family catechesis and that it helps to start small and gradually. Parents need to be reassured as well as empowered to assume this role. We can’t just toss the responsibility in their laps and say, “you should be doing this!” If we accompany them, however, we can truly build the Domestic Church. And, yes, we are all a work in progress!

  3. Hi Joe,
    My experience is a very poor one. I am a certified catechist, but I am the only one who has formation as catechist in my parish. The few others try to help, follow the books, some worked in a primary school as assistances, but I doubt they have qualifications for that neither. But it is a tabu theme.

    The previous Priest let all ‘ preparation’ for early Sacraments, as First Holy Communion and Confirmation into the hands of the associated Catholic Primary school, where the teachers are not Catholic.
    How can a non Catholic person prepare a Catholic child to receive a Sacrament?

    As result he numbers of families and children coming to Mass reduced drastically, much before covid. We only see them in the same day they do their First Communion, or on their Confirmation Day, of those who receive Sacraments.

    I was also asked, by the same priest, to be the liaison person with the diocesan youth service, the youth rep, (it was compulsory from the Diocese to have one). But, later he didn’t allow me to do anything, nor even put posters in the porch. And he said that any action to young people should be done in their High Schools.
    I argued most of our young people were not in Catholic High schools, and these actions would have not reach them, but he didn’t care.
    He also said the function of Catholic schools was educating non Catholic children, but our obligation as Catholics was to to pay for those not Catholic people education.
    My question was were should our Catholic Children been educated then, but I had not answers.

    My children were in a local Anglican High School. As were most of the young people of our parish.

    I received pressure from the priest to get my eldest daughter Confirmed at the age of 10, saying that the first Christians received all first Sacraments in one go.
    But I argued they were adults, for in the first communities only adults were admitted.

    When my eldest daughter felt ready to be Confirmed, age 14. And seeing what it was called ‘ preparation’, two chats of an hour with the 10 years old in the Primary, I thought that was not adequate nor for my daughter, nor for me. So, I asked the local Vicar for myself, as Certified Catechist, to prepare my daughter.
    With reticence from him, I got it, but I have to use the excuse that my daughter had not not a compatible school timetable in her high school with the timetable for the ‘ preparation’ at the primary school.

    The previous Bishop did a writing about ‘Catholic schools, only in name’. Which is the unfortunately truth. And he received attacks from more or less everybody, especially those in charge of these Catholic schools and Parishes.
    Nothing has been done about it.

    I know of many people who baptise their children in our parish in order to entry in our Catholic primary school, but we never seen them back, in the best of the cases, till someone in their family receive a Sacrament.

    I was ‘denounced’ to the previous priest 6 times by the, then, person in charge of the Children’s Liturgy, (whom never had any formation herself). Once saying I was doing Catechesis and not Children’s Liturgy…I argued the first Catechesis is the Mass.
    Other time because we prayed the ‘ Lamb of God…’ and that was Liturgy if the Eucharist, not of the Word…I argued, the Gospel was the second in Ordinary Time, when John the Baptist points to Jesus and said ‘ there is the Lamb of God’… I explained to the children the relation in the Mass to part.
    And similarly the other times.

    The new Priest is trying to turn the situation, but it will be extremely difficult.

    I had the record of 48 children in Children’s Liturgy on a Trinity Sunday, some years ago.
    Yesterday I got 13, and it was a success, other times if we have 5 children we are happy. It is not the first time with none.

    We have passed from 175 people on a Sunday Mass, and 100 on a Vigil till 64 on Sunday and 30 on the Vigil two weeks ago.

    There are not groups, nor other organizations in my parish.

    I am a Laudato Si Animator of Animators, from the Laudato Si Movement. And this new Priest supports me, in what he can. But the new Bishop doesn’t support the Laudato Si Movement, so there is not much I can do, despite I am the LSM rep in the Diocese.

    This is really depressing sometimes.

    Thus, I love to read your wonderful writings, pieces of wisdom I treasure. And they help me keep going, despite all.

    Many thanks!!

    God bless you and your ministry.

    • Thanks for sharing, Aquiles. I’m sorry that your experience, as of late, seems to be more negative than positive. It is hopeful that the new priest wants to move in some new directions…perhaps that will be a source of energy for you. You obviously value the catechist formation you have received and want more people to benefit from this much-needed nourishment. Likewise, I pray that you continue to be a champion for catechist formation and that you find the support and grace you need to spread that message. I’m glad that you find solace in the resources you find here on my blog and that the Holy Spirit will keep the flame burning within you and ignite a spark in people in your parish.

  4. My parish demographics have changed greatly over the past 25 or so years as a catechist. Most of the English-speaking families have grown and moved or have just grown older. Since my parish offers religious education in Spanish, that population of students has grown. Unfortunately, our English-speaking side has GREATLY diminished (I have all grades Pre-K through 5th during one class period and I only have a total of 5 students). Our parish requires Mass attendance and has attendance cards which are stamped at the close of each Mass. I see very few kids in Mass (which is so sad). Additionally, not attending Mass has no consequences and my kids are too young to get there on their own. I try to include parents/families by sharing family activities and information via email as well as at the door. This year, two of my students do attend Catholic school. Our parish has a monthly collection to help with tuition to Catholic school. And I proudly say, our parish sent 49 teens to World Youth Day…so we’re kind of a mixed bag, I guess. But much depends on the support of the families for my students…the Domestic Church.

    • Thanks for sharing Bobbi. While it is sad to see one demographic decline, it is good news that another demographic, the Hispanic population, is growing. These shifts are very common in many parishes and the key is to adapt to changing demographics so as to serve the people who are populating the pews. How wonderful that your parish sent 49 teens to World Youth Day! That’s amazing!

  5. It really helped me to read about other situations. Our parish actually uses Loyola Press, Finding God for its religious ed program- 1-5/6. I’m not sure about 7-8. At one time, we used Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, but former pastor cancelled it because he didn’t want new pastor to wonder why there were TWO faith formation programs in the parish. (possibly reflecting poorly on retiring pastor-HIS WORDS!) We have a Faith Formation Director who does her best, BUT our new pastor, (Seminary Theologian) who, in my opinion, has romanticized the 40’s-60’s when the churches were PACKED! He is and excellent TEACHER, but non-pastoral! The Religious Ed. Director (degree: Management) manages the program with basics, but asking her for contact formation for students and catechists on same grade level to SHARE IDEAS, SUPPORT, ETC. seems to be too much for her to handle. At the same time, this pastor VERY, VERY PRE-VATICAN II-I AM THE PASTOR, THIS IS HOW IT WILL BE DONE! The parish is wonderful – multi-generational, multi-cultural, and VERY GENEROUS, with TIME, TALENT, and TREASURE (as much as possible in this economy, although PASTOR/MONSIGNOR does hint he would like the weekly collections to increase, NOT making public the physical needs of the plant. We pray, support one another, and carry on.

    • Thanks, for sharing, Theresa. It does help to compare notes with others and to see that many of us deal with the same kinds of challenges. Here’s praying that your wonderful parish will continue to thrive and overcome the challenges you describe.

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