About Kathleen Butler
Kathleen Butler is a long-time catechist at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Washington, DC, where she freely admits she falls in love each fall with a new group of first-graders. She also mentors and trains other catechists in lively, interactive sessions.

Letting Things Go in a Different Direction

Lesson planning is critical to the success of any class. With a solid plan, I walk into class more confident, but I build in flexibility in case an activity doesn’t work or if we run short (or long) on time. So, last year, when my Nativity lesson went off track, this flexibility allowed me to let go of my plan and respond to the needs of my students. The result was a powerful message about […]

Getting Children Involved in a Prayer Service

We often hear about the importance of full and active participation in Mass and in our communities. As catechists, that should be our goal for every class. One way I’ve gotten my students involved is through classroom prayer services. In my early days as a catechist, I thought first-graders would be too young for an activity like this. I assumed they wouldn’t be able to sit still long enough, or read well enough, or understand the […]

Prayer Sticks

Last winter, a teacher friend of mine posted a photo of her classroom showing her “task sticks” for her students. On each stick was written a specific task for the student who held it, such as “line leader,” “pencil patrol,” and “librarian.” I was trying to think of a way to engage my class in prayerful habits during Lent when I saw her task sticks. I thought I could borrow her idea and make “prayer […]

Classroom Behavior Expectations

I give my first-grade religious education students the same assignment every week at the end of class, which consists of three things: Be sweet, be smart, and make good choices. For the first few classes, it’s novel, but within a few weeks, they will repeat the assignment along with me. (The parents love it, by the way.) I want my students to understand that the behavior I expect in class on Sunday mornings doesn’t end […]

Calling Children by Name

“I have called you by name, you are mine,” says the Lord. (Isaiah 43:1) This intimate connection we have with God is a gift to be celebrated. Being named Kathleen, I’ve gone through life with people automatically assuming I want to be called “Kathy” or “Kate.” I don’t want to be called something else; my name is Kathleen. When I meet my religious education students, the first thing I do is ask them their names […]

Year-End Baseball Review

Our parish ends the faith-formation year on the Sunday before Memorial Day, so even though there are still lessons we want to cover, we use the last class as a fun review day. In Washington, D. C., we root for our hometown baseball team, the Nationals, so I tease the last class by telling them the week before that we’ll be playing baseball during our last class. Before class, I lay out a baseball diamond […]

Teaching with a Co-Catechist

As much as I love teaching my religious education class, I enjoy sharing the responsibility with a co-catechist. Knowing that there are some Sundays when someone else is leading the class gives me some breathing room during the week. I’ve taught with veteran catechists and with first-timers. I’ve taught with parents of students in the class and with high-school and college students. Everyone has been a little different, but they all have provided opportunities for […]

Engaging Students with a Church Tour

One of my favorite days of the year is when I lead second-graders on a church tour as part of their preparation for First Eucharist. I like to show them and their parents things in the church they might never have noticed or things they may see all the time but not fully understand what they are or why they are there. Before one such tour last spring, I launched into my usual welcome speech. […]

Shepherd’s Flock: One Parish’s Experience with Adaptive Catechesis

Certainly, everyone in catechetical ministry understands that all students—including those with special needs—are called to witness the Gospel. Every parish has children whose needs may not be adequately met in the typical classroom approach to faith formation, and my parish is no different. For more than a decade, our Shepherd’s Flock program has been ministering to students with learning challenges. Some are on the autism spectrum; others have Down syndrome or other genetic disorders. The […]

The Boy in the Back of a Nativity Painting

Long-time catechists may find themselves going back to the tried-and-true activities that they’ve used before with predictable outcomes. But sometimes breaking out of that cycle can be a good thing. For a number of years, I would print out artwork that depicted the Nativity. I had 15–20 images from various artists. The first-grade children and I would sit in a circle on the floor, and I would show the images to the class and then […]

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