Sharing the Wisdom: Lessons from Mom on War, Peace, and Prayer

Twelve-inch painted ceramic statues of Jesus and Mary are permanent fixtures on the bedside table of my mother, Caridad Ragasa. The painted-on hair, cheeks, and hands are partially worn off, evidence of my mother’s daily caresses. As a child, I witnessed her kneel before the statues in prayer every morning and evening. I marveled at her persistent daily devotion, which for years I never fully understood. Finally, as a teen I asked, “Mom, when did […]

Sharing the Wisdom: Wisdom from My Aunts

My parents taught me the importance of spending time with our extended family. My parents are gone now, but my husband and I would visit my aunt Jean—my father’s oldest sister, who was also my godmother—twice a month until she died this past December. We would also visit my mother’s oldest sister Lorraine, but not as frequently, since she lived several hours away. Reflecting on the faith-filled lives of these women, I recall three lessons […]

Sharing the Wisdom: Stories from Grandma

My grandma may not have been an educated woman—she left school before finishing the sixth grade for health reasons—but she was wise. I recently shared with my family some of the wisdom stories she had left us: Family is important. Every year she went up north from Brooklyn, Michigan to Harrisville State Park, and we often joined her. I never knew why we went to this particular state park in Michigan. I later learned that […]

Sharing the Wisdom: What I Learned from an Elder

I’ve been seeing another woman for the last 15 years. OK, now that I’ve got your attention, this woman is 84 years old and she is my spiritual director, Maureen. I met Maureen after a presentation I gave about ministry burnout at a time when I was at a low point in my own ministry. I was considering the possibility of seeing a spiritual director to help me through the darkness I was experiencing when […]

Teaching Children About God’s Love

With the popularity of Valentine’s Day, February can be a great time to teach about God’s love for us and how he wants us to love one another. In many ways this is the basic message that underlines every session: God loves each of us. In our God’s Gift: Reconciliation book, Chapter 6 focuses on the Good Shepherd with the parable of the lost sheep. This is a perfect parable to focus on God’s love […]

Inviting Parishioners to Help

“The more the merrier!” is my philosophy about volunteers in my religious education classroom. I’m always on the lookout for adults who will share their talents with the children. (I’m fortunate that the parents I ask rarely say no.) I ask my parents at the beginning of the year if anyone has a talent or skill to share. Parents who sew or play an instrument are good allies. Having a different person in the class […]

The Power of Witness and Appropriate Self-Disclosure in Faith Formation

St. Paul VI once wrote, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” (Evangelii Nuntiandi) As someone who recently transitioned from youth minister to third-grade teacher at a Catholic school, I’ve been seeking a balance between my identities of witness and teacher in order to bring my students closer to Jesus. I have been on too many retreats where “witness […]

Incorporating Movement into Faith Formation Sessions

One of the young people in my group asked if we’d be moving around at all during the session. It hit me as a necessary reminder that I need to be intentional about incorporating movement into my sessions. While not every session has elements of movement that bodily-kinesthetic learners might appreciate, I try to include varied activities such as: Learning Stations—I’ve been incorporating sacraments learning stations into my classes for several years now, and last […]

Patience with Quiet Students

Being a catechist requires patience. Some years it’s patience with behavior issues, and other years it’s patience with a class that’s too quiet. Let me explain. When discipline issues arise, there are a number of strategies for managing classroom behavior. But when young people are well-behaved yet non-participatory, we need different strategies, which we often don’t hear much about. The overreaching strategy to working with young people who don’t want to join in discussions or […]

Praying with Little Ones

Last fall, Joe Paprocki provided 20 tips for catechists. The ninth tip stuck with me: as catechists, we are not teaching a subject, but we are facilitating an encounter with Jesus. All of us encounter Jesus in different ways on any given day, and our students are no different. Offering a variety of prayer experiences for children can open up new ways for Christ to work in their lives. When I’m praying with my first-grade […]

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