Does Homework Work in Religious Education?

Some catechists give “homework” to their students and have success in getting them to complete it. This does not appear to be the culture in the parish I’m at. Things sent home with the kids tend to disappear into a black hole. I know that we’ve struggled with getting kids to bring their books to class (normally we keep their text books at the parish but we experimented with sending home their Confirmation books…only about […]

With So Much Self-Esteem, Who Needs Salvation?

In recent times, there has been a big emphasis in education on building self-esteem. This, of course, has carried over into catechesis, such as when we begin teaching three-year olds the refrain “I am special.” A recent study (link no longer available) reveals, however that this emphasis has led to an increase in narcissistic tendencies. My concern is, if we are all so special, then who needs salvation? Of course, self-esteem is important. But so is humility. […]

Please…No "Crash Courses" for Catechists

I recently heard a reference to a “crash course” for teaching religion. My understanding of a crash course is a course of study offered to people in an emergency or to people who really don’t want to commit over the long haul. That’s not how I see the role of a catechist. A crash course is the antithesis of life-long learning. A crash course suggests that we can get, in one small package or time period, what […]

Seating Arrangement

For every class this year, my 8th graders have been sitting in desks (with chairs) that are arranged in rows. Last Monday, I raced to get there a minute or 2 earlier (we have only 15 minutes between sessions to get our class ready) and I carefully moved the rows aside to create a space in the middle of the room. I used one desk to create a prayer center and arranged 13 chairs in a […]

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Catechists

I’m sure you’re familiar with Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (if not, I highly recommend it!). Well, tonight I’m speaking to catechists at a neighboring parish and I’ve decided to focus on seven habits of highly effective catechists. I firmly believe that the most effective catechists excel in the following areas: Ongoing formation – they never stop learning about and growing in their faith. Planning and Preparation – they prepare their […]

Give Me One Good Reason…

It occurred to me last night after class that we want our students to remember SO MANY things in religious education, that I wonder sometimes if they remember anything! Our lessons have numerous learning outcomes/objectives, vocabulary words, names of saints and holy people, doctrinal formulae, and so on, not to mention the myriad of announcements and interruptions that occur on any given night. And all this, after the kids have been bombarded by tons of […]

A Catechist's S.O.S.

Here is an e-mail I received from a catechist who is seeking support in the midst of a difficult situation. I’ve responded to her personally with my suggestions. With her permission, I’m posting it here with the hope that catechists more familiar than I am with teaching pre-school, K, and primary ages might respond. I’ve also changed her name…we’ll call her Natalie. To respond to Natalie, just click on “Add a Comment” at the end […]

God, Sports, and Religious Education

I’m from Chicago, a BIG sports town (bigger than ever this week with Da Bears in Da Superbowl!). Often, sports can be a thorn in the side for catechists: students miss religious ed. classes because of games, tournaments, and practices and, worse yet, they and their families often miss Mass on Sunday because of games and tournaments. These are serious issues that need to be addressed. On the other hand, I’m a huge sports fan […]

How Closely Do You Follow Your Textbook?

We catechists are blessed in this day and age to have many fine catechetical textbooks from a variety of Catholic publishers. The General Directory for Catechesis reminds us however that there is no substitute for the person of the catechist. I know that when I teach, I think of my text book as a guide and a resource but I also do a lot of “ad lib” and bring in a variety of activities that […]

The Role of the Male Catechist

I mentioned to Kathy (see comments on Catechist’s Role Description) that I didn’t think I could be a good 1st grade catechist and I admire those who are. Very few men are catechists in the first place and when they are, like me, they predominantly serve junior high. I’m often concerned about catechesis being either too feminine or too masculine, depending on the catechist. Perhaps the solution is to have more team-teaching with male/female catechists […]

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