From the High of Pentecost to the Reality

In the First Letter of Peter to the Christian communities of Asia Minor, we learn that the communities appear to be struggling, and the writer makes frequent exhortations to remain faithful in belief and conduct to the teachings handed down to them. He reminds them of their hope in the saving grace of Baptism, salvation through faith in the Passion and Death of Jesus, and the promise of enduring love and eternal life. Christians in […]

A Comprehensive Approach to Catechesis

I have previously discussed the “grave responsibility” a pastor has in ensuring that the catechetical ministry of the parish is well-resourced and comprehensive in its approach. This responsibility requires a consideration of those who are served by our catechetical efforts. We must also remember that our actions teach as much, if not more, about what we believe as our words do. Make no mistake about it—everything we do and don’t do in our parish says […]

The Commitment to Catechesis

The overarching goal of catechesis is to “encourage a living, explicit and fruitful faith.” (General Directory of Catechesis #66) We strive to achieve this goal through instruction and experience. In my experience, most of our efforts in parish catechetical work tend to focus on doctrinal instruction. I can still hear my grandmother’s voice in my head, saying, “if only they knew their commandments.” She was convinced that “doctrinal instruction” alone could resolve all our difficulties […]

Moving to a Family Catechesis Model

We human beings tend to be resistant to change. Our brains are wired in such a way as to take the path of least resistance, which means that the brain likes to develop habits and routines and stick with them. The longer we’ve been practicing a certain habit or behavior, the more difficult it is for the brain to change. When it comes to children’s faith formation, we have developed some practices and habits over many […]

Four Things to Remember When Choosing a Curriculum

Every couple of years in ministry I’ve had to discern if it is time to change our faith-formation curriculum. As a catechetical leader, I never want to change a program just for the sake of changing. Over the years, I have kept a few things in mind that help me decide if I’m choosing the right curriculum for the right reasons. 1. Remember the community. Deciding which curriculum program to use has great implications. Listen […]

The Pastor and Catechesis

“It is a proper and grave duty,” reads the Code of Canon Law, “especially of pastors of souls to take care of the catechesis of the Christian people so that the living faith of the faithful becomes manifest and active through doctrinal instruction and the experience of Christian life.” (#773) I may not remember much of my canon law from seminary, but whenever I see the word grave I know it refers to something that […]

Increasing Mass Attendance, Part Two

One of the biggest frustrations that catechists and Catholic school teachers have is the lack of Mass attendance of those they teach (and their families). Recently, I shared a story of a parish that made some significant, albeit short-lived, gains in Mass attendance—64% to be precise. That post has generated a lot of attention. First, thanks to the many folks who engaged in conversation at the end of that post. (Please take the time to […]

The Centrality of Evangelizing Households

Right before the holidays, I had the pleasure of enjoying a long, lazy lunch with my friend Tom Quinlan, Director of the Religious Education Office for the Diocese of Joliet and author of Excellence in Ministry: Best Practices for Successful Catechetical Leadership, part of the Effective Catechetical Leader series from Loyola Press and NCCL. Over a period of almost three hours, Tom and I chatted about a myriad of issues related to our shared passion—the catechetical […]

Collaboration Through a Reflection and Planning Day

Last spring, I observed a parish catechetical leader facilitate a marvelous reflection and planning day. Throughout the year this leader had carefully guided her catechists in preparing and teaching lessons appropriate to their grade. Yet while grade-level sessions were helpful, she realized that the mission to form students and families in faith would be better served if they examined their students’ faith formation along a continuum instead of in discrete grade levels. For example, given […]

Increasing Family Attendance at Mass: What Works?

Since buying a lake house in Wisconsin a year ago, my wife and I spend most weekends away from our home parish, Christ the King, in the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago. So, recently, when I attended Mass there, I was surprised that the crowd seemed bigger than usual. Sure enough, in the parish bulletin that week, the pastor, Fr. Larry Sullivan, wrote about what he was thankful for in 2017, and one of the top […]

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