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 […]

Managing and Leading Catechists

When it comes to supervising catechists, it helps to make a clear distinction between managing them and leading them. Managing what your catechists do and how they perform their duties is important. To help them flourish, an effective catechetical leader helps them understand why they serve as catechists: to help bring about the Kingdom of God. To be honest, learning to balance management and leadership took years for me to figure out. But I am […]

Family2Family Advent Connections

Several years ago the faith community within which I ministered adopted the Advent theme “Taking Hope to Others” for our seasonal focus. The idea was to encourage members to find ways of living out the hope the Christ Child brings in real and practical ways. I pondered what this might look like for my religious education families and how busy suburban families could possibly find ways to “take hope to others.” I struggled, as many […]

Helping Parents Connect Faith and Daily Living

One of the saddest things I hear is when people explain that they don’t practice their Catholic faith because they don’t find a connection between it and daily living. I believe that it is the job of every catechist and every homilist to show how our faith connects with daily living. Too often, when we talk about getting parents more involved in their child’s faith formation, we jump to the fact that they don’t know […]

Family Catechesis, Adult Faith Formation, and Combatting the “Drop-Off” Mentality

Perhaps the biggest challenge that I hear catechetical leaders and catechists talk about is reaching the parents of children in religious education programs. Over the past half-century or so, the Church has done a very effective job of training parents to drop off their kids at religious education classes so that “we”—those involved in the parish catechetical program—can teach them the Catholic faith. Years ago, when families and communities reinforced Catholic values, teachings, and practices, […]

Ignatius Loyola’s Management Style Might Work for You

The “director” part of a DRE’s job description is a taxing challenge. “Director” means “manager,” and managing people and programs is never easy. It means achieving lofty goals with limited resources. It means dealing with people who often don’t behave the way you want them to behave. It means compromise, tough decisions, and juggling conflicting interests. Managing means meetings. Lots of meetings. To complicate matters, most DREs are teachers at heart who love students much more than budgets and […]

Faith Formation Isn’t Self-Improvement

You may hear parents or others in your faith community talk about catechesis like it’s a self-improvement course. While following Jesus and growing closer to God will hopefully improve our lives, the goal is not self-improvement. The entire message of Salvation through Jesus Christ is that we are incapable of saving ourselves and are in need of a divine intervention, which means a renouncing of the self. Our destiny is not to become a better […]

Change of Perspective in Evaluating Faith Formation Programs

For many faith formation leaders, this time of year is filled with the critical evaluation of our programs, our curriculum, and our catechetical efforts over the past 9–12 months. We invite feedback from catechists, parents, and sometimes the students as well. We assess our successes and our challenges, seeking to adjust and improve what we do as we plan for next year. As a busy DRE, I know I often used the same evaluation tools […]

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