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 […]

Four Ways to Retain Catechists

It is estimated that there are about 500,000 volunteer catechists in the United States and that, each year, one-third of them—150,000—”turn over.” I’m sure that sometimes it feels like all 150,000 catechists who leave are from your parish! The truth is, it takes a lot of hard work to retain catechists. In her new book, Cultivating Your Catechists: How to Recruit, Encourage, and Retain Successful Catechists, Jayne Ragasa-Mondoy shares four principles for retaining catechists. Support […]

What a Little Girl Taught Me About Strengthening Parish Staffs

Strengthening parish staffs has always been a cause of mine. I have ministered within a school and a parish setting, and in both cases was a part of the parish staff. I have rejoiced to be a member of a parish staff that lived vibrancy. I have also been saddened to be a member of a staff that struggled greatly and needed strengthening in order to exercise its mission and its existence effectively. Living out […]

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 […]

New DRE FAQ

Navigating your first year as a catechetical leader can be exciting and daunting. I remember facing many hard questions during my first year as a DRE; I’m sure that many new DREs have faced similar ones. Some of the questions I frequently asked myself have helped me grow as a DRE. What am I doing here? I remember thinking that I had gotten in way over my head. Who was I to think that I […]

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