My day today has been spent preparing for a program tomorrow over in the Daytona Beach area, at a parish a little north of the city and inland from the ocean. The course is numbered 101, "Ministry and Catechesis," our diocese's introductory course to the track for certification in catechetics. Our Catholic school teachers are able to obtain credit toward renewal of their state teaching licenses by taking these courses as well. Looking at my roster, I have about a 50/50 mix of religious educators and school teachers. I am rather pleased with that, since I am always beating the drum for uniform competence. This is the first diocesan course of the fall, as well, and the group is small enough that we will have the time and the intimacy for serious discussion about the challenge of faith formation.
The diocese provides us instructors with reams of pages of course material; from this we cobble a personal outline that works to our strengths. Material, as such, is not a challenge, but I do wrestle with what I personally want to emphasize, particularly in our "100" series where the newbies chalk up their required courses before progressing to the 200 and 300 series.
I get a good number of questions from the students, most of which deal with the rather lackadaisical support of parents and the reality that many of their students do not attend Mass on Sundays. Some feel quite disengaged from other parts of their parishes, and a growing number in this part of Florida report the challenge of working smoothly with pastors from overseas. Fortunately I usually have national figures at my fingertips, so at least our local folks don't feel alone in their struggles. Whether they are comforted to learn that 24% of all Catholics attend Mass weekly is another matter entirely.
It will be interesting to see what this year's formation personnel bring to the table. The challenge will be to let them know the demands this ministry will call forth from them while at the same time infusing them with enthusiasm and pride in the path they have chosen to take.
My experience has been, over the years, that anyone who gives up a Saturday for an eight hour day with me is already armed with the moxie for ministry.
Start that coffee pot at sunrise. Pray for us.