The most rewarding courses I teach are the catechist training courses in my own diocese. While I think we squeeze too much into one day’s program, at least there is “meat” in the official curriculum. I am intrigued by comparing the evaluation sheets of religious education presentations with those of medical continuing education days. From time to time I will get one from a catechist who says I was too far over the catechist’s head. To tell you the truth, I am not bothered by that, because religious education must have an element of challenge to it to be of any good. Catechists should be pushing the outer limits with their students, too. By contrast, medical providers attend courses precisely to find out what they don’t know, or what they have not had time to research. The worst insult on a form would be to say that “I learned nothing” from a speaker or presenter. Of course, the fact that mental health providers might pay as much as $200/day (not counting lost office revenue) has a lot to do with high expectations, too.
Given that the school season is upon us and parish programs are gearing up, our successes and failures will soon be staring us in the face. Maybe they already are. Perhaps you are a religious education director, faith formation director, youth ministry coordinator, or an administrator of other formative programs; for starters, do you presently have an adequate staff of volunteers or professionals for opening day? This will soon be upon us. I have written earlier that recruiting and training, at least a year in advance, is a first step in strengthening the faith formation process of a parish.
Last week I remarked that my own parish had posted its first panic announcement, being short of catechists for this fall’s programming. The announcement ran this week as well. I know this problem is not unique to my parish, so today I googled the church bulletins from last Sunday for other churches in my own diocese, and this is what I came up with in ten searches:
(1) The Office of Faith Formation is seeking volunteers 16 years and above to assist in our children faith formation programs. We are in need of Catechists and Classroom Assistants. We offer training and support for anyone who is able to assist.
(2) We encourage you to learn about teaching in the Religious Education Program. This fall over 300 children from Pre-K through 8th Grade, will sign up to learn more about Jesus and the Catholic faith. You can help them learn and grow in faith by becoming a catechist or volunteer for Faith Formation. For more Information call the Faith Formation Coordinator:
(3) WE NEED YOUR HELP… Catechists, Co-catechist and Classroom Aides are needed to start classes. If they are not filled, classes cannot start… SO PLEASE PRAYERULLY CONSIDER THIS MINISTRY! So far, we still are looking for commitments from people to fill the following grades: Pre-K and Kindergarten, 2nd Grade and 5th Grade. 6 PEOPLE IN ALL ARE NEEDED. TRAINING AND SUPPORT IS A GIVEN. E-mail or call me if you want to chat about it…
(4) The Parish Religious Education Program is in need of catechists for the upcoming school year. If you are interested in this ministry, please call
(5) There will be a Catechist meeting on….Everyone who wants to help our Children in their Faith Journey is invited to join us. We are looking for people who have some time or a lot of time to share and love working with children. Call….
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Something is wrong here. It may be bad planning, shortage of personnel, or a parish morale problem. Whatever, such announcements at this late date make a very poor impression on the Catholic public. What a reader takes away is the message that the handing on of the Catholic Tradition, which is what religious education is by definition, can be absorbed with a little quick cramming and passed along with no serious training. Religious education can be taught by individuals relatively unknown to the parish staff and community. It conveys that a parish’s religious education program is in no way equal to that of a Catholic school, and that a two-tiered caste of faith formation is tolerated.
Job one for this year: a new commitment to just how serious this faith formation business really is.