27 Tips to Religious Educators, Parish Ministers, and the Generally CuriousRead Now
1. All things belong to God. God made everything, including the heavens, the Boston Red Sox, and the Catholic Church. Let God do the worrying. Don't do God's heavy lifting. Do an honest day’s work and sleep like a baby.
2. There are serious problems in the Catholic Church. People are leaving and/or they don’t send their kids to Mass. That is not your fault. Solving this problem is far above your pay grade. We pay bishops for that. Enjoy the folks you work with, even if just two show up.
3. Do you remember the Pythagorean Theorem? You learned it in school, and you have probably forgotten it in adulthood. Keep that in mind when you are preparing catechism class. You will relax more.
4. What do you remember from school days? Probably the teachers who respected you, loved you, challenged you, and impressed you with their excitement for their discipline. Go, thou, and do likewise.
5. Everybody loves a good story. I saw on Facebook where a catechist was asking for help in teaching the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Why not tell the story of a saint or a hero who demonstrated those fruits instead?
6. I hear people say we should “teach the Catechism.” This is very confusing and probably impossible. Jesus gave us two great commandments. The Catechism has 2,865. I’ll stick with Jesus’ way.
7. The introduction to the Catechism from Pope John Paul II states that the Catechism was written specifically for bishops and publishers. It is not a teacher’s manual no matter what you are told.
8. If your assigned curriculum isn’t cutting it, buy, beg, or steal a copy of Learning to Pray: A Guide for Everyone by Father James Martin, S.J. You and your students will learn to pray together, and they will have an experience to carry them through life. They will thank you forever.
9. Buy yourself some commentaries on the Gospels. [Write me and I’ll give you some titles if you don’t know any.] The Gospel stories are a goldmine. Teach Jesus. The rest will fall into place.
10. Let the parents know that you are serving gourmet coffee on the grounds during the catechetical time of their children. I show up anywhere there is free coffee. [You can put out an offering basket if your parish won’t spring for it.] Give them a comfortable place to sit and you have a ready-made evangelization audience ready to go, all caffeinated and eager to interact.
11. Throw in a platter of Costco chocolate chip cookies with the coffee and I’ll volunteer to work in your program.
12. As the Bible instructs, you should have leftover coffee and cookies at the end of the night. God feeds abundantly. No sin to throw out extra coffee.
13. Your students may be very embarrassed that their families don’t bring them to church. Console them. Don’t shame them.
14. Research shows that even unchurched parents want their kids to “grow up moral” and so they send them to church programs, even if sporadically. It’s something, anyway—maybe actual grace.
15. If your pastor or supervisor keeps putting more projects on your desk, smile and say “OK, which one of my tasks do you want me to drop in order to do this one?”
16. Don’t let anyone guilt you into working too long. It is the pastor’s responsibility to find and train new people for ministry. Canon Law says that the pastor is the senior catechist of the parish.
17. If your students are attending a penance service, they are often impressed to see the teacher go to confession—and really impressed if their parents go.
18. Don’t be intimidated if your priest complains “the kids weren’t prepared to make a proper confession.” I was a pastor years ago. It was my job to help anyone of any age make a fruitful confession.
19. You don’t need to throw a Christmas party. It’s Advent anyway.
20. Some of the best textbooks for adult education programs are novels by the great classic Catholic authors…from Graham Greene to Caroline Gordon to Flannery O’Connor to J.F. Powers to Toni Morrison to James Carroll to Walker Percy to Louise Erdrich to Phil Klay to…well, you get the picture. Stories of sin, conversion, repentance, deliverance. There’s a lot of checked boxes.
21. The more you read and study theology, the more enjoyable your ministry will become.
22. Your parish should provide you with funds for your ongoing training and learning expenses. Don’t buy the “we can’t afford it.” A parish that doesn’t prepare its ministers doesn’t deserve them.
23. A corollary of #22…they have seminarian collections, right?
24. Go to your diocesan gatherings and workshops. You’ll enjoy the support, they have coffee, and the networking will help you advance your career. Tell your pastor you are going. Don’t ask. If he gives you a hard time, tell the bishop. He’s paying for the coffee.
25. Reflect often on the fact that you are educating children and minors because their parents can’t. Prod your pastor to preach about that.
26. Be nice to the parishioners. But take your phone off the hook after hours.
27. Remember Mother Teresa’s advice: “We are not called to be successful. We are called to be faithful.” And to laugh, too.
For more ministerial handholding, visit "The Catechist Café" on Facebook or www.catechistcafe.com.