A sharing to mark Catechetical Awareness Weekend
“Our parish is in need of more catechists. Can you help us?” is an often heard, sometimes frantic plea from our church’s catechetical ministry. This was how I received the call to catechise. On reflection, I believe that no matter the circumstances surrounding a catechist’s hearing of this invitation, the call to catechise always originates from God Himself. This is because to be a catechist requires a love for Christ and a love for His people.
The role of a catechist is to be a witness, not a teacher. A teacher transmits information from a notebook but a catechist is someone who transmits faith from the heart.
It may be intimidating to stand in front of a class of teenagers who seem to want to be anywhere but in catechism. However, following in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd, catechists need to be aware of the needs and struggles of their teens in order
to lead them in the right path.
While being sociable or good with teens are useful attributes of catechists, a love for God and the teens they teach are more important values to have.
Teens will listen more willingly to witnesses than to teachers. In session execution, the temptation is to try to make the session exciting and interesting. While the intent may be good, catechists may quickly feel burnt out.
The word “catechist” comes from the Greek word: echo. As catechists, we not only echo the teachings of the Church, but we also echo our actions and our own personal relationship with Jesus.
A catechist must remember that he or she is first and foremost a witness to Christ. No content, plan or resource, however superbly prepared, can replace a catechist who is in love with God.
It is important that catechists allow God to transform their lives, so that they can be sent out on this apostolic mission of catechising.
The aim of a catechist is to draw the children into intimacy with God, and into the life of the Church. Hence, the main expectation of a catechist is someone who is constantly striving to have an ever deeper relationship with God. A catechist also needs to work in partnership with the community and eventually desire to pass on the fruits of this relationship to the children and teens.
Being a catechist also requires commitment. A couple of hours are spent mid-week to come up with a lesson plan and another three hours to conduct classes on the weekend. Catechists usually work in teams of two or more and responsibilities are usually shared.
They are also required to attend the odd formation course or retreat on weekends.
When it comes to content preparation, the Office for Catechesis provides detailed plans, including the material list of resources required to conduct each catechetical session.
When we reach out to our children, our catechetical session must contain more than only catechesis, Scripture, dogma, moral teachings and the like. All of these are needed to be done but that is only part of the task.
The other part that is equally needed and perhaps more challenging, is the task of relating these things to the teens’ needs and longings, their energy and endeavours, and their daily experiences at home and at school.
Furthermore, by being active witnesses of God’s love to them, the teens will be able to see how God is present in each of us.
Gerard has been a catechist for 10 years at the Church of the Holy Family. He is also currently a member of the Archdiocesan Catechetical Trainers Programme.
If you are interested to be a catechist or would like to find out, email [email protected]