Catechist Corner

It's all about sharing the faith.

Come!

Office for the New Evangelization of Youth and Young AdultsI was blessed to attend a one day Advent retreat put on by the Office of New Evangelization of Youth and Young Adults (ONE) for the Archdiocese of Boston. This retreat was for anyone involved in youth ministry within the archdiocese. Our retreat director was Fr. Matt Williams, the Director of ONE and what a spiritually powerful retreat it was!

This retreat was completely structured around Advent with a focus on the word “come”. It gave me a new appreciation for the meaning of the season. It began with a reading from the Song of Songs 3:1-4. This passage speaks about searching for God, and when he is found, bringing him into the deepest, most private place in the house. We then had a silent meditation around our readiness to bring Christ into the deepest, most private place in our hearts, in our souls. Am I ready? What’s holding me back?  That was followed by a discussion that Jesus wants all of us, not just the perfect parts and that we need to remember that we need to bring everything, including the good and the bad, to God.  He wants us all!

Do you have any sense of how much the Church uses the word “come” in its prayers during the season of Advent? The Liturgy of the Hours uses the response, “Come, Lord Jesus”. Various antiphons, readings and Alleluia versus of the Masses throughout Advent all ask our the Lord to come. Just look at the O Antiphons for a perfect example of the Church, as the bride, asking her bridegroom, Jesus, to come. What a great image!!

Lastly, we focused on part of the nativity narrative from Luke (Luke 2:1-14). We had another terrific period of silent prayer to meditate on the scripture passage. Silence is underrated, by the way. What a wonderful opportunity to put oneself there with Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. From the journey to Bethlehem, to the birth and the message of the angel to the shepherds, it gave me an opportunity to appreciate what people must have felt, not only emotionally, but physically as well.

In between all of that we had Mass, opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, lunch with friends and a sharing circle to round the day off. I’m so glad I went. The Lord spoke to me in a very special way at the retreat, not only through Fr. Matt and the other participants, but directly when in silent prayer. He knew what I needed (no surprise there) and showed me the way, not only for my ministry, but for me as well. I really need to make time to go on retreat more often, or at least find more opportunities for silent prayer during my day. Did I mention that science is definitely underrated?

Until next time, keep sharing the faith.

CNMC MMX

CNMC MMXAs you all know, I’m a fan of a number of Catholic podcasts and blogs, a few of which can be found on my blogroll and such.  I use the information from these various podcasts and blogs, not only to further my own knowledge and faith, but also to help me supplement and creatively deliver catechesis to my religious education students.  Things that I have used in class like the Three Js, my room setup and ways to vary lessons from week to week, have all come from bloggers or podcasters.

The Catholic New Media Celebration is an annual gathering of podcaters and bloggers where ideas are shared, newbies are inspired, and old friends (whether virtual or physical) get together.  This year, the CNMC will be happening in Boston, right in my neck of the woods.  I decided that I just could not pass up this opportunity, not only to meet the people behind the voices and the text, but to learn a thing or two from those in attendance.

The CNMC MMX (i.e. Catholic New Media Celebration 2010) will be happening on August 7th at the Pastoral Center for the Archdiocese of Boston.  Will you be there?

For more information, watch the video below or go to http://www.celebration.sqpn.com.

Until next time, keep sharing the faith!

Wabbit Season or Duck Season?

Neither, but it sure does seem to be Webinar Season.

I have been lucky enough to have participated in two excellent webinars over the past couple of weeks that have really helped me to reconsider how I should engage in my ministry.

The first webinar was presented by Jonathan F. Sullivan, who is the Director of Catechetical Ministries for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.  The webinar was titled “Catechizing Digital Natives” and focused on the different ways that today’s kids process and learn information.  Below is the video recording of the webinar and here is a link to some of the resources discussed in the video.

The second webinar was presented by Joe Paprocki from Catechist’s Journey.com and Loyola Press.  Joe is well known among Catechists as not only an author of numerous books about being a Catechist, but also as an 8th Grade Catechist himself.  His webinar was titled “Growing as a Catechist: A Self-Evaluation Based on 7 Critical Tools from The Catechist’s Toolbox” and focused on how to reflect on our own ministries with the goal of tweaking our approach and preparation to add more impact when we catechize.

I found both of these webinars so valuable that I just had to share them with you.  As Catechists, sometimes we feel like we are left to our own devices and it’s nice to know that there are others out there who share their ideas with us.  It’s amazing when you find out that the problems you face in your classrooms and parishes are not as unique as you might think.

Until next time, keep sharing the faith!

Catechetical Congress

Catechesis and the Proclamation of the WordThis weekend, I was blessed to have attended the Archdiocese of Boston’s annual Catechetical Congress.  It proved to be a wonderful opportunity to meet and share ideas with other catechists from all across the area.  The congress was kicked off with a prayer service that was led by Archbishop Seán Cardinal O’Malley, which was both beautiful and multi-lingual to celebrate the diversity that can be found in the Archdiocese.  In fact, Cardinal O’Malley offered his reflection in both English and Spanish, switching between the two throughout his reflection.

Our keynote speaker for the English program was Joe Paprocki from Loyola Press.  My loyal readers will recognize him from my frequent referrals to his blog, Catechist’s Journey; but besides being an insightful blogger on catechesis, he is also an author as well as an 8th grade catechist.  His address, “Catechesis That Enters Through ‘Their Door’ but Leaves Through ‘Your Door'” was all about connecting with your students’ lives with practical tips for overcoming the generational gap that can exist between catechist and student.  I think his insights were spot on since I experience what he pointed out each week with my 6th graders.

Aside from Joe’s address, there were a number of workshop options available throughout the rest of the day.  I attended a morning session called TIPS which shared creative ways to make that class more interactive and more organized to help foster a higher level of learning while keeping the students active and engaged through the class session and throughout the year.  For the afternoon session, I chose to attend a presentation by our diocesan Office for the New Evangelization of Youth and Young Adults.  This session was a perfect compliment to Joe’s comments because it explored the mindset of today’s youth when it comes to God.  It focused on reading the signals that the youth are sending us and offered some practical approached to strenghting our own signals back to them regarding the Good News.

In reflection, I’m glad that I atteneded this year’s congress.  Not only did I learn a lot from those presenting at the event, but I benefited greatly from the interaction with and participation of the attendees, many of which are more experienced that me in catechesis.  As an added benefit, I got to meet some really great people there and was inspired by the focus and support that the Archdiocese of Boston places on this ministry.

Until next time, keep sharing the faith!

Parental Guidance Suggested

We had our first Religious Education session this week for our 6th graders.  The evening started with a meeting for parents and students to review what the year has in store.  Our CRE reviewed our schedule, highlighting some new things we will be trying with them this year, including a retreat around the Ten Commandments.

The meeting lasted about 30 minutes, which gave us 30 minutes to meet with our students in the classrooms.  I went through some of my class rules — standard stuff like raising your hand and waiting to be called on, only one person speaks at a time and the importance of both respect & confidentiality in class.  I stress those last two because I want people to be able to open up in class without concern that they will get ridiculed or that it will get all over town.

I asked the two questions I always like to ask when first meeting my students:

  1. “Who’s here because they want to be?”
  2. “Who’s here because their parents made them come?”

As you can imagine, the majority were not there because they were excited about religion at 6:30 on a Monday night; and since most were there because of their parents, I’ve decided to try something new this year.  First, I’m sending a letter home with the students at the end of our first full class this coming Monday.  Among other things, the letter will stress the partnership that is essential between me and their parents for this education to be successful for their children.  One hour a week is not enough.  Faith has to be lived and the parents are an integral part of that education.  Understanding that different parents are at different points in their own faith journey, small steps seem to be in order.  Below is an except of my letter in the hopes that conversation can begin at home if it isn’t happening already.

“To be successful in this, I need your partnership and support.  In the spirit of the Parable of the Sower, I trust that the Holy Spirit will make your child’s heart fertile soil and I will help plant the seeds, but I need each of you to water and nurture those seeds so that they bear fruit.  To that extent, I encourage you to ask your child what they learned in class each week and to discuss it with them, even if just for a few minutes.  This will help reinforce that the formation of their faith is important to you too.”

Additionally, I will be asking my students to briefly interview a parent before the next class so that they can better understand why the faith is important to their parents and why their parents feel it is important to teach them about it.  The interview is not profound, but is intended to spark some conversation.  The 5 questions my students will ask their parents are:

  1. Why do you think it’s important to send me to religious education?
  2. What do you think is the most important thing I can learn through religious education?
  3. When you were learning about our faith, what was your favorite topic to learn about?
  4. What is your favorite prayer? Why?
  5. Who is your favorite Saint? Why?

We will discuss the responses briefly in class and I will ask if anything surprised them when interviewing their parents.  Let’s hope this goes well and I will update all of you in a couple of week when it’s complete.

I wanted to express my thanks to all of you for sticking with me through a slow summer.  I’m hoping to get back to my weekly posts now that classes are back in session.

Until next time, God bless and keep sharing the faith.