Tag Archives: catechist formation

‘One Message’ Formation

Courtesy of Youth 2000

Courtesy of Youth 2000

Tomorrow I am going to a parish to lead a formation session with some Confirmation catechists. I think few of them have been catechists before, and probably even fewer (if any) have any kind of formation at all.

So, given our time together will be short, I figured I need to get into a nutshell the basic message about what catechesis is and who we as catechists are.

I am going to use this Scripture passage (this is my ‘go-to’ passage when I have to explain simply and easily what catechesis is about):

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life – the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us – that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing this that our joy may be complete. (1 John 1:1-4)

Catechesis is above all about being a witness to Christ.

If you had to transmit one message to catechists – what would it be and why?


Preparing candidates to be received into the Church

Meeting Christ's mercy in Confession

Helping people discover the mercy of Christ

A couple of weekends ago, it was a joy to join my old parish’s candidates and catechumens on their weekend retreat. Once again, we went to Ampleforth Abbey – it is really the perfect setting for such a retreat. I have said this a million times and I will never tire of saying it – what a great joy and privilege to accompany people as they prepare to enter fully into Christ and his Body, the Church. We had a weekend of teaching from Franciscan Friar of the Renewal, Fr Sebastian (who I’ve mentioned here) on the Mass and the lay vocation. Saturday afternoon was dedicated to First Confessions. After a thorough preparation, Fr Sebastian spent several hours hearing each candidate’s First Confession. There was not one candidate for whom this experience was not deeply moving. The joy and exhilaration in our group afterwards was palpable. At breakfast on Sunday morning, the laughter was contagious. This was a group we had felt never particularly ‘bonded’ – perhaps this was true on a natural level, but on a supernatural level, there was real communion. People who had previously been quiet and reserved came out of their shells. It was beautiful to see. What Confession can do!

So…on this topic, allow me to make three points:

1. Don’t become one of the (disturbingly numerous) parishes whose candidates do not go to Confession before being received – If we experience in our own lives the transformative and life-giving power of this sacrament of conversion, why fail to introduce it to those who are precisely in the most fundamental process of conversion?

2. Don’t downplay or minimise this sacrament in an effort to make it ‘easier’ or seem less intimidating – I’ve heard of people being told they don’t need to confess every sin. How very sad. This means that we’re allowing a person both to make an invalid Confession and to not experience the full impact of Jesus’ love and mercy which we receive when we empty our hearts fully of everything

3. We must be lovers of Confession and frequent this sacrament ourselves – As a catechist, how can I convey the love and mercy of Jesus in Confession unless I receive it regularly, frequently? I would suggest that as catechists, desiring to be the best witnesses of Christ that we can be, we should go at the very least once a month, if not fortnightly or weekly. Christ strongly desires for us to allow his love and power to work through us – so let’s keep getting rid of everything that stops it.

One woman, on the weekend, said that she couldn’t understand why people wouldn’t be at Confession every single week, it sounded so wonderful to her! This is the kind of response to Confession that the Holy Spirit can stir in a person’s heart… if we witness to it well.


Catechist Formation

Image

A couple of weeks ago, we finished a six-session series of catechist formation. I’m sad I have not had time to write about this since it was such an enjoyable series. Around twenty catechists from our parish and the parishes nearby gathered together every two weeks for an hour and a half of formation. We followed the Echoes programme but (since this is the fourth time I’ve taught this programme) adapted it slightly. Margaret Wickware, Marie-Claire Kaminski (two wonderful ladies I love working with!) and I ran it together and we felt we needed more practical and deeper elements for the audience we had: how to evaluate resources, how our lives as lay people are priestly, prophetic and kingly, how the liturgical year leads us through the mysteries of Christ’s life, and how to structure a catechetical session. The participants were fantastic and reading the evaluations at the end was heart-warming. This course only scratches the surface of all the skills and knowledge you need to be a catechist, but it is a great place to begin.


October

Dear readers, it’s that busy Autumn term again and I’ve been out of the blogging loop. This past month I have been…

Sadly not eating too much apple pie…

  • Launching a formation course for new catechists in our deanery/area
  • Teaching some inspiring young people from Salisbury about how they can be great catechists
  • Missing the heat and my friends of Kansas City, Kansas 😦
  • Planning a series on the CCC for January onwards… (watch this space!)
  • Geeking up on teaching strategies and classroom management in this brilliant book
  • Enjoying a delicious luncheon with the Catholic Women of the Year
  • Crying as I saw Dr Caroline Farey receive the message for catechists from the Pope – and knowing that she was praying for all of us catechists
  • Burrowing away in the library working on the literature review for my dissertation
  • Taking advantage of the wonderful Wholefoods store which is even more wonderfully near the library I’ve been using
  • Meeting the new students at SPES and giving them an introductory lecture on prayer
  • Receiving an email each day with a little chunk of the Catechism, specially for the Year of Faith
  • Reading this fantastic book with my book club
  • Seeing for myself that Come Follow Me really does work as amazingly effective children’s catechesis
  • Making Delia’s yummy cottage pie with cheese-crusted leeks
  • Hanging out at the new Vocations Centre for the Archdiocese of Southwark
  • Embarrassing my 16-year-old brother by weeping as he starred as Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat
  • Wondering whether I’ll need to take out a loan for the number of weddings I’ve been invited to next year

…and relishing my time with family and friends, which, after all, is what life is mostly about 🙂

What’ve you been up to? Share in the comments!


Discerning what the Year of Faith invites us to…

How nice to return to (almost) normal life! There’s something lovely about being in your own parish for Mass, getting into a regular routine at the gym, and seeing friends again. Travelling always opens my eyes, clarifies my vision, sparks my imagination, and I love how it widens my understanding, how I see reality… But, as Dorothy discovered, there’s no place like home 🙂

Before I went to the States, I had absolutely no idea what we would do in the parish for the Year of Faith, or even if we would do anything extra special at all. Over the past month, I have heard a lot about the Year of Faith. I have seen some seriously amazing plans. I have seen T-shirts and super-cool logos. I’ve heard about live-streaming of lecture series and no end of creative, new ways of transmitting the Faith which have not quite reached these shores…

Wonderful – but I wonder if we can get caught up in the hype of thinking we have to put on something spectacular.

Here are the two most important things I realised:

1. We need to discern, above all, what the Church is calling us to in the Year of Faith.

2. We need to discern what this means for our own parish – what are the greatest needs that we have, and what invitation is the Year of Faith extending to us?

So, I set about number 1 over July. I read Porta Fidei again. I talked with people who are lots more experienced than me. I realised the four, universal crucial elements to which the Year of Faith calls us: (a) Teaching on the Catechism of the Catholic Church; (b) Teaching on the Vatican Council documents; (c) A Holy Hour with the Holy Father for Corpus Christi (let’s not forget this – the Holy Father probably has a very important intention in mind); (d) Making a Profession of Faith.

Then, gradually, as I prayed, and digested all of this, a plan began to emerge in my mind.

Does that ever happen to anyone else?! Or is it only me?

I often have plans emerging in my mind (a real occupational hazard…) and I have to determine which are good, and which are not-so-good. Is this what is most needed? Is it making the best use of our resources? Is it achievable? Is it too ambitious? Is it not ambitious enough?! Ultimately: Is this what the Lord wants or is it what I want? Gradually, as I discuss with others in the parish, and continue to pray, things work out into something real and concrete.

In case you are interested, here are the priorities I think are most important for the Year of Faith in our parish:

  • Catechist formation – this is my number 1! Without it, everything flounders. I hope we will run a new programme of formation for new catechists in the Autumn term
  • Course based on the Catechism (Maryvale’s course in the CCC is the best available, as far as I know, and they are offering the opportunity for people to use it in small study groups – see more on their Year of Faith website)
  • Continue to run ‘refresher’ courses such as Anchor, for those returning to Church or aware of their lack of understanding
  • Following on from our adult formation last year, lots of people wanted to meet more regularly, and so quite spontaneously, small home groups are being formed. They are following books from this series which are proving really fruitful so far
  • Looking at the evaluations from adult formation last year, people would like deeper formation in understanding Scripture – we may perhaps run a short course using the Great Adventure Bible Timeline in the summer term. We already used the teen version with our young people, and it was brilliant
  • As I wrote about in a previous post, we have a full formation programme planned for Confirmation and First Communion parents.

What would be AWESOME is if every adult in the parish chose one means of formation for the year, then everyone came together at the end of the Year of Faith to make their Profession of Faith. In fact, I think Pope Benedict thinks this would be pretty awesome too:

We want this Year to arouse in every believer the aspiration to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction, with confidence and hope. Porta Fidei, 9

One thing’s for sure, though: don’t get in a tizz about doing something spectacular: allow God to be the main protagonist in this year ahead. Let us cooperate with the work he wants to do. And, while we’re discerning what’s right, once again I think these are excellent questions that we can pose to our parish’s formation programmes.


Need for Young Adult Catechists

Welcome to British summer!

I have to tell you, it was something of a shock to step back into this cool, rainy country, people… After a month of blistering heat it took me a while to adjust and to bid farewell to summery outfits for another year *sniff*

Since being back (and after overcoming some serious jet lag), I’ve been at the Evangelium conference in Reading, giving a couple of workshops on how to be a brilliant catechist. There were some fantastic young people there, some great keynote lectures, beautiful liturgy… all in all, a wonderfully enjoyable weekend. I loved being able to share some key catechetical principles with other young adults who are catechists in their parishes, but who have never before come across some of these methodological ideas (four dimensions of the Christian life, the goals of catechesis, the five foundational truths).

Young adults, because they are in the midst of establishing careers, making life decisions, and maintaining busy social lives, rarely have the time (or money) to dedicate to serious catechist formation. I am beginning to think that alternatives should be developed for formation of young adults as catechists. Let’s face it: these are people who we really need as catechists. They are extremely effective Confirmation catechists – teenagers will listen to them as they do not yet see them as equivalent to their parents. In the RCIA process, it is compelling to see young adults witnessing to an authentic Christian life (not living together before marriage, etc) – on the whole, I believe that age and background of catechists should more or less mirror the ages and backgrounds of enquirers and catechumens. Although, the need for older, more experienced, wiser catechists in every programme is evident, too.

So, the cogs in my mind are beginning to whir on how we can form more young adults as catechists – especially to ‘grow’ the next generation of catechetical leaders in this country. It is always important to form already existing catechists, but we need to look to the future too. I believe, because the task of catechesis in our Church over the next decades is so urgent, we need the best to become catechists – intelligent, well-formed, inspiring people who live life to the full.


Year of Faith

Beautiful Kansas

In Kansas City, it was almost cool enough to be outside yesterday. It rained a couple of nights ago for the first time in weeks and weeks, and the baked earth gave off heat and a lovely, sweet smell. I love being in Kansas right now; it is a beautiful place to be.

It’s also a great hub of activity in the midst of the Year of Faith preparations. The plans are being organised under three headings: Love It, Live It, Learn It. The Love It plans are to do with liturgy, prayer, and spiritual formation. The Live It plans concern living your faith in the workplace, in marriage, in the public square, and through service of the community. The Learn It plans are to do with evangelisation and catechesis.

The plans are pretty impressive. For the Learn It section, 20 parishes will have a course on the Catechism of the Catholic Church; great resources such as The Great Adventure Bible Timeline and the Catholicism series are going to be available to parishes to show them; there will be a big series of lectures on the four constitutions of the Vatican Council, which will be streamed live into homes around the diocese – people will be encouraged to watch together in small groups. Parishes will be also be trained, with the help of Evangelical Catholic, to form adult small groups that multiply, as an evangelisation initiative for parishes.

At the same time, completely separate from the Year of Faith, we’ve been putting together a promotions strategy for the Maryvale courses – Kansas is a Maryvale Centre and offers Maryvale formation for all their catechists. The plans and ideas for reaching a large number of people for the next cohorts are really exciting.

Olympics Opening Ceremony

And also – I am watching the live stream of the Olympics opening ceremony 🙂 Albeit the streaming comes in and out as there is no US channel broadcasting it live, but, seeing the Queen, London sights, Mary Poppins, James Bond et al… is making me miss my home land! Don’t worry, England, I am coming home to you on Sunday!