Last week, having volunteered to help my parish DRE as a substitute, I found myself in front of a classroom of 16 young teens (all but one of Hispanic descent) who were entering their second year of Confirmation preparation. I assumed this would be a one-night stand (OK 2-3 at the most), as have my prior experiences as a sub, so I jumped right in. Handed a catchumenate-style resource which began with a discussion of what sacraments are, I began the lesson by asking how many had seen a baptism, by connecting sacramental celebrations with familiar rituals such as a birthday party - standard stuff, to be sure.
When, after class, my DRE asked if I would be available the next few Wednesdays, I said yes... and then she slyly said she was kind of hoping I'd do this for the rest of the year. Stealth recruitment at its finest, I must admit. However, I was hooked anyway, by the need to do primary kerygma with this group - the opportunity and challenge to evangelize them in a deeper way.
This is part of the challenge to today's catechists. So many of our kids come to us, their parents sending them mostly for sacrament preparation, with no lived understanding of the love of God. They often do not know who God really is... only what they may have been told. Even beyond that, my experience with kids in this culture is that most of them do not even know the basic outline of our faith story - that God created all people, we sinned, Jesus came to earth born as a human baby laid in a manger, and that after teaching us, he died and was resurrected. In past encounters with kids in our parish program, especially those in their first year of formation, I have found they not only do not know the story, they have no idea why this happened... hence, they do not know that God so loved the world... and them.
So, I am in fact hooked. I will be staying on as their catechist, because I feel a call to help them understand the love of God, the reason for Jesus, and how all of this is meant for each and every one of them. It's enough to make me want to haul out that old chestnut, the "Jesus Movie"...