Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Wisdom of Catechists

Yesterday at my parish, we had a morning-long meeting.  About 25 of us were present - for a time of prayer and sharing. It was a time to bring catechists from both the Spanish-speaking and English-speaking cultures together -  most present preferred to speak Spanish at their tables, but there were two tables of us consisting of bilingual Hispanics and some Anglos.  It was truly a case of discerning the wisdom of the community - and there was a surprising amount of agreement.

After some quiet personal reflection on how well we were doing with such things as understanding, living and sharing the faith and listening to our students, we were asked to engage in small group process on two questions:  "What do you need to work on?" and "What do you need?"

For the first question, the two goals named most often were obtaining a better knowledge of the faith and learning who our students are as young Hispanics living in the American culture. Scripture study and a better knowledge of the Catechism were named for the first. On the second point, we named a real need to listen, to explore and to understand the variations among our students (Spanish-speaking at home or not, born here or not, first or second generation here, etc.) We agreed that most of our students prefer Spanish Mass and when they know their prayers it is more often in Spanish, even when students are fluent in English. The difficulties they described pretty much can be summarized simply: not all students in their classrooms participate in the two cultures in quite the same way. Several of the Hispanic catchists very eloquently named that it was important to show teens that faith is not just fiction.

As to the second area - what they need, catechists asked for Bible study, formation, parent meetings and parent formation or more closely mandated parent contact with the catechists. It was suggested that perhaps we have a parent conference night when catechists can interact with the parents. There was an energetic discussion of the failure of parents to assist catechists - and the prevalent attitude that parents seem to have that they are relying on the religious education program to form their children in faith - while most families fail to practice that faith, do not go to Mass, or teach children the prayers they should know. The consensus was strongly that more parental involvement on all fronts is needed - and that perhaps more contact with parents or parent formation would help.

Strange, but this sounds a great deal like what parish directors of religious education (a group I am normally  with on a more regular basis through regional cluster meetings)  name whenever they are asked what they need: formation for themselves, and strategies for more catechist and parent formation.

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