Sunday, March 21, 2010

Going beyond the book: encouraging help for catechists

One of the greatest joys I have in sharing my faith is through teaching younger people about our Church. I began this journey as a newly married 20 something, helping with the Youth Ministry program at my parish and then after having children, as a religious education teacher starting at the 5th grade level.

I say that it is one of my joys because I gain a deeper understanding of God's love for us through the whole experience: the teaching material that opens my eyes to ancient truths, the relationships I build with my church family and the eager excitement of the students to learn about who they are in relationship to our Creator and their place in our world. But I also have to admit that it has been one of the toughest challenges in my spiritual walk. So often the students' probing questions and my lack of knowledge would collide (especially when I started teaching teenagers!) leaving me to wonder if I was fit to teach at all. I found myself withdrawing from the very things that would empower me to grow in understanding and confidence. I allowed my doubts to fester until I was left with a conviction that I was not "cut out" for this ministry.

Thanks be to God, I eventually saw a need to be proactive, rather than silently feeding my misgivings...there was hope outside of my head, that place where my doubts lay. I learned that it is through my efforts and my actions that I build confidence and knowledge, a "blessed assurance". Through this understanding, I am led to a place that I can share my faith confidently and encourage others to grow in their spiritual life as well.

Over the years I have found some fantastic resources to build my confidence, increase my understanding and most importantly, grow deeper in my relationship to Christ, the ultimate teacher!

Here are some resources that have helped me along the way:

1. The Sacraments. I can do very little on my own when I am discouraged and filled with doubts. The Holy Spirit wants so much to send us the grace we need to accomplish all tasks, from the little to the large: from greeting the day with a smile to answering tough teenager questions on the existence of God. The sacraments are food for our souls. They open our hearts and minds to living and loving and learning in the way God intended with Jesus at the center. Find a mass to celebrate and worship at visit,, go to reconciliation , discern your vocation and seek to learn more about our beautiful Church and the outpouring of grace available to you.

2. Surprised By Truth Series by Patrick Madrid. These books are compilations of conversion stories that gave me a profound appreciation for the Catholic Church and solidified my decision to convert many years ago. These books drew me into a desire to learn more about my faith and bring me back the fundamental teaching tools of the next two books.

3. The Bible (Douay Rheims version is my favorite) and The Catechism of The Catholic Church. Once I understood where the Church came from (Jesus!) and why it is the fullness of Truth, I was hungry to learn more. God's word in the Bible and the clarification and instruction found in the Catechism gave me a foundation for answering questions while at the same time opening my mind and heart to more questions from within. I began to see that the key to being a successful teacher was to keep learning myself! I found both books at

4. This website hosts some of the best Catholic podcasts. The voices of other faith-filled, spirit-filled Catholics sharing on a variety of topics help me to feel connected to other believers and encourage me to grow closer to God.

5. The Little Books of the Diocese of Saginaw, given to me by my spiritual director, led me to take time (6 minutes!) to pray, contemplate and find peace in my busy world which in turn gave me the strength and joy to share with others.

6. In the same way I enjoy listening to podcasts, I have gained knowledge, inspiration and consolation through the CD's I received from this company.

7. Catechists also need to learn and be encouraged by other catechists. At Lisa Mladnich has brought a wealth of free resources and encouragement to this fantastic website.

Peace of Christ to you,

Kerry, The Catholic Parish Media Liaison