“Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed,
turned back praising God with a loud voice,
and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.”
– Luke 17:15
We are catechists because we know Christ, and we can’t keep the joy to ourselves. In some ways we were lepers, who once cleaned turned back to fall on our faces giving thanks.
As catechists we know well the Scripture of the sower; we know despite our sowing some of our students will be swallowed by the thorns of the world, others despite their intentions will not take root. Yet, we sow, why? Because once in a while there is that ONE that comes back, with the joy of the leper, the same joy we’ve known.
I’ll call her Kay. From the time I had her in 9th grade I saw the potential. You know how there are those infamous old ladies who can pick a kid from a crowd and say ‘that one is going to be a priest’? Well, I could see it – ‘that one is going to be a catechist.’ I called it… twelve years ago.
She got Confirmed, finished high school and went to college thousands of miles away. Her mother and I would talk on the phone sporadically. She would fill me in, letting me know how Kay was doing. Every Christmas I would send Kay a Christmas card, she would send me one. If I happened to run into her when she was in town from college, we would hug hello, exchange meaningless conversation and go about the usual pleasantries. This went on for years. Then last year Kay’s brother died. He was only 12. It was an unexpected death, the kind of death that gets you on the gut, and turns you inside out. Like finding out you have leprosy.
I saw Kay at the funeral. Later, I heard she moved back home. A few weeks after I saw her at the parish. She was with her parents, still grieving – you could tell. Of course, to hide my own grief for them I talked about my Confirmation students, the plans for the year. Kay looked at me and said “Don’t even think of recruiting me.” I smiled and changed the subject.
Three months later one of our catechists announced she wouldn’t be coming back. The DRE put a note on the bulletin. For 3 weeks the note stood. We were only 1 week away from the start of the year. I sat with the DRE preparing materials for the upcoming week, going on faith – we still had no takers. The DRE shared with me, “This morning I prayed the Rosary. I told Mary she better find us a catechist.” Just as she finished saying this my cell phone rang. I picked up. It was Kay.
“Are you still looking for a 9th grade catechists?” My heart jumped to my throat. I squeaked out a ‘yes.’ “Sign me up,” Kay said. I tried to sound cool, we went on to exchange our usual pleasantries.
“We got a catechist!” I announced after hanging up. I told the DRE who it was. She got goose bumps. I giggled like a teenager.
That night I fell on my face and gave thanks to God. Because, oh yes! – They do come back!
2010 Maria Rivera