I’m guilty of a woeful consistency: When someone tells me that Child XYZ has bad attendance at religious ed, my response is a persistent, “So what’s going on with the family?” There’s always a story behind the missing child. There’s a whole family of stories. A group of people who, for some reason, are drawn to the religious education program. They want something that your catechsim class offers — or something they think they might find there.
But they don’t meet spec for a Model Parish Family. Bad attendance. A kid that hates the class. A parent who can’t do the drive this week. A competing obligation. Something’s gone wrong.
Now it isn’t always possible for the catechist to find out what the problem is, let alone solve it. I often don’t meet the parents of my students until after the school year is over — if ever. The parent may not be comfortable talking to the DRE — or to anyone.
But that doesn’t mean we as a parish have done our job, if people are revolving through our doors like a parade of lemmings, looking into our lobby and then popping back out again.
This summer, Sarah Reinhard & I have put together an online discussion group of Sherry Weddell’s seminal work on evangelization in the parish, Forming Intentional Disciples. CatholicMom.com has graciously sponsored the event, and Our Sunday Visitor is offering the book at a substantial discount.
Catechesis and evangelization are two different, but overlapping, functions of the parish. One of the things I like about Sherry’s book is that that it shows me when my catechist-mode is helpful, and when it’s better to shut up and listen for a few minutes.
I’d like to invite you to join with us in studying this topic during your summer break. You can read about all the options at the Lawn Chair Catechism landing page, here. There are choices for those who want to read the book and discuss online, those who want to do a parish book club, and those who don’t have the time or energy to read a whole book, but just need an overview of the essential ideas.
–> Tip for you: Our online study is going to run 13 weeks altogether — one week for each chapter. For most parishes, you will not want to do a real-life book group that way — who is going to be home every single week this summer?! The book can be thoroughly discussed in just two or three get-togethers. I also recommend erring on the side of hosting several smaller groups, rather than a single one-size-fits-nobody event.
(Online, the week-by-week format works well, because it lets you lay out your ideas a few at a time. But I assure you, very few of us catechist types will turn out at a book club and only say 500 words all evening!)
I hope you’ll join us, here at Amazing Catechists, and over at CatholicMom.com, and around St. Blogs. I look forward to hearing about your tales of triumph in the New Evangelization.
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Cindy Coleman says
The longer I am a catechist, the more I am convinced it is our task to catechize the WHOLE family – not just the child in our class. Some years/classes I do well, sometimes I fail. But when I see an impact in the family then I know that the seed we plant as catechists will be nurtured more fully. I know there is a movement of ‘whole family catechisis’ in programs, but for those of us that teach in a traditional Parish Religion Education Program set-up I have never seen this addressed. Our textbooks always have ‘parent pages’ but we need more than that, we need help and techniques to help us engage, yes, EVANGELIZE our families. As we all admit, many families (a majority in some of my classes) attend Mass infrequently but will bring their children to religious education. We have an open door in this as catechists to evangelize and catechize those families where religious education is their primary connection with the parish.
Lisa Mladinich says
“We have an open door in this as catechists to evangelize and catechize those families where religious education is their primary connection with the parish.” Spot on; I also aim to reach the family behind the child.
Lisa Mladinich says
This is one reason to get at least one parent’s email at the beginning of the year. I send home a weekly summary of what was covered in class so that parents are informed and can continue the conversation at home. I include brief references to resources that will help the parent grow in the particular area we are touching upon, along with short CCC excerpts, lines of scripture, recipes that fit the liturgical year, reminders of feast days and holy days of obligation, and anything else I can pop in (not all at once, but here and there). If someone is missing from class, I can email a brief note: “Is everything okay at home? We missed Jared, this week.” And it’s easy for mom or dad (or grandma) to hit “reply” and tell me that the family is experiencing a divorce or separation, that someone is ill, or that there has been a death in the family. Cards can be made by classmates in class and sent home to cheer up a sick child or express sympathy. Whenever possible, I will attend wakes and funerals. Since we are the “face” of the Church to many of these families, our kindness matters. It wows them when you show up.
I think I may try this.