|Teaching the Faith|
After I stopped dancing in my 20’s due to an injury, people around me suggested I teach dancing to children. I vividly remember thinking, “no way!” I wanted to dance, not teach dance.
When my new parish started growing and offering more faith formation opportunities for our children, they invited me to teach religious education. Again, my mind flashed, “no, I want to learn about my faith, not teach it.”
While at the Catholic New Media Celebration (CNMC) in Boston last August, I met Lisa Mladinich standing at her booth promoting her new OSV booklet, “Be an Amazing Catechist.” We spoke for a short while about her booklet, our blogs, and catechesis. She invited me to join the Catholic Writer’s Guild (which I did) and offered me a free copy of her booklet. My first reaction was to turn it away since I was not a catechist and had no desire to teach the faith. However, remembering my parish’s fledgling faith formation program, I accepted a copy to present to our DRE.
The next morning when Shelly and I walked to a local parish for Mass, Lisa sat on the pew behind us. The three of us walked back to the hotel together sharing more of our personal stories. With that personal connection as a starting place, I sat down to read the Amazing Catechist booklet after returning home. I even reviewed this informative, inspiring booklet on teaching religious education here on Of Sound Mind and Spirit and recently at SQPN.
Be an Amazing Catechist and my personal connection with Lisa changed the way I viewed becoming a catechist and teaching the faith, so when I was asked later that month if I was interested in being a catechist, I surprised myself by saying “yes.” For the first time I wanted to teach something; I wanted to share our Faith with children.
If you’d told me last summer how difficult it would be teaching 19 third graders within an hour after their school release, I would have run far away. To be perfectly honest, I thought about resigning shortly after I started. With no previous teaching experience of any kind, I struggled with discipline in the classroom and found it difficult to capture and maintain their attention long enough to learn the lesson.
With prayer, a very supportive DRE and class assistant, the CatholicMom.com educational resources and Lisa Mladinich’s inspirational booklet, I persevered until I reached that gradual turning point where I actually enjoyed spending time teaching my active, rowdy group of 19. There were fleeting moments in the beginning when I recognized that my students were learning and loving God! These moments inspired me to gain more control of the class, and step up the content of the lessons. With experience came the ability to mix up the lesson plan in order to garner more of their attention for the hour.
What absolutely made the year worth it were those amazing moments when a student lit up with the Holy Spirit. Each one of them surprised me at times with the depth of their answer, their apparent love of God, and the ability to soak in material even when I thought they were ignoring the class.
I’m looking forward to returning next Fall with some experience under my belt to implement so many of the wonderful ideas available for teaching catechesis. These last eight months teaching have taught me so much about not only the kids and being a catechist, but also about myself and my personal faith.
As classes come to an end all over the country, please join me in a prayer of thanksgiving for all the catechists teaching religious education who volunteer to teach the Faith to our children. Also, pray for discernment for those contemplating teaching the faith to our children in the Fall.