About 35 years ago, an ad in my parish bulletin read, “Help Needed in CCD Program.” I knew CCD was the catechism program, but I had no experience with it. “Hmmm,” I thought. “I wonder if this is something I could do?” I had no experience teaching, but was looking for a way to contribute. I went to see the pastor, my good friend Father Jack Gentner, and asked him if I should try this. Rather than saying, “Sure, we’d love to have you,” he asked, “Why are you thinking about doing this?” I was uncharacteristically quiet as I pondered his question. After a few minutes I responded, “I think that at some point, Christians have to do something more than just believe.” That was the beginning of my involvement with religious education.
Pope Paul VI said, “The church doesn’t have a mission; it is a mission!” An increasingly critical part of that mission today is educating our children in the faith. Young people are “disaffiliating” from all religious faiths in alarming numbers, deciding that religion has nothing to offer them at a median age of 13. Think of that: 7th and 8th graders are deciding that God is irrelevant in their lives! More than ever, children are bombarded with torrents of bad ideas and misinformation, delivered to them in real time, through media that didn’t even exist a few short years ago. The only antidote to protect them is teaching them the truth of our Catholic faith. Passing on the faith is the shared mission of every baptized Catholic. Believing is good. Participating is wonderful. But passing on the faith is vital and essential.
Since I was appointed Director of Faith Formation at CTK, I have managed multiple programs, taught RE as a substitute and even had class of 1st grade students, via Zoom, last year. Although there are challenges and frustrations, they are outweighed exponentially, by the joy that passing on the faith gives. Teaching via Zoom from home, my wife was able to overhear my discussions with my students, and she regularly remarked, “You really love those kids, don’t you?” My answer was a resounding. “Yes!” I had to rearrange my calendar to take care of other responsibilities, but Monday, from 3:00 until 3:30 PM, when I was with “my kids,” was the best part of my week. Whatever I was able to give them came back to me at least a hundred fold. Ask virtually any RE teacher, and they’ll tell you the same thing.
This year, we are returning to in person teaching in our Religious Education program, and we have almost 200 children pre-registered for classes. We have a cadre of seasoned catechists returning, and we have been blessed with many new volunteers. As of this writing, we still need catechists for a combined 2nd & 3rd grade class on Monday and another on Tuesday, and a combined 4th through 6th grade class, also on Tuesday. Thankfully, we have catechists committed to teach 16 other class sections in our Sunday through Wednesday teaching schedule.
How many more catechists do we need? A dozen would be great! We are very grateful to those who have signed up to fill the critical role of substitute catechists. Our catechists have days committed to family events and occasional sick days. So having a list of substitutes to call is extremely helpful. We also have some larger classes that could, potentially, be split into two smaller classes. As mentioned, we have some classes with two or three grades combined. If there were enough catechists, we could potentially provide more single grade classes.
So, please take some time to pray about this great opportunity to serve. The lesson plans are easy to follow, and many catechists are amazed by how much they learn in the process of teaching. And the blessings and joy you will experience from sharing our Catholic faith with the children is inestimable.
May God continue to bless you and your families and keep you safe and healthy.