The pope says, “On the lips of the catechist the first proclamation must ring out over and over: ‘Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.’” Over and over again I have witnessed how this proclamation of God’s love changes people and there is no other work I love to do more than sharing the kerygma.
The vocation of catechists is both simple and profound. Our diocese describes a catechist this way, “A Catechist in the Diocese of Lansing is one who has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They have the desire to teach and have responded to a call from God to participate in the Church’s mission to lead and encourage others to the same.”
In other words, a catechist is someone who has experienced the unrelenting love of Jesus and desires to invite others to experience that as well. It’s that simple. A catechist doesn’t need a teaching degree or a theology degree. A catechist doesn’t need to be a daily Mass goer. And a catechist certainly doesn’t need to have the answers to all the questions. Catechists are simply people who love Jesus, love to learn about Jesus, and have been called by God to share that love with others.
COVID disrupted religious education for the 2020/2021 school year and we had to shift to a remote family catechesis program. However, by the fall we once again plan on meeting in person and we need several more catechists to help with grade school and middle school religious education. Classes will meet twice a week for one period during the school day.
Over the past year some catechists moved on to other ministries and vocations. This isn’t a bad thing by any means and neither is it unexpected. The vast majority of catechists are volunteers (or receive a small stipend per each class) who serve this ministry for the season of their life that God calls them to. Sometimes this season lasts just one school year and sometimes it lasts decades. When God asks us to respond to his call he will open the doors to make it happen, and he will close doors when he wants us to serve someplace else. The parish’s need for catechists is a regular opportunity for all of us to ask God if he wants you to minister in this way, an opportunity to follow his will —even in unexpected ways.
What does being a catechist look like at our parish specifically? If someone feels called by God to be a catechist, or if someone is curious and just wants to know more about what being a catechist looks like, they contact me and we set up a time to meet. At the meeting I ask about why the person is interested in this ministry, I ask about their relationship with God, and I explain all the details and answer any questions they have about religious ed.
We have textbooks and other resources for catechists to use in class. I lead regular catechetical formation meetings to prepare catechists for the topics they will be covering in class. There are opportunities to go on catechists retreats. And we do our best to pair up new catechists with one or two other people so that the strengths and talents of a team overcome the fears and weaknesses of individuals.
If you feel God tugging at your heart as you are reading this, or if you have felt a desire to be a catechist in the past, please take that to prayer and sincerely ask God what he wants you to do. If you still think that God is asking you to consider this ministry then please reach out to me and we will talk about what to do next.
My job isn’t to recruit people to fill a need, rather it’s to help people see where God is calling them and how they can best respond. As Father Dennis often says, we don’t call ourselves to a ministry. Jesus, through the Church, calls us. Responding to God and living out the vocations he has called us too is how we truly live a joyful and fulfilled life and how the Love of God reveals his love to all of his people.