Catechesis: Beyond Information (Guest post by William O’Leary)

William O’Leary always has an interesting take on evangelization and catechiesis. I’m consistently impressed by the work he does in his parish and this guest post on transformative catechesis shows why he’s one of the next generation of catechetical leaders to keep on eye on!

informationA long long time ago in a land far far away (or maybe not so far away) the average catechist thought that if they could just get their students to “learn the material”(i.e. the content) they would be ready to go live their faith in the world. Yes, like I said, that was a long time ago. Today catechesis must be understood to be about helping form and transform people into mature disciples of the Lord Jesus. Each student comes to a catechetical program not as a number or as one who needs to be taught the information. It is absolutely true that they need to know what we believe, for how can one love that which she/he does not know. On the other hand, our goal in catechesis (meaning to echo, to hand on) is to draw us into greater intimacy with God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Cf. Catechesi Tradendae #5).

Many catechists find it challenging to “get through the necessary material” in the time they have in a given session (not to mention the whole year). This is a valid concern. The material, however, is at the service of drawing each person into a deeper encounter with God. Fostering a catechesis that leads students to growth, renewal and further conversion is essential if the faith is going to flourish in an individual’s life.

Below are 3 ways to help foster transformational catechetical sessions:

  1. Know your students. Not just their names, but also get to know them – their likes and hobbies. Having a rapport with your students is a significant way to open the door to your catechesis being transformational.
  2. Use your gifts to make class engaging. Your gift may be humor or getting your students to engage in skits, or storytelling to convey the material. Using your gifts to lead your students closer to Christ is essential to your success. Don’t try to be like this or that person if that is not you – be yourself and use the talents you have to share the faith.
  3. Prepare for the time you spend with your students. Taking time not only to look at the chapter you are going to be covering but also to plan on how you will share the material in an engaging manner. Also, during your preparation it’s important to pray for the Holy Spirit to be present and to speak to the hearts of your students.

Today, there is a great need to help those we catechize become more deeply transformed by Christ and the Good News of Salvation. Together, let us strive to be the instruments Christ desires us to be!

William O’Leary (CatechesisInTheThirdMillennium.wordpress.com) is the Director of Religious Formation at the Church of the Ascension in Overland Park, Kansas. He is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville where he received degrees in theology with a specialization in catechetics.