Building a Better Parish Catechetical Leader (Bosco RoundUp Part 1)

Last week I had the privilege of attending the St. John Bosco Conference at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. This was my first time attending the conference and I was very pleased at both the scope and the quality of the presentations by various catechetical experts. Over the next two weeks I will share some of the insights and inspirations I received from the conference.

The very first workshop I attended was by Gloria “Gigi” Zapiain of the Archdiocese of San Antonio’s Catechetical Center. In it she outlined the characteristics and gifts possessed by successful parish catechetical leaders (PCLs). She centered her talk on four characteristics:

  • person of faith and prayer
  • master catechist with a vocation to leadership
  • an ability to work with people
  • filled with ardor and joy (and, I would add, hope!)

Gigi did an excellent job opening up each of these characteristics and their implications for PCLs. I especially liked her focus on the second characteristic: it’s not enough for a PCL to be a good catchist, but they must also be a good leader at the service of the parish, the pastor, and the catechists. Likewise, in her discussion on enthusiasm and joy she emphasized that a good PCL does not settle for “maintenance ministry” but actively seeks ways to grow catechesis within the community.

The workshop inspired me to tackle an issue that crops up regularly in our diocese – pastors requesting help in hiring good catechetical leaders. Unfortunately some parishes are either unwilling or feel they are unable to discern and call persons for these vital roles. As a result some parishes fall into a “warm body” mentality and wind up choosing catechetical leaders who may be good organizers but do not possess the characteristics identified by Gigi.

As a response to these issues I’m currently in the process of creating a “Guide to Hiring Parish Catechetical Leaders” for our diocese. The guide will contain an overview of the Church’s teachings on the qualities necessary in an effective catechetical leader; a look at the types of parish catechetical leaders in our diocese and their roles in catechesis; a discernment process for calling volunteer leaders; a simple outline of a thorough hiring process for professional leaders; and resources including sample job descriptions and contracts.

What gifts and characteristics do you see in successful catechetical leaders?