The Value of a Catechetical Leader

Last week my friend Joyce asked some difficult questions on her blog about parishes cutting back on catechesis in difficult financial situations:

Are we becoming an austerity Church rather than one of abundance?  We seem to be abandoning a theology of Christian hope and retrenching as if we are businesses instead of mission-driven agencies of the Kingdom of God on earth.  Have we forgotten the blessing to the Church that lay ministry provides?  Have we forgotten that the Holy Spirit is in charge?

I don’t have a whole lot to add to Joyce’s excellent post; I’m seeing the same  scenario  play out in my diocese as full-time, degreed DREs retire and are replaced by faithful and well-meaning — but often under-trained — part-time coordinators.

In the Catholic commentariat people will ask why the Church needs full-time DREs and other lay ministers working in parishes. Sometimes the accusation is made that these people are “professional Catholics,”  insinuating  that they are merely in it for the money and don’t really have a heart for Christ.

While that may be true in a few situations, the DREs and other “professionals” I know are hard-working, faith-filled people who have made real sacrifices to work for the Church. And their expertise, training, and education is invaluable. In my experience a full-time trained and educated DRE is much more likely to

  • Have read the Church’s documents  on catechesis and have at least a theoretical understanding of their main points;
  • Put an investment of time and resources into adult faith formation;
  • Offer formation and education opportunities for their parish catechists;
  • If they are responsible for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, to at least be attempting to implement a year-round process as called for by the RCIA;
  • Communicate with the diocesan curia and access the resources (including grant monies) that we offer;
  • Work with other area catechetical leaders;
  • Come to  diocesan  catechetical workshops and conferences.

Do any of those things  guarantee  a successful catechetical program? Not necessarily. But from my experience they certainly increase the odds.

Parishes are facing many pressures today — a lack of giving from parishioners being a notable one. But it would be a shame if, as Joyce said, this results in an  entrenchment  and atrophy of the catechetical and evangelizing mission of the Church. Full-time parish catechetical leaders are worth much more than the salary and benefits we invest in them. And if passing on the faith to the next generation is as important as we say, we need to be willing to put our resources there.