Book Review: Beyond the Catechist’s Toolbox

A few weeks ago Joe Paprocki asked if I would be interested in reviewing his new book, Beyond the Catechist’s Toolbox: Catechesis That Not Only Informs but Also Transforms. Of course I said yes; I’ve been a fan of Joe’s work ever since I became involved in catechesis.

beyond-coverBeyond the Catechist’s Toolbox builds on and expands Joe’s book The Catechist’s Toolbox. In fact, this new book is a intended to help catechists “take it to the next level” by offering a model for religious education that moves beyond the typical “classroom model.” This model will be familiar to anyone who follows Joe’s blog since he makes regular allusions to his method there. Nevertheless, having this model laid out systematically and in one place is a blessing.

This new model focuses on making religious education more like religious practice; Joe’s refrain throughout the book is “more like Mass than class.” To that end Joe outlines a 70-minute, 5-step process for engaging youth in catechesis not only through the use of books (although Joe points out the importance of good catechetical materials) but through prayer, activities, and reflection.

For instance, after the opening prayer, Joe recommends starting the session with an activity that helps students identify with the topic or subject of the evening. He uses St. Ignatius of Loyola’s practice of “entering through their door but leaving through your own” to make an immediate impact while guiding participants to where you want them to go.

I love this model for the way it connects the content of the faith with the practice of the faith. Too often our catechesis exists in a vacuum where what we learn doesn’t make an impact on how we pray and worship. Joe rightfully recognizes the disservice this does to youth and seeks to reintegrate these aspects of faith formation.

Beyond the Catechist’s Toolbox is an excellent resource and, at just 90 pages, a great gift for catechists and Catholic school teachers. I heartily recommend its use in parishes and schools as another way of taking catechesis beyond the school model and back to its evangelizing roots.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from its publisher, Loyola Press.