The scenarios I gave to the groups to discuss were:
Your parish’s Altar and Rosary Society approaches you about helping them recruit young women. (The average age of the Society is 68.) They meet every Wednesday morning after the 8a Mass and are responsible for keeping the church clean and organizing the biannual parish rummage sale, which supports the parish school.
Your parish is building a new church hall; the pastor asks you to find out what kind of space various groups need and make recommendations to him for how the building should be set up.
Attendance at the annual parish picnic in your rural committee has been declining over the last 10 years. Your pastor asks you to come up with a marketing plan to get more people to attend this year.
The evangelization committee at your suburban parish is concerned about the number of non-practicing Catholics in the area. They ask for your help in organizing a “welcome back” event with the goal of getting these Catholics to return and volunteer in a ministry.
Your rural community has seen an increase in the number of people coming to the parish office looking for assistance with rent, utilities, etc. Your pastor asks you to put together a committee to find ways to get these people the help they need.
Your pastor asks you to review and recommend some DVD programs for adult faith formation in your parish.
In an old joke, a visitor to New York City asks someone on the street if they know how to get to Carnegie Hall. After a moment’s thought comes the reply: “Practice, practice, practice.”
We might well give the same response when asked how we get to heaven. While we do not believe that we are saved by our works but by Jesus’ work on the Cross, we are also not Gnostics who believe that knowledge saves. Rather, the life of the disciple is one in which faith is not only known, but lived. Jesus does not call us to a life of isolated study, but to live in community with other disciples, as demonstrated by the early Christians: “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” (Acts 2:42)
And yet many of our catechetical efforts stress knowledge of the faith over practice of the faith. I suspect that this is one reason during our recent parish visits so many DREs and principals told us, anecdotally, that only around 50% of participants in faith formation and students in Catholic schools are attending Sunday Mass on a regular basis.
In his book Beyond the Catechist’s Toolbox, author Joe Paprocki gives the great advice that catechesis and faith formation “should be more like Mass than class.” By that he means the process of forming young people (and adults!) involves more than just reading a book or listening to a lecture. Instead, catechesis involves the whole person and should draw upon familiar rituals, prayers, gestures, the Works of Mercy, hymns, and stories so that connections are made between the content of the faith and the way in which we live the faith, especially in the Sunday Eucharist.
As you catechize this year, consider how your efforts are fostering specific and concrete practices in the life of the faithful. Some questions you might ask:
Are we simply teaching about faith practices, or are we giving children and adults the tools they need and encouraging them to enact those practices once they are off the parish grounds?
How are we helping families practice the faith in the home, especially through prayer?
How can we help members of our community encounter the person of Jesus Christ — to know him and not just know about him?
In January of 2013 I created a video showing a couple of my favorite sites for finding free images to use in presentations, worships aids, and printed materials — without violating copyright laws. The video quickly became one of my most popular on YouTube. Four and a half years later, I’ve created an updated version of the video with more resources to share!
It would be great if every catechetical classroom could have multiple icons for use in prayer built to withstand regular use by small hands. Unfortunately, mounted icons can be quite pricey and outside the budget of many parishes. However there is an easy DIY solution that produces surprisingly beautiful results.
a backing board (I cut down some scrap plywood, but you could use pre-sized canvas panels or even some study cardboard)
First, find the image you want to mount and print it out. I find a lot of public domain religious images on Wikipedia Commons; just search for a saint or Bible story. Cut the printed image out, leaving a slight border.
Next, cut your backing to size — you’ll want it a little smaller than the printed image.
Next, apply the Mod Podge to your backing. Don’t worry about using too much — it’s fine if it soaks through the paper.
Glue the image to the backing, then cut out some notches at the corners (see above). This will create four “flaps.”
Apply glue to the “flaps” and fold them over onto the backing.
Let the glue dry for 15-20 minutes, then apply some Mod Podge to the front of the image. This will give it a glossy protective coating.
Let the finished project dry for 1-2 hours and you’re done! I was able to produce three of these in about 30 minutes; cutting the plywood was the hardest part!
Last Thursday I had the joy of gathering with over 100 faith formation leaders and diocesan staff in the Diocese of Joliet. My presentation focused on the characteristics of the emerging digital culture and the promise and challenges it holds for the work of the Church in the 21st century.
The participants asked great questions and shared their own stories and ideas for how the Church can be both hyperlinked and human!
I’m really excited about a free webcast I’m hosting next week!
5 Things Parents Should Know About Keeping Their Kids Catholic is a free, 30 minute webcast for Catholic parents about the things they need to know if they want their kids to practice the faith for a lifetime!
Parents will learn
The most important factor in a child’s faith development
How faith in the home affects faith lived in the world
What they can do with their kids to pass on the faith
If you’d like to share this webcast with a friend via Facebook, email, carrier pigeon, or Twitter, just use this link: http://eepurl.com/cc8ukz. Also, free free to put an announcement in your parish bulletin or other communication to parents!
The latest episode of 99% Invisible (an incredible podcast about design and architecture) focuses on the notion of designing for the “average” person, focusing on how the U.S. military’s philosophy of crafting uniforms and equipment has evolved over the decades:
In his research measuring thousands of airmen on a set of ten critical physical dimensions, [Gilbert S.] Daniels realized that none of the pilots he measured was average on all ten dimensions. Not a single one. When he looked at just three dimensions, less than five percent were average. Daniels realized that by designing something for an average pilot, it was literally designed to fit nobody.
The result was an increased risk of injuries and fatal accidents, especially for Air Force pilots who literally didn’t fit in cockpits designed for the “average” pilot.
Today, we take for granted that equipment should fit a wide range of body sizes rather than being standardized around the “average person.” From this understanding has come the science of ergonomics: the study of how to match people’s physical capacity to the needs of the job.
Unfortunately our evangelization and catechesis is, in a lot of ways, still stuck in “average” thinking. Many parish programs are designed to attract as wide an audience as possible — that is, to be “one size fits all.” A good example is taking the RCIA and inviting any interested Catholic adult to participate. What should be a highly specialized process for those still seeking faith in Christ must now be adapted to fit the needs of a wide range of the baptized, resulting in a program designed for no one in particular.
What would a parish catechetical program designed outside the average look like? I believe it would
Center on more focused topical and needs-based formation, rather than “big box” overviews of the faith
Include input from persons with disabilities, ethnic and racial groups, and the poor
Seek to match people’s spiritual capacity with a range of formational option
There is no “average” spirituality or faith. The saints testify to the glorious diversity of individual responses to Christ invitation to “take up your Cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) The faithful in our parishes should be formed for that same diversity of holiness, even as we are united in the one Body of Christ.
Distribute prayer cards promoting peace and reconciliation
Start a book discussion connected to themes of justice and mercy (see bibliography below)
Catholic Schools and Youth Catechesis
Design a prayer collage containing images related to peace and social justice
Hang the collage in the classroom and remember these issues in prayer
Create a prayer chain or prayer tree with a different petition written on each link or leaf; pray for these intentions
Promote the Works of Mercy by distributing the Missionary Childhood Association’s handout “The Works of Mercy for Kids”: bit.ly/WorksOfMercy4Kids
Discuss the life and ministry of notable saints who worked for peace and justice, such as St. Peter Claver, St. Katherine Drexel, Bl. Teresa of Calcutta (to be canonized on September 4), or St. Damien of Molokai
Learn about St. Francis of Assisi, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Thomas Aquinas, or another saint who loved to pray