Today my office sponsored a free webinar on writing news releases on behalf of your school, parish, or ministry. The webinar was led by Kathie Sass, director of communications for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, and it includes very helpful tips and advice for crafting releases that will appeal to the secular news media.
Kathie was also kind enough to provide the slides she used during her presentation:
Lisa Mladinich (amazingcatechists.com) has written an excellent and engaging resource for catechists and catechetical leaders involved in the sacramental formation and preparation of youth and children. Be An Amazing Catechist: Sacramental Preparation (OSV, 2011) bills itself as “a guide for teaching the Seven Sacraments accurately and vibrantly” and it delivers on that promise.
Mladinich offers a variety of reflections, activities, tips, and tricks for catechists to use in their sacramental prep programs, beginning with some nice reflections on what it means to be a catechist. I especially liked her insistence that “It is a joy for the faithful to pass these truths on to their children so that they, too, might live in loving union with God.” (I may be using that line in some upcoming presentations!)
More specific to sacramental prep, Mladinich has some great suggestions to teaching reverence to children. Proper “church etiquette” is lacking in many parishes, so I was glad to see her tackle it head-on.
She then tackles First Reconciliation, First Communion, and Confirmation in turn. For each sacrament there are plenty of ideas for activities and lessons that will open up the meaning and impact of the sacraments in surprising and effective ways. These include the fun, the prayerful, and the educational. They are also very “doable”, in that they don’t require special resources or prep time.
I do have a small theological quibble: Mladinich states in the introduction that “the sacraments are administered by those ordained for ministry in the Church: bishops, priests, and deacons.” This statement overlooks the fact that, in marriage, the outward sign is the exchange of consent between the couple. Thus, it is the couple who administer the sacrament; the priest witnesses to the marriage. Similarly, while clerics are the ordinary ministers of Baptism, anyone (including non-Christians) can validly baptize if they use the proper formula and intend what the Church intends in Baptism.
But that’s nit-picking an otherwise excellent resource for catechists involved in the sacramental prepration of children and youth.
Through their participation in the prophetic mission of Christ, “who proclaimed the kingdom of his Father by the testimony of his life and by the power of his world,” the lay faithful are given the ability and responsibility to accept the gospel in faith and to proclaim it in word and deed, without hesitating to courageously identify and denounce evil. United to Christ, the “great prophet” (Lk 7:16), and in the Spirit made “witnesses” of the Risen Christ, the lay faithful are made sharers in the appreciation of the Church’s supernatural faith, that “cannot err in matters of belief” and sharers as well in the grace of the word (cf. Acts 2:17-18; Rev 19:10). They are also called to allow the newness and the power of the gospel to shine out everyday in their family and social life, as well as to express patiently and courageously in the contradictions of the present age their hope of future glory even “through the framework of their secular life” (Christifideles Laici, 14).
The prophetic ministry calls us to give witness to the Gospel in word and in deed. I don’t think we have much problem accepting the latter. In fact, if anything I think we are too comfortable with the idea of evangelizing through our lives: we tend to over-quote the famous admonition (attributed to St. Francis) to “Preach the Gospel always; if necessary, use words.” This can lead to the (false) idea that words are never necessary, which in turns leads to complacency about naming the reason we live as we do in the world.
The role of the prophet is to speak the truth. In the Old Testament, the prophets called the Chosen People, who had turned from the proper worship of God to follow idols and false teachers, to return to a proper relationship with the God of Israel. They did this with a firm love, without watering down God’s call.
So, too, in administration. Our role, as partakers in the prophetic ministry, is to speak truthfully to those who work for us. We do this, first and foremost, by the feedback we give.
Unfortunately, for many people, this probably just means an annual review, but I don’t find them particularly helpful. Annual reviews aren’t frequent enough to allow employees to learn from mistakes, enjoy praise for a job well done, or grow in their roles. Taking a cue from the Manager Tools podcast, I’ve instituted 30-minute one-on-one meetings every other week with the directors who report to me. This allows for better communication, more immediate feedback, and better oversight of what is going on in the department I oversee.
Honest, forthright feedback is how we encourage good employees and help mediocre employees improve. Unfortunately their are times when all the feedback in a world won’t improve someone’s performance or attitude. At those times, as a VP for mission I worked with once said, we need to “invite people to live out their passions elsewhere.” Or, as Jim Collins puts it, we need to get the wrong people off the bus.
The truth is that bad employees are toxic to the work environment. If allowed to remain for too long they will demoralize teams and actually drive good employees to find work elsewhere. By participating in the prophetic ministry of Christ — by speaking truthfully and with authority — we can avoid sabotaging our work by ensuring that people know what the expectations are and that they are consistent across the organization.