Finding Copyright-Free Images for Catechetical Use – Redux

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!

Resources for the Day of Prayer for Peace

On Friday, September 9, 2016, the Church in the United States will observe a special day of prayer dedicated to peace and justice in our communities and in our nation.

In announcing the Day of Prayer, USCCB president Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz said that the event was intended to help the faithful “look toward additional ways of nurturing an open, honest and civil dialogue on issues of race relations, restorative justice, mental health, economic opportunity, and addressing the question of pervasive gun violence.”

I compiled the following list to help the faithful participate in this Day of Prayer by coming together as families, parishes, and disciples to unite our hearts and minds with those of Jesus Christ.

Suggested Activities

Liturgy and Prayer

  • Celebrate the Memorial of St. Peter Claver
    • Recommended use of Common of Holy Men and Women: For Those Who Practiced Works of Mercy
  • Celebrate the Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice
    • Readings in the Lectionary for Mass nos. 887-891
  • Use USCCB’s “Prayer of the Faithful for the Day of Prayer For Peace in Our Communities”:
  • Use a “Prayer Service to be Disciples on Mission”:
    • Especially appropriate for parish councils, school boards, and other parish meetings on or near the Day of Prayer
  • Host a Holy Hour or Rosary for the intentions of the Day of Prayer
  • Pray St. John Paul II’s Prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe:

Adult Faith Formation

  • Insert the two page “Disciples on Mission in the World” in the parish bulletin:
  • Host an adult faith formation series utilizing Bishop Edward  K. Braxton’s pastoral letter “The Racial Divide in the United States”
  • Host an adult faith formation series utilizing “Sacraments and Social Mission: Living the Gospel, Being Disciples”
  • 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”:
  • 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
  • Learn and pray Pope Francis’ “Five Finger Prayer”:
  • Invite a deacon to come and talk about the charitable ministries of the Church
  • Incorporate special activities into youth and teen formation events
  • Collect food, clothes, toiletries, and other items to benefit a local charitable organization
    • Discuss with students how our acts of charity are a response to our faith in Jesus
    • Pray over the items before they are sent to the organization

Ecumenical Activities

  • Hold an ecumenical prayer service for justice and peace
    • Suggested scripture: readings from Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice (Lectionary for Mass nos. 887-891)
  • Organize and publicize ringing of church bells on September 9 at 3:00pm EST as a sign of solidarity
  • Organize a panel discussion on ways to promote economic welfare, racial justice, and peace
    • Consider inviting local civic officials, leaders from other Christian traditions, and administrators in Catholic education and healthcare


Church Documents and Statements


Web Resources

Notes – Growing in Holiness Through Middle Management

Today at the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership convention in St. Louis I am offering a breakout session on holiness and management. Below are my slides, notes, and additional resources for those who may be interested in living out their vocation as a catechetical leader.



The notes from this presentation are available in PDF format.

Additional Resources

New Resource: Sacred Scripture and the Christian Life (A Short Study)

A few weeks ago, while our local Lumen Veritas youth group was gathering, I offered a faith study opportunity for any parents willing to hang around and listen to me drone on for a hour or so.

With the end of the Year of Faith close at hand we thought it would be good to take a look at the role of Sacred Scripture in the life of the Church through the lens of Vatican Council II. To that end I created a “short study” guide with excerpts from Sacrosanctum concilium and Dei Verbum, as well as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and Verbum Domini, and some reflection questions to facilitate the conversation:

I’ve released the study guide under a Creative Commons license, so feel free to print it out, make copies, and adapt it for your own use. Just make sure to credit the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois for its original creation.

Our plan is for me to do similar events for the parents once a month or so; if I create more resources like the one above I’ll be sure to share them here.

Webinar Notes: Using the Parish Web Site to Power Adult Faith Formation


Thank you to everyone who participated in my webinar “Using the Parish Web Site to Power Adult Faith Formation” sponsored by the Adult Faith Formation Committee of the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership! Here are the notes and links I mentioned during the presentation as well as the PowerPoint slides; I’ll have the video up as soon as it’s available.


Presentation Slides


Websites Cited

Other Sites

Related Presentations

What the Revised Roman Missal Proves About Adult Faith Formation

A friend of mine on Google+ made what should be an obvious point, but one which hadn’t  occurred  to me:

The Roman Missal changes was the most recent…  adult educational moment for parishes in the US since the release of the US Catechism over 8 (??) years ago. Parishes do not need to teach adults the faith so many do not make it a priority. I find this frustrating.

This hadn’t occurred to me (most likely  because  I wasn’t working in catechesis when the USCCA was released), but it is true: the changes to the language of the Mass were the first sustained and universal attempt at adult faith formation in this country for some time. While there have been other, smaller efforts here and there (the Year of Paul or Forming Faithful Consciences), nothing has reached the scope and depth of the efforts leading up to last November.

Here’s the thing: the catechesis and formation around the Roman Missal, Third Edition was, as near as I can tell, a success. Parishioners have, by and large, accepted and implemented the changes without much fuss or angst. In the  Midwestern  parishes I’ve traveled to since last November I haven’t seen or heard anyone using the old translation in an intentional act of defiance, and I haven’t seen much ink (physical or electronic) spilled reporting mass discontent about the changes. People seem to have accepted (perhaps grudgingly in some cases) the reasons given for the changes and implemented them in their parishes

So what does this prove?

That when effort and resources are put into adult faith formation — when we make it a priority and act as if it is the most important evangelizing moment — it is successful. The amount of work put into the implementation of the Roman Missal, Third Edition was remarkable — every publisher had their set of resources, the USCCB put out massive amounts of information in the form of essays, brochures, and videos, and dioceses put together workshops and trainings for a variety of constituencies. We laughingly predicted in our offices that we  would  receive  ten calls the first week of Advent complaining that the priest was changing the words of the Mass. In fact, we got none — my only conclusion is that it was impossible to be even a semi-regular church-goer and not know that the changes were coming.

All this hard work paid off. The implementation has been a success and, from where I stand, should be a model for large-scale formation efforts in the future. My hope is that the Secretariat for Evangelization and Catechesis at the USCCB has done or is planning to do some sort of  postmortem  on their efforts so as to be more intentional the next time this sort of evangelizing moment presents itself. I know that I will remember the lessons learned and put them into practice.

Photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew, OP / flickrCC

Good Catechesis is Hard Work

The director of worship in our diocesan curia is fond of saying that “Good liturgy is hard work.” By that he doesn’t mean that liturgy is onerous or can only be done by professionals. Rather, he means that it takes time and effort to prepare good liturgy. One can’t simply show up and expect it to happen; everything from the training of ministers to the selection of songs must be properly attended to if the  liturgy  is flow naturally.

The same can be said for catechesis. Good catechesis is hard work. Everything from the formation of catechists to evaluating curriculum to lesson planning requires time and energy if it is to be done properly and not in a perfunctory manner.

This is another reason why a trained, full-time parish catechetical leader is the ideal. Good catechesis is about more than ordering textbooks and unlocking the doors on Wednesdays nights. Unfortunately most volunteers — who already have full-time jobs and families to care for — don’t have the time to devote to planning and most pastors are not willing to provide training and support to someone who is “only a volunteer.”

But the question remains:  If we aren’t willing to invest in someone, who will do the hard work of catechesis?

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.

Episode 015 – A Constructive Spirit of Discontent

Encadre-Frederick-della-Faille-FlickrCCNote: We ran into some connection issues with Skype early in the recording; the sound does clear up after a few minutes. My apologies for the inconvenience.

This month I am pleased to welcome to the podcast John Rinaldo – diocesan director, podcaster, and founder of REAL Ministry, a web site about developing church leaders to serve the kingdom of God. We discussed what it means to be a leader in the Church, what we can learn from business leaders, how we can develop our leadership skills, and some of our favorite resources including

Leave a comment and let us know how you understand what it means to be a “catechetical leader!”

Photo Credit: Frédéric della Faille

What makes for a healthy Catholic school?

This is the question our Diocesan Board of Catholic Education has been wrestling with this year. And, as you may guess, it is not an easy question! There are many different factors that contribute to our schools. But, as we’ve reflected on the question, we’ve settled on three key themes:

Catholicity “ This is the sum total of the Catholic identity of our schools. It starts with an identifiably Catholic environment “ crucifixes and statues in the classrooms, icons on the wall “ but can’t be confined to that. It also includes regular prayer, teachers and administrators who uphold the doctrines of the Church, recognition that we are part of a Church that is larger than our parish, and families that participate regularly in the Sunday Eucharist.

Expertise “ Because our schools are places of learning we need excellent educators to lead them. Teachers with state certification who are engaged in continuing catechetical formation; school boards with members who can contribute their knowledge and skills; principals committed to leading even in difficult times; all of these contribute to the shared knowledge and wisdom needed to help students achieve their potential.

Resources “ Of course, no program can run smoothly without adequate resources in place. This means tuition, of course, but it also means support from the parish as well as corporate and individual donors; the time and talent of volunteers; up-to-date textbooks and technology; and robust fundraising activities such as annual fund drives and auctions.

Which of these is the most important? While I’m tempted to say the first, the truth is that they are interdependent; a Catholic school cannot thrive without all three. A school with a foundation in the Church and a strong endowment, but without a solid curriculum or well-prepared teachers, will not graduate students ready for the next phase of their live. A school with excellent teachers and a vibrant faith life but no funding won’t keep its doors open long!

Our challenge is to keep all three pistons firing in order to maintain the œengine  of our schools.