September 14, 2007

Religious Education Supplement

Catechetical leaders hone their skills in many ways

Jonathan Chamblee works on a video editing program on his laptop computer in his office at Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Beech Grove, where he serves as coordinator of religious education.

Jonathan Chamblee works on a video editing program on his laptop computer in his office at Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Beech Grove, where he serves as coordinator of religious education.

By Sean Gallagher

How can parish catechetical leaders continue honing their skills in passing on the faith?

Taking classes in a store run by Apple Computer might not be the first answer that would pop into a person’s head.

But it’s what Jonathan Chamblee, coordinator of religious education at Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Beech Grove, has been doing to learn the skills of audio and video editing.

He is planning to post on his parish’s Web site short videos about the faith and audio recordings (often known as “podcasts”) of homilies and catechetical presentations.

“We are dealing with the most visual age, probably, in the history of mankind,” said Chamblee. “If we’re going to reach out to this generation, we have to reach them in a manner to which they are accustomed.”

Chamblee said that video editing can take a while to learn and can, at least initially, be labor intensive.

“Only do that if you have a passion for it,” he said with a chuckle.

On the other hand, he said that making and posting podcasts is fairly easy and takes little time.

“I can go from a homily to a final product posted on the Web in less than 30 minutes,” Chamblee said.

“It took me probably less than two hours to figure out how to do it.”

His main motivation for moving in this direction in his continuing education came from the U.S. bishops.

“It was what our directives were in the National Directory for Catechesis,” Chamblee said. “It said that we live in a media age, and we need to pursue that route.”

While being attentive to the particular needs of the media age can be important for catechetical leaders, they still need to continue growing in their knowledge of the faith.

Over the past eight years, the archdiocese’s Ecclesial Lay Ministry Program has provided formation for lay men and women ministering in a wide variety of fields in central and southern Indiana, including catechesis.

Saint Meinrad School of Theology in St. Meinrad provides instructors and sets up workshops for ELM’s participants that give them theological, spiritual, personal and professional formation.

When she began her participation in ELM, Connie Sandlin was fairly new to catechetical ministry and was volunteering in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program at American Martyrs Parish in Scottsburg.

“When I came to the class the very first day, … I was very nervous and wasn’t sure what to expect,” she said.

But over the course of the next several years, Sandlin grew in her knowledge of the faith and her desire to commit herself more deeply to catechetical ministry.

She now serves as the director of religious education at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Clarksville.

“It gave me a thirst for knowledge,” Sandlin said. “And now, I really want to pursue my master’s degree, which before I probably would have never thought of. It really lit a fire in me.”

Sandlin was one of the first three participants to complete the Ecclesial Lay Ministry Program. She was recognized for her achievement in May during a liturgy at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral’s Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

Unlike Sandlin, when Judy Koch began taking ELM classes, she had been a full-time catechetical minister for a decade and had a master’s degree in theology already in hand.

Nevertheless, she found that what she learned in the classes was immediately applicable.

“It was almost like I could leave the classroom and go home and use in the afternoon what I had learned,” said Koch, who is a pastoral associate at Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood. “It had a very practical and hands-on approach toward ministry.”

Catholic Distance University offers classes that allow participants to work from home toward undergraduate and graduate degrees in theology.

It also presents continuing education classes and interactive online seminars on such topics as bioethics, the Gospel of St. John and the principles of catechetical ministry.

“Catholic Distance University does sort of bridge the gap,” said Kenneth Ogorek, archdiocesan director of catechesis.

“On the one hand, you do have courses that you can take for college and graduate credit. On the other hand, you’ve got these seminars that are topical and do involve interaction for someone who wants more than a talk or a quick video.”

Whatever route catechetical leaders take to learn more about the faith, however, prayer can always be a key element.

“I’m just reminded of St. Thomas Aquinas, who said that he learned more on his knees than he did from a book,” Chamblee said. “[Prayer] is the only thing that makes the video stuff make sense.”

(To learn more about the ELM program, log on to or call 317-236-7325 or 800-382-9836, ext. 7325. To learn more about Catholic Distance University, log on to †

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