September 11, 2009

Religious Education Supplement

Want the easiest job in the world? Be a catechist

By Ken Ogorek

Back when I had thick hair and a thin waist, I told a woman a few years older than I (in response to her question) that I worked as a high school religion teacher.

“That must be the easiest job in world,” she said. “All you have to do is tell people what you think is true.”

Based on when she came of age, I suppose, that was her perception of what it means to teach the Catholic Faith. Not that we have a body of revealed truth to pass on. Not that God loves us and blesses us with clear guidance for a truly fulfilling life. Just a sharing of opinions—one as good as the next, none daring to lay claim as objectively true.

So how does the teaching of our Catholic faith occur throughout our archdiocese? Who tells catechists what to teach, what books to use, how to know if they’re doing a good job and what methods are likely to be effective?

First, we have archdiocesan curriculum guidelines listing specific content for various ages and grade levels. Catechists certainly don’t teach whatever they want—let alone whatever they think is true regardless of what God reveals in the teaching of his Church.

As for textbooks, all basic resources used in catechesis throughout southern and central Indiana come from a specific list of books whose doctrinal content conforms to that in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

These aren’t the textbooks of the 1970s and ‘80s, and our chief shepherd and catechist, Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein, has played a major role nationally in enhancing the content of these resources.

Is our teaching getting through?

One way we help answer that question is with the standardized religion survey Faith 2000. This instrument is administered at several levels, giving us a snapshot of where folks stand on their doctrinal knowledge. Faith 2000 can also gather information on a group’s religious attitudes and practices.

What about teaching methods?

Various ways of helping catechists teach our Catholic faith effectively are included in our current catechist certification effort. I say current because we are actively seeking to take formation, certification and renewal to the next level by using great new resources like our United States Catholic Catechism for Adults.

Another key ingredient in our catechetical effort is a process called Choosing Paths on the Journey. Choosing Paths is an annual continuous improvement strategy helping parish Faith Formation Commissions enhance catechetical ministry in their parish faith communities from one year to the next.

Would you like to have the easiest job in the world?

I can’t tell if you would find being a catechist easy because I don’t know if God is calling you to this beautiful, fulfilling ministry. But if you love our Catholic faith and would like to learn more—in part by helping draw others closer to Jesus as a catechist—please tell your parish administrator of religious education that you’d like to give it a try.

(Ken Ogorek is the archdiocesan director of catechesis.)

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