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Begin with a Vision
by Marlene Sweeney
"And what might the new catechetical year ahead hold?"
“And what might the new catechetical year ahead hold?”

As the facilitator proposed her question, she picked up a marker and began writing on the white board responses called out by the group: new faces; plans and projects; moments of prayer; schedules and expectations; learning and discoveries; sacramental moments; conflict and loss; laughter; surprises; heartache; passion and possibilities; work; joy; God among us. Clearly, this group of religious educators was not at a loss for envisioning the future.

Regardless of where we work or the amount of experience we bring to our positions, most directors of religious education begin a new catechetical year with many similar dreams and hopes about what the year ahead might contain. Listening to other people’s thoughts about their future helped me recognize the common passion we all carry for possibility and potential. We all begin our imagined tomorrow wanting what is best for the families we serve, trusting in God’s plans, and allowing ourselves to be open to what is yet to be revealed.

The “group dreaming” I experienced that planning day was time well spent with my peers, collaborating and working together. I returned to my parish and did my homework—an assignment that I would invite all of you to consider. Create a vision board.

My Vision Board

As catechetical leaders, we do not have to create a vision. “The fundamental tasks of catechesis” have been established for us in the General Directory for Catechesis (nos. 85-86): to promote knowledge of faith; liturgical education; moral formation; and teaching others to pray. “Other fundamental tasks” include preparing people to live in community and initiating a missionary spirit.

As parish leaders we do not need to create the vision; we need only tend to it. One way we can help others be mindful of why we do what we do is to provide visual images.

Many of us have been taught to begin our ministry year with specific goals. Inviting others to establish goals based on our catechetical tasks is an excellent tool to keep the vision alive. Through the years, I have stressed the importance of goals being attainable, measurable, and specific. I have tried to limit goals to three, four, or five priority items that will bring the best overall improvement to our mission. However, although developing and writing down these goals is important, too often the list gets lost in the usual paper flood that accompanies the start of the program year.

So this year I plan on constructing a vision board.

Begin to Imagine

Because I am a visual learner, I took to the idea of a vision board from the first time it was presented. Other less-enthusiastic participants admitted to the value of a vision board after seeing their goals in pictures and drawings—as opposed to the usual words. Regardless of your personal style, consider using a large poster or chipboard.

With a focus on the goals you have set for the coming year, spend some quiet, prayerful time looking through magazines, old textbooks, photos, children’s art, greeting cards, calendars, postcards, and mementos you have saved from your ministry. From them, select images or words that speak to your goals and prayers for the coming year.

Arrange the images on your poster board or chipboard. If you are artistic, you might choose to draw some of your own images or scrawl keywords or phrases over the pictures. There are no rules for constructing a vision board. The goal is to create a collage that provides a visceral visual of how you see the year ahead.

Spend time studying the board before you decide to glue down the images. In the world of art, of course, nothing is permanent, so you can always paste over an image or add to the work during the year.

When you have completed your vision board, share it with your co-workers and catechists. Goals shared invite accountability. Choose to display the vision board in a prominent place in your work space. In our digital environment, people may want to scan the original work and post it on their websites. You may want to use your vision board in a number of motivational ways to attract volunteers or parents to join you in your parish’s catechetical mission.

What God Brings to Sight

We are all aware that no one can predict the future. Yet, God gifts us with the ability to imagine. Each of us has been charged with imagining and planning the year ahead. Fill it with God’s word, loving actions, and solid teaching—and stand back to see what God brings to sight.

Marlene Sweeney, MEd, MA, is a Certified Pastoral Associate in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Marlene is a writer and poet whose works have appeared in numerous books and periodicals. E-mail Marlene at

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