by The staff of Catechist
Catechist magazine is proud to recognize the outstanding work of exceptional catechists. In this section we highlight the lives and inspirational stories of real catechists who are “in the field” enlivening the faith in the hearts of the next generation of Catholics. To nominate a dedicated catechist from your parish, email email@example.com.
Maureen Wills: Catechist at St. Mary of the Assumption in Oswego, N.Y.
Your Work: Maureen Wills was so determined to share the fulfillment she experienced as a catechist that she wanted a letter placed in our parish bulletin in an effort to recruit catechists. She even asked our pastor if she could speak during Mass. Her motivation is her love of God and sharing her ministry with the world. This is what she wrote: “Someone asked me once, ‘Why are you a catechist?’ I told them the love I have for my students and I enjoy exploring our faith together. Faith formation is more than first reconciliation, first Communion, and confirmation; it is lifelong and ongoing. I enjoy the Faith formation classes I participate in because I learn new things about the Catholic faith and I re-learn things I had forgotten. I am learning to be the person God created me to be. I enjoy sharing the reasons for my deep beliefs and the reasons for my constant faith. So many times I find that my students have no real prayer life nor do they feel a real relationship with Jesus or the Holy Trinity. I believe I help them explore this in many different ways. Someone once said God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called. I hope this gets you to think about being a catechist, a classroom assistant, or even a substitute. Come forward and don’t wait for someone to personally ask you. If all we ever do is teach our youth who God is and how to have a rewarding and personal relationship with our Lord, we have done much.”
Nominated by: Deanne Hall of St. Mary of the Assumption in Oswego, N.Y.
What grade do you teach?
I teach fifth and sixth grades combined.
What’s the best spiritual book you’ve read?
The best spiritual book I have read is Kateri of the Mohawks by Marie Cecilia Buehrle. St. Kateri Tekakwitha was mistreated because she was nearly blind and physically deformed. She willingly took verbal and physical abuse and gave it up as penance. She treated everyone kindly and often took care of others who were ill. Though nearly blind, she created the most beautiful beadwork of any of the women. God took her sight and left her scarred yet he gave her the ability to create beauty. In many ways I can relate to Kateri.
What other spiritual practices are helpful to you?
Besides Mass, the other spiritual practices I find helpful are meditation and constant prayer.
Who is your favorite saint?
One of my favorite saints is St. Thérèse the Little Flower. Since I was seven years old, I prayed to St. Thérèse for the conversion of my mother to Catholicism. I asked for the rose bushes to bloom early if she was going to convert that year. The year I turned 15 years old the rose bush bloomed in April and on my birthday in December I was privileged to be my mother’s godmother. My other favorite saint is Kateri Tekakwitha who showed us that we can treat all people with kindness—including those who have offended or hurt us in any way. She taught us to offer these acts as penance for our sins and the sins of others.
Who has been the biggest influence on your faith?
The biggest influence on my faith was my grandfather. He was very devout and prayed for hours every day. He prayed for a specific intention for his son for many years. After a surgery when he had to have one of his legs removed, he told my mother he would give his other leg if the intention he was praying for would happen. A while later, my grandfather had his second leg removed. My mother visited him in the hospital and brought his mail. My grandfather read one of the letters that revealed that what he had been praying for, for so many years, had finally happened. My grandfather died when I was 12. I have all of his prayer cards and pray them often.
What’s the most challenging topic you’ve taught and how did you teach it?
I think one of the most challenging topics I have taught is the Bible and how it relates to the youth’s contemporary lives. I also find it challenging to answer questions about divorce, death of a loved one, sibling rivalry, inability to talk with their parents, trouble with friends or school, and so many other things. I find if I treat each question with the importance it deserves, with honesty and sincerity, God will give me the wisdom to know what to say. I am happy that I can help my students through a tough or confusing time.
Effective teaching moment:
When covering ways to pray with my students, I asked them to write letters to God. We sealed the envelopes and put the letters on our prayer altar. We also discussed memorized prayers, spontaneous prayer or “conversations” with God. We even talked about how music is prayer when we listen to Christian music or sing and dance with it as we give praise to God. I introduced them to meditation and lead them in a guided meditation about having a conversation with Jesus. I was surprised when the majority of the youth said how much they enjoyed the meditation and said that they understood Jesus’ life better. I was pleased when they asked me to do a guided meditation again the very next week.
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This article was written by the Catechist Staff and appeared in Catechist magazine, July 2016.
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