Piles of Bibles. Workbooks. Boxes of pens. Stacks of papers.
I feel a strong need to conduct an end-of-year inventory. I am not so much wanting to count physical supplies (although this would be helpful). Rather, I feel the need to reflect on the quality of our parish ministry.
What was in great supply this past year? What was in short supply? Do we need to borrow for the future? Can we lend from our surplus? As a community, have we been good stewards?
The program year can easily end with quickly drafting supply lists, emptying out physical spaces, and offering hurried goodbyes. And in it all, we can miss the opportunity to engage others in the larger task of why we have gathered all year. Treasured stories, graced moments, and surprise encounters with people or ideas need to be recalled, shared, and noted.
Before the year officially ends, consider the possibility of conducting an intentional spiritual inventory for all those committed to catechesis in your parish. The end results may increase your net worth in ways you had not imagined.
Parish life in Spring can be filled with celebrations of Sacraments, graduations, and appreciation dinners. It may seem difficult to imagine adding one more event to the calendar. So consider this inventory a gift to all who participate, rather than an extra burden.
Plan a light brunch, an afternoon tea, or a potluck supper that has a firm beginning and ending time. While the context may be social and include food, be definite about the intent of bringing people together. This is a gathering to reflect on our experience this past year of catechesis.
When ample time has been spent enjoying each other’s company and the good food, gather people in a separate space (a small chapel, a circle, a quiet room). Perhaps using soft music or changing the lighting will aid in shifting the mood from social to reflective. The goal is to invite the gathered community to reminisce over this past program year and to note the challenges amidst the graced moments that made up their common ministry. There are many ways this might occur.
Listening to God’s word together can provide an excellent way to recognize the God who has been at work among us. Sharing common joys and different perspectives on struggles, challenges, and frustrations can surface when groups break open God’s Word as it reflects on their ministry.
There are many Scripture quotes that might evoke a response from a group such as this. I have used “I no longer call you servant but friend” (John 15:15), “Let the little children come to me” (Luke 18:15-17), “The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me” (Luke 4:18; Isaiah 61:1), and “You will listen and listen again and not understand, see and see again and not perceive” (Matthew 13:14; Isaiah 6:9).
Scripture takes us beyond the letter. Using God’s Word, we are invited to reflect on what we are about and how we are challenged to humbly accept our limitations and seek God’s continuing help. Scripture never fails to inform, enlighten, and fill us with gratitude that we have been called to ministry. In my opinion, it is the best tool for a spiritual inventory.
Our culture seems obsessed with lists. Books, websites, and talk shows are forever inviting us to make lists. In this past year, I have received two journals that invite the writer to summarize her “life in lists.” Between sound bites and twittering, this appears to be a new trend of a succinct way of communicating.
Never one to shy away from trying new ways of reaching others, I sense making lists might be an effective tool of inventory. Invite catechists to gather and bring along their lists you have asked them to reflect on. Perhaps something like “3 defining moments this past year,” “10 things I need to do catechesis well,” “5 things I could live without in my ministry.”
Your knowledge of those you minister with will make this an enjoyable yet probing inventory. This method might work well with a group of people who do not know each other well. For unlike lectio divina, it may not require a depth of sharing.
Examination of Conscience
The last method of inventory that might be effective would be to use your gathering to conduct a group examination of catechetical conscience. The questions to be asked could be formed from your parish vision of catechesis or perhaps using a document, such as the National Directory for Catechesis.
Examples include: “Do I understand my service as a ministry rooted in Baptism?” or “Do I view myself as someone who echoes God’s Word?” This inventory might be a silent reflection on questions or a written response depending on the nature of your group.
The tools or methods we use to conduct an inventory may vary by our circumstances and parish life. What is important is to take the time and stand back to see all that God has accomplished—and to give thanks for the surplus of gifts we have shared.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was originally published in Catechist magazine, February 2010.
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