Professional development and collaboration promote growth
VICTORIA RADLEIGH SMITH
This is an exciting and challenging time in our Church’s history. It may seem that everything is changing by the minute. As catechists, our vocation necessitates a commitment to lifelong formation. While the mission remains the same, the means by which the message is transmitted must evolve. The General Directory for Catechesis states that “instruments provided for catechesis cannot be truly effective unless well used by trained catechists” (GDC, 108a). Professional development is essential and must move the catechist toward becoming a more effective leader in their field.
The National Conference for Catechetical Leadership (NCCL) is the only independent national organization dedicated exclusively to the Church’s teaching mission. Having evolved from the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD), NCCL has a long history of supporting catechetical leaders. Today, more than 90 percent of all dioceses have representation within NCCL. By joining a membership organization, catechists have access to professional development, resources, and networking all in one place. Members can be confident that they are collaborating with the nation’s finest leaders and that their membership will make an impact at the local and national level.
When we become members of an organization, we make public and formal commitments to become owners of the organization and keepers of the mission. By joining membership organizations, we make our presence visible. It is said that the sum is only as good as its parts. Just as the body of Christ is strengthened through the diversity of each part, so an organization is strengthened by the gifts and perspectives of each member. Our affiliation communicates to others that we take our position seriously and that we share in the responsibility for the work of our vocation. Our presence also brings the needs of our community to the forefront. When we do not commit to membership, we relinquish our seat at the table. We lose our representation and miss out on the opportunity to collaborate with others who share in our work.
Membership organizations allow us to celebrate the diversity of the Church while remaining centered on mission. It’s easy for us to lose perspective by surrounding ourselves with others from our local area who likely think and serve like we do. Pope Francis challenges us to be a Church of collaborators. True collaboration invites us to be in community with others. It challenges us to see from the perspective of those whose lived reality of faith might greatly differ from our own. Through dialogue with our colleagues in ministry, we can discuss new ideas, emerging trends, best practices, statistical data, and experiential anecdotes. Through community, we realize that we are not alone in this work. We allow ourselves to be mentored and enriched by those who have come before us, and we commit to carrying on that legacy by accompanying others just beginning their professional journey.
In a time when financial resources are often limited, membership organizations give us exceptional value through a wide array of tangible benefits. These include access to events at the regional and national level, professional development opportunities, and special perks such as discounts, giveaways, and scholarships. Members also have unlimited access to digital resources, such as tools, webinars, workshops, interest groups, and published works. These resources can be utilized in the summer months or routinely throughout the year. Members are encouraged to contribute to the work of the organization by leveraging their talents, skills, and expertise. Through membership, we hold each other accountable to the mission of our vocation and advance the field of catechesis and evangelization in the United States.
To find out more about these and other resources, please visit NCCL.org.
VICTORIA RADLEIGH SMITH serves as the director of Mission Integration for the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. She and her husband, Andrew, reside in Southern California.
This article was originally published in Catechist, April-May 2020.