Question: I’m a reluctant catechist. I keep thinking there are folks more qualified for this than I. Yet here I am, saying yes but having second thoughts. Any advice for my situation?
CAROLE M. EIPERS RESPONDS …
We have many ancestors in faith who were just as reluctant to respond positively to God’s call. There were prophets who objected to their call, like Jeremiah, who simply declared he was too young, or Isaiah, who claimed he was not worthy, or Jonah, who tried to escape by water.
The vocation of the catechist is to become a “public figure.” People will now know you as one of the catechists, someone who teaches the faith. People might expect you to know all the answers. So, what excuses have you tried? “I am too young” or “too old“? “I am too busy” or just “I know someone who would be a better catechist”? Of course, if you are reading this, at some point you realized no excuse was adequate and you finally gave in.
I think reluctance is probably the hallmark of a good catechist. At least it is the hallmark of a beginning catechist. That reluctance stems, I think, from a recognition of the critical nature of what a catechist is asked to do: proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ and help the catechized to understand and to live the Catholic faith. There is a sense too of the immense richness of our faith and the profound mysteries of God’s love, of our redemption, of the work of the Holy Spirit, of forgiveness and grace, of sacramental encounters, and of the reality of eternal life as our goal.
There is, too, an appreciation of the uniqueness of each child and that child’s relationship with God, which makes us think, perhaps, that someone else — someone other than me — would surely be a more effective catechist. “Why me?” I asked when I received the invitation to be a catechist. And I kept hearing the reply, “Why not?”
When I became a parish director of religious education, the most important part of my job was to recruit catechists. Being on the inviting side, I can tell you it was not easy. But each day I would pray and remind God that this was his work, not mine. I would tell God that I had done all I could to get catechists, and now he had to help — send me people, and inspire them to say yes. Always, when we launched our catechetical program, we had all the catechists we needed. But I resent the comment “anyone can be a catechist.” That is not true, and no one who recruits catechists believes it.
But you can be a catechist, a good catechist. I know that because you have been called by someone who sees in you gifts that only you can bring. Someone has seen in you gifts that are necessary for the message of Jesus to be heard and understood and responded to. The fact that you are somewhat unsure or that you are downright afraid only confirms that you are the right person.
Think of the Pentecost story. There were the apostles, gathered in the upper room, doors locked, afraid that what happened to Jesus might happen to them,
as well. … Pentecost seems to me to indicate that fear and uncertainty might just be the threshold the Holy Spirit prefers.
I really don’t know any catechist who was totally confident and self-assured when beginning this ministry.
There are difficulties, and these may lead us to make objections to being a catechist, as some of the prophets did. You may be young, but that means you can bring energy and enthusiasm to this ministry. You may be older, but then you also have the wisdom
that comes from living your faith through the years. You may not be an orator, but you have words of comfort and encouragement that you can offer your class. You may lack outstanding talents, but you have all that is necessary: love for God, love for those you teach, faithfulness in your own discipleship, a commitment to growth.
[Editor’s Note: The above is excerpted from Catechist 101: Wade, Don’t Dive, by Carole M. Eipers, DMin., Copyright 2014. Published by Twenty-Third Publications. Used with permission. All rights reserved.]
CAROLE M. EIPERS, DMin is one of the key developers of the We Believe catechetical program (William H. Sadlier, Inc.) and has served in catechetical ministry at parish, diocesan, and national levels for more than 20 years.
PHOTOS: ZVONIMIR ATLETIC/SHUTTERSTOCK, Anneka/SHUTTERSTOCK
This article was originally published in Catechist magazine, March 2018.