How do you help kids become better Catholics? What do you do to carry out the mission of the Church as the Director of Religious Education?
Our job as religious educators is not so much helping kids become better Catholics, but rather helping parents help their kids become better Catholics—or at least better catechized Catholics anyway.
|St. Viator of Lyons (d. 390), catechist & martyr|
And the party primarily responsible for that formation and catechesis? The parents. Religious educators only serve to assist parents in their critical responsibility of raising their children in the faith. In religious ed classes for those not in Catholic schools, participants have contact with their catechists maybe once or twice a week. Kids in Catholic schools? Maybe once a day, along with an integrated Catholic perspective throughout the curriculum hopefully.
But regardless of type and amount of formal instruction, the real place young people are formed in their faith is at home, where they see moms and dads, older siblings, and other family members putting that faith into action. All the classroom instruction in the world won't mean a thing unless it's accompanied by exposure to what it looks like in real life—especially in the real lives of those we love and respect and look up to.
|St. Charles Lwanga (1860/65-1886), Ugandan catechist and martyr|
So, my role as a DRE? I try to recruit catechists (teachers) who have that same vision and are trying to live it out themselves—that's the first requirement. Curriculum, teaching strategies, classroom management, and all that technical stuff is way down on the list. What matters first and foremost is that a potential catechist affirms the Faith of the Church and aspires to live it out—that he or she has embraced Christ and is striving to grow in that embrace.
If I can identify and recruit enough people like that to lead our religious education classes every fall, then the rest will follow. Say a prayer for us as we look forward to finding additional people like that for next year, and please consider becoming a catechist yourself!
A version of this story appeared on MyYearofFaith.com, Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.