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Intentional Catechists

I had a little bit of an epiphany this morning. I am getting ready to begin teaching 7th grade religious education again this year. As always, I am mulling over in my head just exactly how I am going to draw parents into the program. I kept thinking, “How do I make these parents into the primary catechists?” Bzzzzzzz…. Wrong question! Like it or not—whether they know it or not—these parents are the primary catechists. They are the most important teachers of the faith.

My goal should be to help these parents become intentional catechists. They need to see that their attitudes towards the Church, towards Mass, towards prayer, towards religious education and towards vocations are their lesson plans. If they dismiss any of these, most likely their children will as well.

If parents only attend Mass when Grandmother is in town, should they be surprised when their children see going to church as a social obligation rather than an act of faith? If children do not see their parents pray, will they learn to pray? If children do not see their parents developing a deeper faith through religious education, will they aspire to know more about their faith? If children see parents eschew Church teachings, will they stand firm in these teachings when the popular culture advocates otherwise? In most cases, the answer to each of these questions is “no”.

My job as a parish catechist is to help parents make a conscious, intentional effort to instruct their children in their faith. They are going to teach their children. I need to help them make sure they are teaching what they want them to learn.


Susan Stabile said…
Good luck. I taught 7th grade religious education for two years in my old parish and had great difficulty getting the parents involved in a conscious, intentional way.
One of my great frustrations was when I told the students one of their choices for weekly homework would be to write a short reflection on something they learned from the homily that week. Immediately a number raised their hands, all wanting to make the same point: "We don't go to mass every week so how can we do that?"
Jim said…
Please allow me to echo what Susan just said above.

For years my Dad taught CCD here in suburban New Jersey to various grade levels. As is his custom, on the first day of class, my father would ask his students how many regularly go to Sunday Mass. Over the last decade or so, only about 25% to 33% of his students said that they actually attend Sunday Mass. Moreover, of those that do attend Mass, a considerable portion are merely dropped off by their parents to attend Mass alone or with a friend. The parents then return an hour later to pick the children up and bring them home.

If you do figure out a way, Dr. Hunnell, to make the parents of your CCD students into better, more active Catholics, I sure hope you'll share your secrets with your readers here.

Incidentally, good luck with this year's class. My prayers are with both you and your students. God bless.

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