Today, there are multiple models for Catholic faith formation that allow Catholic parishes and schools to serve a larger number of families by offering options and flexible scheduling.
Apply Spiritual Attitudes
Holiness thrives in an environment conducive to its growth. What sort of sacred spaces can you create in and around your school or parish that will foster a call to holiness among your catechists and students? The 5 Spiritual Attitudes for Your Parish or School Tip Sheet offers suggestions for parish catechetical leaders and directors of religious education for applying the spiritual attitudes named in Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad) to your parish catechetical or Catholic school ministry.
Adapt if Needed
Remote catechesis and distance learning are important components of flexible faith formation programs and ensure that religious education can still happen if and when physical buildings are closed.
A crucial element of running an effective religious education program is effective catechists who have the formation and training they need. Help those who will be catechizing your students to understand the vision and theme for your religious education program and prepare them to carry it into their own classrooms. Ensure that parish volunteers, who are giving up their time to help spread the Gospel message to students, are well prepared and well informed for the journey ahead. Formation opportunities, like the outline offered in this three-session Catechist Training Workshop help prepare novice and seasoned catechists for a new year of religious education.
Be sure that catechists also have and know where to find the resources that they need to get off to a good start!
Start with Prayer
The start of the school year represents a time of new beginnings and possibilities for catechetical leaders, catechists, students, and families alike. Pray the Prayer for a New School Year Prayer Card, and then take time to write down your own feelings about the new year of religious education approaching. Place your writing in a calendar or journal where you will find it when the year ends. It is likely to provide some interesting insights into the expectations you hold now and how they are met this year. Encourage catechists to share in this exercise and write down and revisit their own insights as well.
As leaders, catechists, children, and families gather again or for the very first time, planning an event that brings together all the participants in your program will set the tone for a new year of religious education. The Beginning the School Year Prayer Service is wonderful resource to help leaders plan an effective “back to religious education” gathering. The prayer service includes a Scripture reading, traditional prayer, and the option for music and song. It also includes a special blessing of the catechetical materials that the students will learn from and be inspired by throughout the year. The Scripture reading and Prayers of the Faithful allow for the participation of readers, who can be catechists or students. At the very end of the prayer service, a fitting sign of peace is shared among all program participants.
Adapt this flexible and simple event into a virtual gathering if social distancing prohibits an in-person event for your parish or school. Plan to include all program participants in this simple prayer service to set the tone for your new year of Catholic religious education. Invite input from catechists to help you bring the prayer service to life and tailor it to your own program by adding elements unique to your parish. You may even wish to invite the parish priest to welcome and address the participants during the prayer service. Use it with a single class or an entire program. In any instance, the prayer service will place your students and your year in the presence of God.
A new year of religious education is a new opportunity for leaders to form catechists and welcome families back to religious education. Rely on these resources to set the tone for a meaningful and engaging year of religious education in your Catholic school or Catholic parish.