As Pope Paul VI stated, “modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 41).
We live in a time where people will not tolerate a ‘do as I say and not as I do’ attitude about the faith. Children are particularly perceptive in their questioning and they have an innate sense of truth. This becomes particularly evident in their questioning in the classroom!
The best advice that I could give to any catechist is to be a strong witness to the faith and to be open to the children who will guide and inspire you as a catechist on your journey of faith. It is a reciprocal relationship - you will likely learn as much about your faith as a catechist as the children will learn from you. Sometimes the greatest lessons that we can learn come from watching and being like children. Their persistence, trust and fearlessness are lessons that we all can learn from in our faith lives.
As adults we often wear masks to hide how we are truly feeling from the world. We develop calloused hands and hearts as we experience disappointment, loss and regret. Sometimes as adults we forget to thank God for all of the blessings in our life and only become more prayerful when we are on our knees anguished and tortured. The challenge is to regain that sense of reliance and dependence on God when we struggle so much to be “in control” of our lives.
May your journey of faith be child-like but not childish as you reach out to all those who are struggling and hurting. Be like a child in your encouragement of those who need your help, offer a smile, a loving presence, a sense of Christ in your classroom. Reach out with humility, trust and love to all whom you encounter. Blessings on your catechetical year!
Julianne Donlon Stanz is Director of Adult Faith Formation and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Green Bay WI.