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You Just Don’t Know How Much You Just Don’t Know by: Carlos A. Torres Most Blessed Sacrament Parish Wakefield, MA (as appeared in The Pilot October 22, 2010)

Like most first time catechists, I thought that I must have had a moment of temporary insanity when I decided to answer the call to become a catechist two years ago at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Wakefield. I mean, did I seriously think I was qualified to handle a 6 th grade Religious Education class? Sure, I went through 12 years of Catholic school, but that ended nearly two decades ago, so I was pretty rusty to say the least.

As I started reading the catechist manual and preparing lessons, I began to appreciate the phrase, “you just don’t know how much you just don’t know”. While I had a fair memory of the basics, this material was much more in depth then I was expecting. It quickly became apparent that I needed a refresher; after all, I had a responsibility to provide authentic catechesis to my students and I didn’t want to short change them, or more selfishly, embarrass myself.

I started by trying to find my own resources to use as a refresher, and through that search I realized that there was a better way. The Archdiocese offered a number of Catechist Certification options. They all seemed like good choices, but with my unpredictable schedule, the online training through the Virtual Learning Center for Faith Formation (VLCFF) at the University of Dayton seemed like the most realistic option.

The beauty of this program is the flexibility that it offers from a scheduling standpoint. Each course was 5 weeks in length and I had deliverables and discussion topics due each week; but because it was all done online, it was completely up to me whether I submitted my materials at 6PM on a Monday, at 4AM on Wednesday or any other time that was convenient for me throughout the week. The discussions were all based on that week’s material and took place in the courses message boards. The dialogue between students, as well as with the facilitators, was excellent. Additionally, it validated my own feelings about this ministry because other participants had similar feelings. I was not alone!

The two required courses that I took through the VLCFF were “Catholic Beliefs” and “Introduction to Catechesis”. These courses not only helped me understand what it really meant to be a catechist, but it helped strengthen my knowledge of the Church’s teachings around the use of Scripture and Tradition, including distinguishing between “Tradition” and “tradition”. For example, I came away with a completely new appreciation for the Nicene Creed after these courses.

Beyond the two online courses, the one last step for certification was to take a course called Roots of our Faith. This is a course that is offered periodically throughout the year at parishes within the Archdiocese. The two-hour session was led by Ceila Sirios, an educator of Catholic Scripture, and Naomi Towvim from the Jewish Education Bureau. They did a great job of connecting the Catholic faith to its

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roots found deep in the Jewish faith and tradition. I quickly began to appreciate how the beauty of the Jewish tradition has impacted our own. Additionally, it helped increase my understanding of who the various groups mentioned in scripture really were and lastly, it stressed the harmony that exists between the two faiths in today’s society.

Reflecting on my experiences throughout the certification process, I have a new appreciation for the importance of catechist formation. The resources exist, but catechists must choose to take advantage of them. This process has not only fortified the catechesis that I received in my youth, but it has helped deepen my faith now as an adult. It’s provided me with a strong foundation for providing authentic catechesis to the students placed in my charge. I have to admit, I had the misconception that obtaining the certificate was the important part; that it represented how much I learned and grew. In reality, the knowledge itself and how I’ve put that knowledge and faith to use is what really matters. If you are a catechist within the Archdiocese and have not gone through the certification process, I cannot recommend it enough. If you are like me, it will just be the beginning of your formation. This fall, I’m taking “Introduction to Prayer” at the VLCFF, because like for all of us, there is so much more to learn.

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