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home : opinion : perspectives

9/21/2017 9:00:00 AM
PERSPECTIVE
Catechist formation builds up people of God
CATECHISTS AND OTHERS take a class at this year's Spring Enrichment, led by Peter Avvento, director of religious education at St. Edward's parish in Clifton Park.
CATECHISTS AND OTHERS take a class at this year's Spring Enrichment, led by Peter Avvento, director of religious education at St. Edward's parish in Clifton Park.
For a list of new catechist certifications in the Albany Diocese, see The Evangelist's print edition.
BY STEPHEN MAWN


The Albany Diocese has had a rich tradition of training and supporting its catechetical ministers -- the men and women teaching the faith at parishes and schools -- since the 1970s.

Founded upon principles found in Vatican and U.S. bishops' documents, the Diocese's guidelines for catechist formation have been revised over the years to bring them up to date and to address the needs of parishes and catechists.

What works with a 10th-grader will not necessarily work with a second-grader or an adult, so the guidelines provide certification "tracks" for several specialties: catechist of children, youth minister (catechist of teens), catechist of adults, intergenerational catechist and Catholic school teacher.

This training covers what to teach (the content) and how to teach it (methodology) while nurturing the catechist's faith life. Provisional certification should be in place before or during the first year in ministry. Thereafter, the Diocese expects its catechists, youth minsters and teachers to complete the equivalent of four two-hour courses each year toward certification.

Imagine that you are building a house. You start by purchasing the property, getting permits to begin construction, laying the foundation and erecting the walls and roof. As work progresses, you complete the interior and start on landscaping. After you've moved in and lived there for a while, there may be minor touch-ups or major renovations.

The training program for catechists is similar. Catechists start out by completing the first four of eight basic certification topics on fundamentals of faith and age-specific techniques in order to receive provisional certification. When they complete the remaining four topics, they receive basic certification.

Then there are 20 intermediate certification topics, the structural elements. Every time they complete four of these -- dealing with Scripture, Christology, the Catechism, morality, sacraments, the liturgical year or prayer and worship, for example -- they qualify for one level of intermediate certification. When they have completed all five intermediate levels, they qualify for full certification.

To pursue advanced certification, they would renew their full certification every third year by completing the equivalent of 12 two-hour, advanced-level courses. They would continue to do this until they completed the requirements for advanced certification: 64 hours of theology/Scripture, 16 hours of methodology and elective courses, and eight hours of spiritual renewal. After attaining advanced certification, they would continue taking courses and renew their certification every three years by completing the equivalent of 12 two-hour courses.

One opportunity for this training is the Diocese's annual Spring Enrichment, a series of courses and workshops held each May. Spring Enrichment will mark its 45th anniversary when it is next held: May 17-19, 2018.

But there are many other ways for catechists to take courses. Each fall, the Diocese offers a series of certification retreats toward provisional certification for catechists of children. This year, they will be at Corpus Christi parish in Round Lake Oct. 28, St. John's in Greenville Nov. 4 and St. Mary's Institute in Amsterdam Nov. 18.

Other diocesan programs may also provide instruction: for example, courses offered by the Kateri Institute for Lay Ministry Formation and at the annual Autumn Diocesan Gathering.

Presentations are also provided at the parish, school or vicariate level, offered by the Diocese or organized by parishes. A recent evening for catechists was sponsored by the parishes of the Twin Rivers vicariate at Immaculate Conception parish in Glenville. Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger will give a "Catholic Social Teaching 101" presentation Oct. 13 for the Greene County Catechetical Association. There will be an Oct. 25 presentation on the North American Martyrs for the Adirondack vicariate's catechists.

Opportunities also exist for mentoring, independent study, granting competency credit and online instruction. The Diocese's catechist formation program is working with two online platforms -- "Echoes of Faith 3.0" and "My Catholic Faith Delivered" -- to provide 24/7 access to this training. For those seeking more advanced instruction, programs offered by the University of Notre Dame and Dayton and Boston College are options.

Whenever a catechist, youth minister or Catholic school teach­er completes a course, he or she submits proof to the parish catechetical/youth ministry leader or school principal to be recorded on a certification transcript. When the person qualifies for a new level of certification, the leader submits a request to the diocesan Catholic Schools Office that he or she be certified.

This is important. Except for a participant receiving provisional certification at a diocesan offered certification retreat, no catechetical certification is granted by the Diocese unless requested by the person's parish or school. The individual is not operating as an independent contractor; he or she is serving on behalf of a parish or school community.

What does diocesan certification mean? First, it signifies that the catechist, youth minister or teacher has taken the obligation for ministerial and lifelong formation seriously and has made the effort to pursue classes or training to be a faithful and effective teacher of the faith.

Second, it shows that the parish or school has encouraged its catechetical ministers to pursue certification, maintains accurate records and requests certification when criteria are met.

Third, it is the Diocese's acknowledgement that the individual has put in the time and effort to complete necessary coursework to attain certification and is qualified to teach the faith.

Finally, it says to the parish or school community that it can be confident of the competence in both knowledge and skills of those engaged in catechetical ministry on its behalf.

We congratulate the men and women who either completed certification retreats last fall or whose parishes requested that they receive the Albany Diocese's catechetical certification for 2017. The listing of Catholic school teachers who have received certification over the past year will appear in the Catholic Schools Week issue of The Evangelist in January.

(Mr. Mawn is diocesan director of catechist formation. For more information, see the diocesan website or contact Stephen.mawn@rcda.org or 518-453-6602.)





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