Saturday, March 21, 2015

Both children and adults...

This piece on the catechesis of confirmaton candidates crossed a couple of my timelines.

As both a parent and a volunteer catechist for the Confirmation program (which is for 16 year olds) here in Washington, I think there are a couple of points worth bearing in mind.

One truth of the article is that catechists should approach their jobs as supporting the students' parents rather than as people rescuing the students from their parents' poor work.  This has been the attitude I have tried to cultivate myself, and what I have observed in almost all of the other catechists I've worked with.

As with many other things in our engagement with the world, we need to balance engaging the world as it is with normalizing bad behaviors. It is true that many current Catholic parents are not currently well positioned to fulfill the role of "First Teachers of the faith" that they accepted at their children's baptisms. But does that mean we should base the design of our catechetical programs under the assumption that this will always be the case?

The "pull quote" from the piece is this:

If we have to choose between programs for adults and programs for children, adults are the priority.  Not because we don’t care about kids, but because we want what is best for kids.
I'm not certain I agree, unless we have a new vision of what adult faith formation programs look like.

If a parish offers a faith formation program, someone like me probably represents the outside edge of the set of adults who might possibly attend.  And even for me, it's probably not likely.  I work a full time job at a demanding employer, and am a father and husband.  Perhaps I should take my faith seriously enough that I would prioritize attending such a program, bit the reality is that I probably wouldn't.

More to the point, I'm not sure people like me are the ones the Church needs to be investing more effort in.

Now if I, the daily Rosarian, Confirmation catechist, who is bothering to blog about an article on catechesis, is unlikely to attend an adult formation program, how likely is it for the target of this program?  The person who has fallen away from the faith, who may have divorced and remarried or be cohabitating, hasn't been to confession in years, attends Mass semi-regularly, but does want her children to be confirmed due to some vestigial attachment to Catholicism.

I don't think offering adult formation classes instead of programs for candidates is likely to bring them back,

What may help is to see this time as an opportunity to evangelize to the parents as well as to the children.  To involve them in the process as much as possible.  To show them that the Church is there for them to support them in their role as parents.

It has long been my positions that we should offer a "First Teachers" program that runs at the same time as the formation program for teenagers and youth.  The problem is that often the youth programs take up all of the parish's facilities that could be used for such a program.  My current parish has Eucharistic adoration at the same time as Confirmation class, which is a nice opportunity for the parents, but is probably not the educational program imagined by the article.

On the parent side, I think we are perfectly capable of teaching our kids about the faith. Indeed, I think most of what they hear in faith formation classes are echoes of things they've already heard at home.  But it is nice for them to get another perspective, and I want them to know a community of other Catholic peer believers.  And it is important for them to know this community is in place as they move through adolescence and young adulthood.  This, more than nuts and bolts about the faith, is what they get from these programs.

And, in my judgment, giving our kids this is more important than providing (more) education for motivated adults, if we have to choose.

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