New year brings new formation opportunities for catechists

By Katherine Long, Editor

Parish Faith Formation students won’t be the only ones growing in faith this school year — their catechists and catechetical leaders will have new opportunities to continue their formation as well.

The Office of Faith Formation is bringing three new avenues for foundational and continuing formation to the diocese’s more than 2,000 faith formation teachers and leaders, according to director Cathy Cornue: the Heart of the Catechist, Echoes of Faith 3.0, and Echoes of Faith Plus.

The Heart of the Catechist is a 2.5-hour session, developed by Associate Directors of Faith Formation Andrea Schaffer and Andrea Slaven, that focuses on the vocation of being a catechist. The program grew out of the pair’s work with parishes in Chenango County that were looking for a one-day event that would invigorate and educate their catechists, Schaffer explained. The program is now being made available to all catechists as part of their foundational formation.

The program’s sections are drawn from the three main topics of Pope Francis’ 2013 address to participants in the International Congress on Catechesis: abide in Christ, the dynamism of love, and going to the outskirts, Slaven said. Through small and large group discussions and activities, participants also explore the six tasks of catechesis: knowledge, liturgy and sacraments, morality, living in the Christian community, prayer, and evangelization and the apostolic life, she added.

The hope is that through the program catechists will come to understand they’ve been “called by God to be a catechist,” Schaffer said. “You’re not only a volunteer; you’ve been called and gifted to do this work.” She also hopes they’ll be inspired to continue the work and feel thanked for doing it, she noted.

Amy Wojcikowski, Director of Faith Formation at Immaculate Heart of Mary and St. Joseph the Worker Parishes in Liverpool, recently participated in the program with ten catechists from the parishes.

“It was a great way to kick off the year with our catechists,” she said. Not only was the experience fun, she said, but the collaboration between participants allowed everyone to “bring their experience and love of God to the table.” Wojcikowski said she was blown away by the catechists’ response to the program, and that they’re now looking to continue their formation through the Echoes of Faith Plus program.

Echoes of Faith is a national catechist formation program; the Plus program is an in-person version, while 3.0 is web-based. The courses include Getting Started as a Catechist; I Believe, We Believe; Liturgy and Sacraments; Morality; Prayer and Spirituality; Scripture; and The Learner.

A certified Director or Associate of Faith Formation might lead a parish’s catechists in the in-person Plus program, Cornue explained, whereas catechists in the 3.0 program will receive an access code that allows them to complete the lessons on their own schedule for up to a year. Catechists in the 3.0 program will also be matched with a mentor who will journey through the program with them, Cornue said.

The Echoes programs will replace previous catechist formation courses used by the diocese, Cornue explained. The Office of Faith Formation will introduce the Echoes programs to catechists and leaders after Thanksgiving and officially launch the programs in January, she said.

The new programs are an effort to “help them [catechists] enrich their own background and ability to share the faith with children and teens and parents, while being very aware of their family and work responsibilities and their very busy schedules,” Cornue said.

Both programs are offered through the Office of Faith Formation at no cost to the catechists or their parishes, Cornue stated, thanks to funds available through the Heritage Campaign. Those funds also provide for small scholarships toward continuing catechist formation courses through the University of Dayton’s Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation, the Loyola Institute for Ministry Extension Program, and other institutions, she noted.

All three of the diocese’s new programs are about learning, “journeying together, and deepening our own experience of faith,” Cornue said. “We can’t give what we don’t have.”

Catechetical leaders interested in bringing The Heart of the Catechist to their parish can contact Cathy Cornue in the Office of Faith Formation at (315) 470-1431 or ccornue@syrdio.org. To learn more about catechist formation opportunities, visit faithformationevents.weebly.com.

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