By JOEY REISTROFFER
TAYLORS — Kate Ristow delivered inspiration to the 140 or so catechists from the Piedmont Deanery who gathered for the 12th Annual Upstate Catechist Workshop at Prince of Peace.
A teacher for 30 years, Ristow packs her lessons with jokes and anecdotes to keep her listeners riveted. Now she is the director of children’s curriculum for Resources for Christian Living and a contributing editor for Catechist magazine. However, Ristow still enjoys going on the road and giving seminars on the Catholic faith: How to teach it, how to live it, how to enjoy it.
At the workshop, she told catechists that they must give their students two things — roots and wings.
“Teach them the rich history and tradition of the Catholic church,” Ristow said. “Help your kids know we have roots. We’re connected. We have a faith that is part of a history, and we are part of that history.”
She continued, “Let them know about Pope John Paul II. He is our 272nd pope, and we can trace that line of leadership way back to the apostles. I am just amazed that the same spirit who calls on us is the same spirit who called on our apostles 2,000 years ago.”
While children are learning about their faith, Ristow told the catechists to accept them right where they are in their lives and in their studies.
“As catechists, you are going to find kids that are hard to love,” she said. “Don’t give up. Think about Jesus. He loved us, and he died for us. This is a good news story, and we need to share that.”
It is crucial to communicate Jesus’ story with joy and enthusiasm, Ristow added. “That is our faith, and it is filled with vitality. Give the children that sense of wonder,” she said. “We need to show and demonstrate and live our love, and we have to get that across to the kids. We need to teach first, and then apply it to their lives.”
Ristow also emphasized that teachers need to decode the language of the faith when talking to children. “We throw a lot of our own secret language around to our kids without explaining it. Words like ‘resurrection’ and ‘paschal’ and ‘mystery of faith’ must be explained clearly. Once they understand, then they can move forward in their faith.”
She urged catechists not to get frustrated when the youngsters just don’t get it. “They are trying to make sense out of their life and their faith. They are trying to make things fit. Just be patient and let the Holy Spirit guide you.”
Ristow then hinted, “You are not catechists this year because you happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Surely that is the Holy Spirit at work.”
Her words inspired the roomful of teachers to go out and spread the faith to a new generation of Catholic children.
“She was wonderful, very inspiring,” said Kelly Weekes, a fourth-grade teacher at St. Mary Magdalene. “I just can’t wait to go get in my classroom.”
Andrea Kail, a teacher at Our Lady of Lourdes in Greenwood, agreed: “I was in awe. She is a very powerful speaker, and what she said was very heartfelt.”