Total family education and involvement can revitalize catechesis


COLUMBIA — “I think you should start every catechetical class, every meal, and even every meeting with two questions, ‘What is happening in your life right now?’ and once everyone has answered, ask, ‘How is God present?'” said Bill Huebsch. He was the guest speaker at the in-service program for diocesan catechetical leaders, “The Changing Call of the Catechist Since Vatican II,” held on Sept. 29 at the Holiday Inn Northeast.

Huebsch gave a three-part lecture where he presented his historical perspective on Vatican II, expounded on what he felt was the predominant theme of the council and concluded with how he would design a religious education program that would reflect that vision. The graduate from the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and former member of the Crosier community of brothers came to share some of the experiences he has encountered around the country as a catechist.

He emphasized that the basis for all catechesis is helping someone see God’s hand in his or her life. Huebsch added that it was not something catechists can accomplish alone. They would need commitment from the parents and the rest of the church community to reinforce and to live the “Good News.” He handed out a contract called the 50-50 Partnership that he used in his parish. In the contract, parents and teachers agree to work together, sharing the responsibility of teaching the faith. The parish agreed to make “Sunday Assembly and Programs of Formation available as a support for households.”

Director of Religious Education and Youth Ministry at Prince of Peace in Taylors, Nancy Chandler, liked the idea of having a tangible piece of paper that parents and teachers sign such as the 50-50 Partnership Contract. She sees the trend of total family education and involvement as a way to revitalize catechesis and felt Huebsch was “right on the money.”

“Catechesis has been seen for many years as a single means of teaching the faith. The same model is used over and over every year often times resulting with a minimal response on the part of children. Bill challenged us to pursue or seek a broader means and approach to doing faith formation,” said Paul Schroeder, director of the diocesan Office of Evangelization, Initiation and Catechesis, which sponsored the lecture.

At the end, Huebsch gave a few suggestions on how to make faith formation more exciting such as using a textbook that is a “page turner” and having students participate in a “hands on” manner. He also asked some of the parish leaders to share their ideas with the group.

“When you have a teacher who loves teaching the faith, that enthusiasm fills the room such that it does not matter how the chairs are arranged,” suggested Mary Ann Sanborn from Precious Blood of Christ on Pawley’s Island.

“Teaching the faith is not perfectly ordered. It can be messy because everyone makes the journey at their own speed,” said Huebsch, who believes that if catechists “help people realize that God is already present in their lives” the path becomes a little clearer.