Saturday, September 26, 2009

New start

In many parishes throughout the Catholic Church in America this is the time that catechetical programs are starting. In the long hot days of summer many parishes wind down their programs. Not that things stop entirely. Many parishes participate in Summer Youth Conferences, such as those sponsored by Franciscan University, and held throughout the United States and Canada. Many also participate in work camps through Sacred Heart or another group. Many diocese also hold diocesan youth conferences. Bible youth Day Camps, a concept borrowed from our Protestant brothers and sisters, have also made inroads in many places. The summer is not without church related activities, but few parishes run their regular weekly catechetical programs through the summer. Hence at this time of year they must wind up their efforts to restart their youth and sometimes adult catechisis programs.
In my own parish we have instituted a very large shake-up by moving to a full parish catechetical program. That means whole families, adult youth and teen programs, which meet every Sunday for several hours. We have even gone so far as to move our Mass times in order to support this. At this point we are unsure of just how many parishioners will regularly attend these sessions. We can be fairly sure those with young children will come. Our Director of Religious Education has made it quite clear that, being that parents are the primary teachers of their children in the faith, that is expected that parent will participate. Strong support of the pastor has prevent misunderstandings about the duties of these parents.
Teens, especially those who can drive themselves, and adults are another matter. We have very little leverage, other that the pastors support for the program, to make adults attend these sessions.
A good sales pitch helps. We are studying the Bible this year, but don't intend to limit this program to "Bible Study." Next year the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults is already on our schedule.
In a world where far too many post VII Catholics are ignorant of the teachings of their own religion adult catechisis is the answer. We had already tried the parish wide weekday evening programs. They mostly attracted the same hand full of parishioners who were already familiar with the tenants of Catholicism, the Bible and often prayer forms such as the liturgy of Hours. We were reaching those who least needed our efforts, though of course all progressed in their faith as a result of these programs. The programs themselves were not wasted, but reaching thirty to forty people out of a parish of 800 families is pretty dismal. By placing our sessions between Sunday Masses we hope people will be willing to come early or stay late to attend.
This is also majorly impacting our youth program. We have used Life Teen for years. We have never done a Youth Mass as part of our program. We have met every Sunday evening separate from Liturgy and have been, I think, moderately successful at filling the Youth Group room every week. Now that teens will be meeting in the morning we have scaled Life Teen back to twice a month, and will spend more time addressing issues rather than strait catechisis.
As can be expect not everyone is enamored of the program. A certain number feel set upon because their favorite Mass time has changed, Others simply don't want to spend more time at Church. (These tend to be the same ones who complain when their is a Baptism at Mass or when the homily goes more than 8 minutes.) I don't expect to see them at any of our programs, and perhaps not any more at the Masses, there being several other Catholic parishes within a short distance.
So we set out on a brand new course. I ask for your prayers and will post on how its going.

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