Introducing Family Catechesis
A new Diocesan course in Family Catechesis was introduced in 2017 to support Bishop Marcus' wish to encourage family catechesis in the Diocese of Leeds at the same time as changing the age of confirmation from Y9 to Year 6.
A diocesan working group drafted a new Diocesan Confirmation resource called 'Empowered by the Spirit' for Y6 based on the Family Catechesis model of working with parents and chidren together. The working group included catechists, head teachers, RE coordinators, youth ministry workers and family life ministry.
New course for Catechists
At the same time Linda Pennington, Co-ordinator for Catechesis & CCRS and Breda Theakston, Parenting Co-ordinator, worked together to develop a new course in Family Catechesis for all existing and new catechists in the diocese.
We created the new Diocesan Family Catechesis Course by adapting, with permission, the highly rated course used in Liverpool. The Archdiocese of Liverpool has many years' experience in introducing and using Family Catechesis and have been very helpful to us as we have started on this new path.
The course comprises three sessions and includes input on catechesis and family catechesis, reflection, prayer, sharing and practical exercises.
The course has now been delivered four times, twice at the Diocesan Pastoral Centre in Leeds, once in Bradford for Bradford Deanery and once at Blessed John Henry Newman, Cross Gates. Each time the feedback has been very positive and the course developed to take account of our experience delivering it.
So far over 65 people from different parishes and schools in the diocese have attended the new course.
The Family Catechesis Course is for anyone who wishes to learn how to be a catechist, so it is for new recruits as well as for people who are experienced catechists but want to know how Family Catechesis works.
BACKGROUND: Starting Family Catechesis
Following Bishop Marcus' pastoral letter of 2016, a change is being initiated in the age at which children can be confirmed from the previous norm of 13+ to ages 10/11/12, corresponding to school Year 6.
This change is in its transition stage this year or so please check with your parish priest to find out exactly what to do in your own case.
To go along with this age change for confirmation the Bishop recommended Family Catechesis as the new norm for sacramental preparation in our diocese. Eventually Family catechesis will be the norm for all the early sacraments of Baptism, First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion but we are starting with Confirmation as the age change means a new resource has to be prepared and a new catechists training course is being delivered.
By now (May 2018) we have delivered this course four times: twice at the Diocesan Pastoral Centre Leeds, once at St William's Bradford, and the final one for this academic year, at Blessed John Henry Newman, Cross Gates.
All course have been well attended and very well received and we have improved the experience as we have gone on.
Here are just a few of the comments:
'Excellent - thought provoking'
'Very worthwhile and inspirational'
'Very useful and valuable experience'
'Excellent: educational; affirming; enjoyable'
'Very enjoyable, good to share ideas with each other'
'Thanks you for such an inspiring and confidence building course'
'I enjoyed it very much. I was initially nervous and cynical about the idea of family catechesis but now I feel very much inspired'
There were practical opportunities to work on the new (developing) diocesan confirmation resource but there was also plenty of time for prayerful reflection and sharing.
One person reflected on this: 'I expected to hate journal writing but actually quite enjoyed it.'
So what IS Family Catechesis?
Family Catechesis is a process whereby parents and their children work together through different user-friendly sections of a sacramental programme. This happens at regular parish based meetings, which are facilitated by catechists, and at home.The principles of Family Catechesis come from several Church documents including Catechesi Tradendae which states that Family Catechesis:
• precedes other forms of catechesis by transmitting and witnessing to human and religious values from children's earliest years, within the home
• precedes and accompanies other forms of catechesis by the specific practice and behaviours adopted within the home at significant moments in family life
• accompanies and enriches catechesis from outside the home by validating and implementing that teaching and by showing how faith is lived in practice (CT 68)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that:
The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute. The right and duty of parents to educate their children are primordial and inalienable. (CCC 2221)
And the General Directory of Catechesis reaffirms the need for adult catechesis as the main method, which allows parents into the process rather than children being taught in a class like situation by a catechists acting as a teacher:
Catechesis for adults, since it deals with persons who are capable of an adherence that is fully responsible, must be considered the chief form of catechesis. All other forms, which are indeed always necessary, are in some way oriented to it. (GDC 59)
Thomas Groome tells us that essentially catechesis is the "activity of re-echoing or re-telling the story of Christian Faith that has been handed down." Parents are best placed to share their faith journey with their own children, even if they feel that they do not have a great grasp of the details of our faith.
Parents and children will be working together through the new Diocesan Confirmation resource 'Empowered by the Spirit' which has all the content they will need.
All the feedback from all four training courses for catechists that we have delivered this year has been positive and where there have been suggestions for improving the experience, we have taken them into account in planning the next course.
HERE ARE SOME OF THE THINGS PEOPLE SAID ABOUT THE NEW DIOCESAN FAMILY CATECHESIS COURSE:
• ‘informative and thought provoking'
• ‘I found it very spiritual'
• ‘the course was extremely enjoyable and well put together'
• ‘I will be telling others about this course'
• ‘It has been good to take time out to focus on my faith and share with others'
• ‘Very enjoyable, a good foundation for being a family catechist'
• ‘Thank you for excellent resources'
• ‘Thank you for planning/organisation & sensitivity'
• ‘Good, well worth coming'
• ‘a good, positive experience that has taught me a lot about the new system'
• ‘it was good to see how the principles of catechesis could be delivered in a new way that involves growth in families'
• ‘Thank you to Linda and Breda for a fabulous course'
• ‘I would recommend this as a course to all'
• ‘Sessions have been run so well and been so encouraging'
• ‘Informative; made things clearer about Family catechesis'
• ‘thank you for an inspiring course'
• ‘very enjoyable thank you! (both of you for your hard work)
• ‘although it was difficult to stand up in front of adults instead of young people it was really a spiritual experience, we all learnt from each other'
• ‘I felt I was on holy ground an unforgettable experience'
• AND WHAT HAVE YOU MOST ENJOYED?
• ‘Meeting other catechists'
• ‘The journal and sharing ideas'
• ‘Was apprehensive about the presentation but it was actually okay!'
• ‘Presenting 3 minutes. It could have been longer'
• ‘the presentations were a great way of learning what to say to parents and other people helping'
• ‘discussing our faith journeys'
• ‘Very informative'
• ‘I am optimistic that it will be helpful to both children & parents & the parish & the Church at large'
FAMILY CATECHESIS COURSE: Bradford
• Participants got a ‘hands on' experience of the new Diocesan Confirmation Resource: Confirmation: Empowered by the Spirit on Thursday evening 22nd March at Our Lady and St William's parish, Bradford.
• 'Excellent; well presented; thorough'
• It was the final session of the new 3-session Family Catechesis Course being led by Linda Pennington, Diocesan Catechetical Advisor, and Breda Theakston, Diocesan Parenting Coordinator, and each participant finally got the opportunity to lead part of a session of the new resource.
• 'Learning about myself and what I believe; has enhanced my religion'
• It sounds daunting but each did it in their own way and were very encouraged and affirmed by the feedback they got from the group. In fact the real challenge was that they only had 3 minutes: It's amazing how much can be conveyed in such a short time.
• 'Very relaxed atmosphere'
To find out how you can train to be a family catechist contact Emma at firstname.lastname@example.org