That was the first time that I had any interaction with other catechetical ministers, and my eyes were opened!
How was I called to be a catechist? I didn’t realize it, but it was happening most of my adult life.
I had been involved in youth ministry activities in my parish throughout high school, so when I went away to graduate school I was looking for something to do at my new parish. There was a call in the bulletin for youth group helpers, so I volunteered. This was my first foray into being a minister rather than being ministered to. I chaperoned trips and sleepovers, led retreats, served meals, drove kids across town, all the things that ministers do without a second thought. I have a photo of myself with several of the boys from that group at their Confirmation. I keep it in my office as a reminder of my first adventure in ministry.
I continued to remain active in whatever parish I found myself in over the years, and after I got married and settled in a new town, my husband and I volunteered to help with Vacation Bible School and at a few other parish events.
When the DRE left to take a full-time teaching job at a local school, she asked me if I’d considered applying for her job. I could honestly say that I had not; the thought had not even crossed my mind! I was teaching at the local community college and felt that my plate was full. But once she asked the question, I started thinking about it and asked her more questions about the responsibilities and hours. She felt confident that I could do the work of DRE and still keep teaching my classes at the college, so I decided to apply.
I found out later that I was one of three candidates, that one of them had admitted in the interview that she “didn’t like children,” and that I was the first choice that the hiring committee recommended to the pastor. I was truly surprised that they hired me because I had no “official” catechetical training (I had no idea at the time that that was the norm for most catechetical ministers).
My first day of work was my 27th birthday, and that first year was certainly “trial by fire.” I had limited access to the previous DRE since she was already at her new job, I was starting in the middle of the school year, and I was the only catechetical minister in the parish. I learned about a catechetical retreat in my diocese called “Shepherding the Shepherds, which was sponsored by the NPCD, a catechetical ministry of the NCEA, which has since disbanded. That was the first time that I had any interaction with other catechetical ministers, and my eyes were opened! It was so comforting to hear similar stories and struggles of ministry, to ask questions, to have a sounding board, and to learn about other opportunities. Many of the parish ministers I met at that retreat remain friends and mentors today.
That retreat set the course that I have remained on since, now 20+ years later. I eventually went on to get my Master of Pastoral Studies and become a Master Catechist in my diocese. I continue to be thankful for the opportunities in catechesis that God has given me, which includes the people, ideas, and events I have encountered through NCCL and now In Word and Witness.
My whole life was oriented to becoming a teacher, and I realize now that God did indeed make me a teacher, just not in the way I imagined. Ministering to people and families of all ages, in all stages of life, in every shape and color and mindset, is the mission God has given me. Pastors come and go, some days are harder than others, and often “the grass is always greener…,” but I know that ultimately I am a servant of Jesus, and he is always there!