Faith Formation revises catechist guidelines

By Maureen Smith
Jackson – Among the projects in the works in the diocesan Department of Faith Formation this year: reinvigorate youth ministry with a new director, plans for diocesan gatherings and new energy; train and certify more lay catechists than ever; find a new director of family ministry; and revise the catechist companion, the book used as a guide for catechists in parishes and schools throughout the diocese.
Fran Lavelle is the head of faith formation. She works with diocesan coordinators and parish employees and volunteers to make sure Catholics can deepen their knowledge and faith at every stage of their lives. This means ensuring children in religious education are reaching certain milestones as they mature, offering rich faith opportunities to young adults and college students, preparing couples for marriage and supporting them in family life and making opportunities available for adults to explore church teachings and spirituality.041516catechistcompanion
A cornerstone in ensuring that we are setting young Catholics on a path of life-long learning and a love of their faith is good catechesis.  One of the major aid in this work is the Catechist Companion, a guidebook for teachers guiding students in religious education and preparing young people and their families for the sacraments of initiation. As Bishop Joseph Kopacz writes in his letter of introduction, “The most important work of the church is in passing the faith on to subsequent generations.”
“We want to respect each community’s approach to preparing their children for sacraments, but we also need to set some expectations of what they will know when they approach the altar,” said Lavelle. The book is a guideline, but different parish and school communities will offer the lessons in the way best suited to their students.
She and many others spent weeks going through the material to update and streamline it and hopes to set up a regular review schedule to keep it up-to-date all the time. Lavelle appreciates the assistance she has had in updating and revising the document. “It would have been an impossible task without the peer review group that reviewed the guide for continuity and having excellent colleagues at the chancery to help with layout and proofing,”  Lavelle said.
The book is divided up by age-group and by sacrament. It contains not only the concepts students should grasp by the end of the grade or by the time they receive a given sacrament, but it also has suggestions on presenting the material to students and their families, including scripture readings families can use for reflection and prayers.
“It is through teaching these beliefs that we aid those entrusted to us to deepen their relationship with God. Moreover, we hope to inspire a love for learning, growing and loving our faith in a way that is life-long,” wrote Bishop Kopacz.
The revised book will be finished mid-summer and will be distributed in printed form to catechists. An online version will be posted to the diocesan website so anyone can download and use it.
Lavelle’s office also offers a full complement of classes to help catechists earn certification and exchange best practices so they can better serve their students as well as gatherings and workshops for catechists and pastoral leaders to share best practices and resources.
The Catholic Service Appeal (CSA) directly supports the department of faith formation. Your pledge to CSA supports the work Lavelle and her staff are doing to offer faith formation opportunities to everyone in the diocese. Donate through your parish office or online at