What is a catechist school?

RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) image posted by TeamRCIAEmily, the RCIA director, stood to introduce longtime parishioner Walter to witness to the catechumens about God’s intervention in his life. God miraculously restored him to health after doctors told him he would die in a matter of weeks. Walter’s miracle was the catalyst for his entire family to either return to their faith or find it in the first place.

Simple, powerful story of God’s action in the life of a believer—the stuff conversion is made of! The sense of expectation in the room was palpable as the group poised itself to hang on his every word.

Yet, 20 minutes later the only thing that was hanging in the room was poor Walter’s presentation. After being introduced to every nurse, medication and every actor in the drama from accidental passerby to active protagonist, the disinterested, sleepy nod of heads betrayed a “teachable moment” lost many minutes ago in the fog of minutiae and laborious detail.

While Walter is certainly not someone we would invite to witness in our catechumenal processes, he does point to an important need that is foundational in the world of evangelization. We all need to become better storytellers!

Storytelling is the heart of evangelization. Jesus was a master storyteller and paved the way for generations of storytellers that would come after him.

Why do we need a catechist school?

Over the years we have been blessed with many opportunities to learn the craft of ministering in the catechumenate. What perhaps has been missing in some of those experiences, however, is foundational skills—the art of catechesis—the art of storytelling and the art of using adult learning models throughout the initiation process.

Had Emily been trained in the dynamics of effective storytelling, perhaps she could have worked with Walter to help him more effectively share his story of living faith.

We need a catechist school to sharpen the skills God has given us so we can be more effective witnesses of the gospel. TeamRCIA and I have developed just such a school. We will focus on:

• skill building
• the importance of basic conversion
• evangelization
• and apprenticeship.

A new kind of school

This school won’t be your ordinary classroom learning. We will model the hands-on, apprenticeship-style learning we expect of the catechumens. We will practice the art of effective storytelling. We will develop adult learning models. And we will offer each other gentle evaluations to improve our skills.

These skills will also be illustrated within the context of inquiry and the period of the catechumenate. For example, we will celebrate a liturgy, break open the Scriptures and symbols, and the doctrine that flows from that liturgy. We will subsequently unpack and dissect the experience and the elements that we used.

The ultimate goal of the catechist school is to help catechists master the art of catechesis and to become the most effective catechist they can be. Now is the time! There is an urgent need to go out and evangelize the world. Come, join us in this exciting new endeavor and together we can take what we have done well, make it better, and go out into the world to transform and repair it!

Learn more about the TeamRCIA Catechist School

See also these related articles:

  1. It is time to breathe new life into our RCIA processes
  2. What is a catechist school?
  3. Why is mystagogical catechesis important in the RCIA?

“I will create a world where… we listen to each other’s stories” by Sarah Gilbert | Flickr, CC BY 2.0

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  1. All our computers were down since June. I know I missed a lot … but “a catechists’ school” is really good news to me. It is what I was suggesting at a diocesan meeting… good people get discouraged because they have not been given the training in “catching the cues” when stories are being shared. Indeed, storytelling was Jesus’ approach. He never missed a chance!!!! Margot

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