They laughed, smiled, nodded in agreement, shook their heads in wonder, argued a point, shared a comment, sang a song and then laughed some more. This all happened at a one-and-half day formation conducted by Martin Jalleh at CDM. A total of 43 participants comprising of Faith Sharers from CDM and the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit (CHS) had gathered together over the weekend of the 20th-21st October to listen to Martin. The theme of the formation was Touching Lives! Teaching the Faith! Treading New Paths. There were five main sessions which started with In Praise of Faith Sharers, followed by Called, Chosen & Commissioned, and then a session on Changes and Changing. This was followed by two sessions on Practical Skills
The first session began with a quote for His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI affirming catechists as “… they are called to carry Christian values into the areas of society; the world of work, of civil society and of politics”. He also mentioned that the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in 1993 declared that “Catechists have made, and continue to make, an outstanding and indispensable contribution to the spread of the faith and of the Church.” He explained that as catechists we are echoing the word of God. He elaborated that when the prophets of Abraham, Moses and Jeremiah were called to serve and be commissioned, they all initially expressed doubt. But they were given the assurance by God that He would give them all that they needed to do what He wanted them to do. Similarly, God will always be there for us, catechists, when we need His help.
The formation included a night session open to all parishioners on Trends, Threads & Transitions Today. Martin explained to the parents there the dangers of over protecting their children as they grew up. This would harm their transition into the real world. He also warned of the neglect of children, the dangers of cybersex and pornography on the internet. He explained that the children today demanded that everything have an entertainment element in them to sustain their interest. He had most of the audience laughing and shaking their heads in amazement when related some of his experiences with working with the youth and the lengths parents go to giving everything to their children except their time.
The final session on Practical Skills was held after Sunday morning mass at CDM and attended by our parish priest, Msgr. Bernard Paul. Martin pointed out that this formation was particularly apt as that Sunday’s homily by Msgr. was on Servanthood (Mark 10:35-45). He proceeded to explain the basic role of a facilitator and the seven basic skills that were important in getting the message across to the learners. He elaborated with examples that faith sharers also needed the right spiritual motivation to adapt to different situations. They needed the proper skills of communication to bring about understanding. The correct subject matter is also vitally important to teach the right things. In addition there was the need of synergy to develop solidarity by working as a team to achieve the one goal of echoing the word of God.
In the final discussion, a topic that was heatedly discussed was the fact that catechism teachers are not formally trained and that no one was monitoring what they were teaching in class. There were mixed feelings among the teachers about having parents sit in on their classes as some felt that they may not pass constructive comments and only criticize their faults. This may lead many catechists to stop teaching completely. The CEC coordinator of CHS, Pedro Geronimo, felt that if the teachers were committed to their faith and trust in Jesus, they would be able to find ways to improve their faith and teaching in view of the vast resources found on the internet. Msgr. Bernard Paul remarked that we have to work with what we have and who we have.
There was a suggestion that regular fellowship meetings over luncheons after class would at least give the teachers a chance to share their triumphs and challenges of the classroom. In this way there would be an avenue of dialogue and mentoring by more experienced teachers to improve their classroom practices.
Feedback from the participants strongly suggested a followup formation just on Practical Skills of teaching in the classroom. Most participants found the formation helpful and were grateful to be given the opportunity of learning to improve their practical skills in the teaching of the faith.
Dr. Ivan Filmer
6th November, 2012.