This is the first in a series of articles written by directors of programs that receive funding from the Catholic Stewardship Appeal.
Passing on the Catholic faith today is challenging. The pervasive presence of new technologies is among the factors reshaping our culture, economy, education and family life. We know technology makes life easier and helps connect people, but it can also be a source of distraction, anxiety and danger.
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In January 2011, 70 youth ministers, directors of religious education, secretaries and others gathered to grapple with the influence of technology on faith formation, and to better equip themselves to use technology in their ministries. Topics included social media, evaluating Catholic content online, and exploring the differences in how teens and adults use technology. This “Gigs, Geeks and God” event is one example of the work of the Office of Catechesis and Youth Ministry.
This office assists the archbishop in directing the catechetical mission of the archdiocese and serves parishes by providing guidelines, training and resources. We summarize the work of our office as “supporting Catholics who pass on the faith.” We know that the main work of teaching and nurturing young people’s faith happens locally in parishes and families. Our role is to support those who plan, teach and direct religious education and youth ministry programs – both professional staff and parish volunteers.
In our parishes, there are more than 3,000 catechists. Some have training and experience, but many who step forward say they do not feel prepared for the role. To help parishes provide what catechists need and value, we offer “Forming the Catechetical Spirit,” a parish-based program that brings quality adult education close to home.
Participants tell us that the biggest benefit is meeting and learning from other catechists in nearby parishes and the opportunity for spiritual growth. After piloting the program in rural and urban parishes, we launched “Forming the Catechetical Spirit” in five locations this year – Menomonee Falls, New Munster, Racine, Sheboygan and Wauwatosa. Next year, we plan to expand.
The Office of Catechesis and Youth Ministry is part of the John Paul II Center. Together with offices for lay formation, diaconate formation, the Nazareth Project and campus ministries, we share a comprehensive vision of formation and evangelization. We are able to collaborate in broader initiatives such as the archdiocesan Season of Mercy and the first Youth and Young Adult Ministry Summit held last October.
In addition to directors of religious education, youth ministers and catechists, our work touches more than 400 school teachers and catechists who complete certification each year, 1,300 youth involved in Catholic Youth Ministry volleyball and basketball, 70 teens in the Reach Out Reach In summer program, 900 Catholic Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts who earned religious emblems, and many others.
This work involves the joining of many hands, the interplay of many talents and the contributions of many individuals. But the collaboration is only possible because of the Catholic Stewardship Appeal which enables our office to direct some programs and services and coordinate others, in support of all those Catholics who pass on the faith.
(Pokorny is director of catechesis and youth ministry for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.)