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Paprocki-with-McDougallKeynote speaker Joe Paprocki talks with catechist John S. McDougall from Our Lady of the Lakes Parish in New Milford. at (Photo by Angela Pietrowski)

 BRISTOL – Author and catechist Joe Paprocki shared tips and ideas with almost 400 catechists on Nov. 14 at this year’s Religious Education Congress at St. Paul Catholic High School. Focusing on the six goals of catechesis, Mr. Paprocki showed the audience easy classroom techniques that can help children and teens come to know Jesus in a more personal way.

"Let’s take the one question everyone asks when they’re trying on clothes … Does it fit?" he said. "Children are trying on elements of the world: power, money, values, pride. It’s our job as catechists to say, ‘You don’t look good in that. You look good in Christ.’ We are the fashion police in their spiritual wardrobe."

Mr. Paprocki, a father of two and catechist in his Illinois parish, is the national consultant for faith formation for Loyola Press. He has written several books aimed at teaching the Catholic faith to young people.

"Catechists stay fresh after many years of teaching only if they continue their own faith formation," he said. So, which catechist in his life was his favorite? "Sister Georgine. She was the first to show her love for Jesus and not just teach doctrine. She was so authentic in her faith."

Jose Rodriguez teaches second grade religious education at St. Mary’s in New Britain. He said of Mr. Paprocki’s talk, "It was interesting with good ideas. I have his book, The Catechist’s Toolbox, and I like his idea of giving the kids [battery operated] votives for their prayer time."

Mr. Paprocki suggested giving children 10-15 minutes of prayer time in every class and some "quiet time" with Jesus in their own space, with their own candle.

"I liked his ideas about going beyond words when teaching liturgical language," said Yahira Rosado, a fifth-grade catechist at Sacred Heart in Waterbury. Mr. Paprocki referred to liturgical language as "sign" language; for example, making the Sign of the Cross and genuflecting. Both tell of our beliefs without our having to speak.

Carolann Cote of St. Pius X in Wolcott agreed. "I’ll be using this ‘sign’ language in class," she said.

The Congress, titled "Forming Disciples, Cultivating Faith," was a bilingual event presented by the Archdiocesan Office of Religious Education. Sixty-six parishes were represented. Archbishop Henry J. Mansell celebrated Mass prior to lunch. After lunch, faith educators visited a trade show in the gymnasium and attended two of 16 workshops offered.

One workshop featured the Spanish-speaking keynoter Miguel Arias, consultant for Hispanic ministries for Loyola Press. His talk, titled "The Christian Disciple: Revelations and Compromises," focused on discipleship in Mark’s Gospel.

"In that Gospel, it was easy for the disciples to follow the spectacular Jesus, but it was the outsiders who recognized him as the Messiah," he said. He said catechists are called to increase discipleship among people with disabilities and others who sometimes feel like "outsiders" in parish faith formation programs.

Other workshops focused on praying in the classroom, ongoing faith formation opportunities for catechists, teaching Scripture, incorporating arts and crafts, encouraging teen ministry, evangelizing and even working with Facebook and movies in faith education.

 

Joe Paprocki’s six ways to try on Christ

1. Promoting knowledge of the faith: "As catechists, we are not teaching a subject, but introducing people to Jesus Christ as a person. Encourage kids to talk about their faith and never stop exploring the person of Jesus."

2. Liturgical education: He said catechists are the interpreters of the "sign language" of the faith, such as the Sign of the Cross, genuflecting, sharing the sign, and wishing blessings upon one another.

3. Moral formation: "Through service to others we recognize the dignity of all people and treat them with respect."

4. Teaching how to pray: "Through prayer, we introduce Jesus to others outside the textbook. Prayer transforms teaching a subject into a personal relationship with Jesus. Spend time in prayer during class."

5. Education of community life: "We not only believe we are like-minded people, but we believe we’re brothers and sisters in Christ. We are members of a family, and during Mass we share the same plate and cup. Teach this as a sign of our faith community."

6. Missionary initiation: "Our role as catechists is to excite others about the faith – in our own ways. Use your natural personality to teach kids so that their hearts are on fire with Jesus. Ask yourself, ‘How can I express enthusiasm for the faith?’"