Mar 31, 2014

Parish catechists gain inspiration, new ideas at confirmation workshop



Story and photos by David Martin

LUDLOW – Catechetical leaders from throughout the diocese were looking forward to learning methods and strategies that will improve the religious education program for confirmation students at their parishes during a planning day sponsored by The Confirmation Prep Project.

The event took place at St. Elizabeth Parish in Ludlow on Sunday, March 30. Michael Carotta, The Confirmation Prep Project director, travels the country presenting the workshops, hoping that parishes will make enhancements to their already-existing confirmation programs. He said he hopes that parish religious education programs will establish a pattern of giving students or candidates an evaluation from year to year.

“Those of us in religious ed and catechetics and youth ministry, we have not done that, but if people are in the position of measuring the impact of Confirmation Prep Program, that would be a major take-away,” said Carotta.

Sixty people attended the afternoon workshop at the St. John the Baptist Pastoral Center, where representatives from each parish were asked to take a folder. Carotta (pictured at right) told those present that the folder would symbolize the confirmation program at each parish. Parish members worked in teams to answer questions such as: What are they as teachers trying to emphasize to their students? How can they enhance confirmation prep’s potential to be a more formative experience? And what kind of experience did their confirmation students have?

Rose Stella, a catechetical leader at St. Michael Parish in East Longmeadow said she was pleased that confirmation catechists from her parish were present for the workshop.

“I have a team that has been with me for some time now and they’re excited to bring our own creativity to the program and make it work. And if you have that many invested people, I find there is success,” said Stella.

Carotta said it is important for catechists to focus their attention on educating the largest group of Catholic youths, those who can be identified as being “somewhat close to God.” This group, he said, can be easily forgotten when all the attention is given to those who are identified as “very close to God” or distracted by the young people who are “not close to God at all.”

Lee Lyon, director of religious education at Mary Mother of Hope Parish, said Carotta presented an interesting workshop with statistics that are eye-opening and make his fellow catechists realize they have “a lot of work to do.”

After a short break, Carotta presented what he called “eight enhancements” for parish confirmation programs. The first one, “promote discipleship as the expectation for life,” would be implemented in all parishes, while Carotta wanted each parish to choose on their own from the remaining seven, based on their own mission and techniques.

Carotta said he would return to the diocese on Nov. 2 to have a follow-up meeting with all the parish catechists, who will share their progress.