Diocesan News

Online certification improving catechists’ knowledge, skill

Story by S.L. Hansen

(SNR) - Last spring, Father Sean Kilcawley, then director of the Diocesan Office of Religious Education, introduced pastors to a web-based catechist training and certification program called My Catholic Faith Delivered. It will be used to help the many volunteer catechists throughout the diocese.

“The goal of this program is to help form and enhance the catechists’ knowledge of the faith as well as their teaching techniques,” explained Father Andrew Heaslip, who is overseeing diocesan participation in the program as the current director of the Diocesan Office of Religious Education.

He said there are many advantages to this certification program. Not only does it help improve an individual catechist’s understanding of the Catholic faith and how to teach others, but it also highlights how important catechists are in the mission of the Church. Father Heaslip also said he hopes it will inspire more confidence in each of the instructors.

“There are some practical pointers in there,” he said.

Bishop James D. Conley has expressed his desire that every CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) instructor and Godparent or CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) teacher should complete the program’s Catechesis 101 certification during the 2014-15 school year.

Father Heaslip reasoned that providing a certification program for CCD and Godparents/CYO is very important for good catechesis.

“Any time a parish doesn’t have a Catholic school associated with it, CCD is the main parish-based source for teaching,” he said. “Catechesis should also happen in the home, but CCD is a huge way to make sure that the students know what they need to know.”

Catechesis 101 includes eight online lessons that include videos, short reading assignments and quizzes. Each lesson takes about an hour to complete.

“It’s an eight-hour program, and the teachers can complete it at their leisure,” Father Heaslip summarized.

Caryn Scott, who is the CCD coordinator for the joint program at St. Cecilia and St. Michael parishes in Hastings, started taking the Catechesis 101 course last April.

“They talk about what we teach, and how we teach it,” she said. “I could do a lesson in about an hour, but you can get more out of it if you have the time. You can click on topics in each lesson and go deeper if you want to.”

Mrs. Scott also discovered that Catechesis 101 explains how to use the Catechism of the Catholic Church while instructing others.

“If we had any teachers who were not familiar with it, that alone was one good thing to learn from this,” she said.

Mrs. Scott was also pleased to have the chance to learn more about what St. John Paul II has written, which has encouraged her own faith as she teaches others.

Both Father Heaslip and Mrs. Scott noted that the vast majority of CCD and Godparent/CYO teachers are volunteers.

“They are very generous people in terms of giving their time and resources,” Father Heaslip acknowledged. “Eight hours [to complete the certification] in one year hopefully isn’t too bad.”

“You have so many teachers coming from different walks of life,” Mrs. Scott added. “This gives them some equal footing.”

Father Heaslip said that any priest, religious or lay teacher who has a degree in theology or catechesis is already certified and thus does not have to complete Catechesis 101. Of course, they are welcome to do so if they are leading a team or simply want to better understand what the volunteer teachers are learning.

My Catholic Faith Delivered charges only $29 per individual instructor, and group rates are available. It’s up to each parish to determine how this cost will be paid. Some parishes may cover the cost out of their own religious education funds, while others may stage a fundraiser, find a benefactor or rely on each teacher to pay for his or her own certification. Parishes can also apply for a grant through the Catholic Foundation.

Father Heaslip sent a letter to each parish earlier this summer about using My Catholic Faith Delivered. For more information, visit www.mycatholicfaithdelivered.com/Lincoln.

CCD coordinators who are in the process of setting up the program, or catechists who wish to participate should begin by contacting Ashley Ulrich of St. Peter Parish in Lincoln, who is the diocesan My Catholic Faith Delivered coordinator. She may be reached by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or calling her at (402) 904-4147.

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