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The Catechist Endorsement Process: Growing in Faith and Expertise By Ruth Ard DRE, St. Joseph's Parish, Marion The Archdiocesan Catechist Endorsement process was instituted to help improve the quality of catechetical instruction for our children and teens. This bespeaks an expectation that anyone who works or volunteers in the ministry of education will grow in his/her knowledge of the faith and in the mastery of teaching religion. There are four levels of endorsement: Beginning Catechist, Catechist, Advanced Catechist, and Mentor Catechist. Volunteer catechists and Catholic school teachers are expected to complete a certain number of hours in four areas of learning: Scripture; Theology; Personal and Spiritual Formation; and Catechetical Methods and Formation. To achieve the highest level of endorsement ("Mentor Catechist") the requirement is for 32 clock hours in each of the four. This expectation has great value to our programs, our parishes and the personal faith life of our catechists. Catechists for the public school children as well as teachers in Catholic schools are all expected to meet certain benchmarks within certain periods of time. Catechists in school based programs are expected to progress to the level of "Catechist" in 3 years; volunteers in religious education programs are expected to reach that level it in 6 years. "Catechist" and each subsequent level receive endorsement granted for 3 years. I always tell my catechists, "Just know that this is supposed to take place. Then don't worry about it. As long as you come to the inservices which are offered, it will take care of itself." Then it becomes my responsibility, as DRE, to make sure that the sequence of inservice offerings meets the requirements in the various areas, through the time span set out. There are also some additional requirements that go with the upper levels of endorsement. For example, at each level above "Beginning" the catechist/teacher must have a conference with the program administrator or designated mentor. At the highest level, s/he must also show the ability to effective co-ordinate catechetical programs and to provide inservice and assistance to catechists and parents/guardians. These are almost standard for anyone who has served in catechetical ministry for more than 5 or 6 years. The administrator need only take note and acknowledge the mentoring activities of individuals. The administrator must insure that the inservices offered fall into each of the four areas of learning, and must emphasize the importance of attendance at those inservices. Then the process of Catechist Endorsement becomes not a burden, but a great benefit to both the educational program and the individual catechist. When catechists know that Catechist Endorsement is an expectation of the Archdiocese and that the program administrator is watching over the progression, it becomes an incentive to participate in inservices or other offerings that enhance the faith life of a person who is handing on the faith to the next generation. The Catechist Endorsement process means that we have better formed, more strongly committed Catholics teaching our children. It brings about a more fully-alive body of parishioners. And, these catechists experience growth in their own faith life which they might otherwise not undergo.

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