Catechesis and Teachers Are Just the Initial Part of Faith Formation

By Ristau, Karen M. | Momentum, April/May 2006 | Go to article overview

Catechesis and Teachers Are Just the Initial Part of Faith Formation


Ristau, Karen M., Momentum


While we understand that the theology of the sacrament of confirmation is the completion of the sacraments of initiation, I use this story to make a point about developing faith-the theme of the April/May Momentum.

A long time ago in a place far away, I served in a parish as a school principal. Upset parents came to me because the teacher of the confirmation preparation program told students that they had to attend the program and do the assignments given, but in the end they did not have to be confirmed if that was their choice. The teacher even would help defend their decision to their parents.

This was not what parents expected, even though it seemed a novel approach to adolescents who preferred to appear at least slightly rebellious in order to protect their reputations. While I was surprised at the teacher's approach, I was even more surprised at a complaining student who appeared in the office nearer to the scheduled time of confirmation. "I had no intention of being confirmed," said the young man, "but the teacher and what she taught leave me with no choice. I'm going for it." I believe he was complaining about what he perceived now as his lack of choice, but in his own teenage way he was telling me this step was important to him and that the teacher made it so.

I think back on this event as an example of good teaching, of the partnership between teaching and learning and how, in the midst of this activity, God truly is present and the gift of faith grows. I suspect from the student's positive decision that the teacher knew the catechetical content well and used any number of interesting ways to present it to students. No easy task. I also realize that the teacher held in mind another critical aspect of teaching-the learning. Learning is the responsibility of the student. This teacher understood that the student had an obligation to accept and incorporate the teaching into his own life in some meaningful way. As Maxine Greene (2001) reminds us:

It is a matter of choice on the part of the learner, since, as we all know, we cannot learn anyone. …

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