A treasured learning opportunity
When I was first entrusted with the responsibility to coordinate one of the catechumen classes in our parish church, I gladly accepted the challenge as I saw it as another call from God. Besides, having been a Sunday school teacher for more than twenty years, I was confident of my work ability. However, my experience over the past few months has made me realize that the work of a catechist, which involves unprecedented problems and uncertainties, has been a treasured learning opportunity for me.
For one thing, to meet the various needs of the catechumen, it is essential to select materials related to the course outline set by the previous instructor. This ought not to be too much of a problem as there are bountiful resources available online, from the Bible and from catechism books. However, as the lesson is meant to enable the learners to achieve a gradual understanding of the Catholic Church, imparting too much knowledge would only scare them off. On the other hand, the learners may not be easily satisfied if the lesson fails to clarify certain doubts they may have about the core beliefs of Christianity. I am obliged, therefore, to look closely at the material in order to identify what adaptations are possible.
The presentation of the lesson matters a lot, too. I keep reminding myself to avoid being too reliant on formal teaching strategies. Instead, I usually support my teaching with my personal experiences. I share with them, for example, how my life has been blessed since my baptism. Besides, instead of adopting a teacher-centered approach, I make constant attempts to get the learners to interact with the lesson content, inviting questions and suggestions about the concepts discussed. The learners sometimes come up with interesting ideas leading to enthusiastic discussions among themselves. When this happens, I try to guide them along to prevent their susceptibility to misinformation. It is also important to let the lesson inspire them in a way that they can apply their learning to their daily lives. A learner, for example, once shared about a kind-hearted woman who reminded him about meekness, one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, a previously discussed topic. How encouraging it was to see his face lighting up with joy when he told his story!
Most importantly, I have learned to be humble from this experience. I see myself as their co-learner rather than their instructor, delivering everything, as I do not have all the answers they need. In fact, their thirst for knowledge and curiosity about the Christian faith keeps me striving in pursuit of spiritual enrichment for myself.
All in all, I am thankful to God for having blessed me with this treasured learning opportunity and am determined to dedicate myself to helping the catechumen grow in knowledge, giving them more of the desire for God, for His Word, and for God to transform their hearts.
(Angela Chong taught English in a Catholic school in Macau. Being an ardent Catholic, she is passionate about sharing her faith with others. She is active in her parish and is teaching catechism. She initially shared her wonderful Catholic reflection and thoughts in the print edition of O Clarim in 2018. Her articles can be found in the Faith and Life section of O Clarim).