Our parish catechetical leaders work hard every year to catechize and evangelize our youth. These men and women may have different titles: director of religious education, coordinator of religious education, director of Catholic formation. But, they all have an important role at their parish.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in the “General Directory of Catechesis,” underscores this role, saying that “the single most critical factor in an effective parish catechetical program is the leadership of a professionally trained parish catechetical leader.” In an effort to raise the standard of our religious education programs and offer such training to our leaders, Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne promulgated a parish catechetical leader certification program in April.

In partnership with Franciscan University’s Catechetical Institute, the Diocese of Burlington is launching a new certification process for all parish catechetical leaders. To complete this certification, parish catechetical leaders will participate in 12 online workshops over the course of two years, beginning in August (though parish catechetical leaders may get a head start today if they would like). Each workshop consists of watching video clips, responding to tasks, taking items to prayer, talking with a “critical friend” and corresponding via email with an assigned mentor. These mentors, who will walk alongside our parish catechetical leaders in this process, are all in Vermont and have been trained for this role. We think this certification process falls in a nice “sweet spot” for our busy parish catechetical leaders because it is convenient — it is online and available 24/7 but also personal because parish catechetical leaders will be deepening their spiritual life and corresponding one-on-one with their mentors.

Workshop topics include prayer, youth ministry, recruiting catechists, scripture and getting parents involved. While these workshops will provide formation in theology and leadership skills, they focus above all on developing our parish catechetical leaders spiritually. The more our parish leaders are able to live a life of faith, become familiar with the language of the Church and deepen their relationships with Christ, the more they will be able to share that living faith with students and parents in our parishes, which is, of course, the ultimate goal.

—Michael Hagan is coordinator of religious education and catechesis for the Diocese of Burlington.

—Originally published in the Summer 2019 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.