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Things to Ask Your DRE

March 6, AD 2012 6 Comments

Catholic Education often takes on many facets. Usually when people refer to Catholic Education they are referring to private, Diocesan, schools of learning primarily for Kindergarten through 12th grade. There are also Catholic Colleges as well. However, a recent conversation with my boss gave me an outside glimpse of  Parish Catholic Education.

It was only a passing comment but it very much changed my perspective, “My only regret is that I never experienced parish faith formation until I became a parish priest.”  With that, I was absolutely floored. Of course my first teachers of the faith were my parents, followed by the numerous volunteers and (eventually) one patient deacon who had to deal with me for 6 years. I was one of many kids who attended weekly CCD (the 90’s and early 2000’s abbreviation) and was eventually Confirmed in December 2003. Up through my Confirmation all I knew was parish based faith formation. Even once I was old enough to drive, a group of friends and I would drive 45 miles through northern Minnesota to attend another parish’s Life Teen program because we wanted more. We were the exception rather than the rule. I never knew any other form of Catholic Education until I went to college.

Now that I’m sitting on the other side of the desk, I understand the need for quality Parish Catholic Education and while I’m not the expert I’ve learned a few small things in parish ministry which I want to share with you.

These questions are meant to gauge the person who is overseeing your parish’s program, not the program itself. However, you can also tell a lot of a program by who is in charge.

  1. What is your personal philosophy for this ministry?

My Introduction to Education professor in college taught us many great things and the one that stands out the clearest was the need for a personal teaching philosophy. It should be concise, have action verbs and be able to be easily said from memory. Another name for this is a mission statement. Despite what your Director of Religious Education calls it, it is a personal action statement that lends itself to how they lead their ministry.

  1. Where do you see this program going?

This question will get anyone who asks it a wide range of answers, however, the listener should hear some sort of plan for the program. By all means, no program is perfect and all programs have an opportunity to grow. A program is just like a child; parents, clergy, staff and volunteers provide vision and direction to help form the program and keep it going.

  1. What are you doing for your own personal faith development?

There’s an old saying, “If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck; it’s a duck.” The same is true with our Catholic faith. You will not believe me if I say that our parish programs are worth attending if I’m crabby, impatient and never attend mass. While Directors of Religious Education are human and prone to error, we are still highly visible members of the parish. In essence, we must be ducks.

  1. What are you doing for your own professional development?

Think about your own local school districts, at least in the United States, all teachers in public schools need to have the correct licenses in order to teach. In order for teachers to keep their licenses, they need to attend classes and seminars and accrue an amount of points. A Director of Religious Education should be no different. In order to stay current in matters of theology, spirituality, education, human relations and best practices a Director of Religious Education should be taking classes at some interval in these areas.

  1. What are your hobbies?

This question may seem a bit in left field but everyone needs a hobby, a way to relax. It is not healthy for a person to be so engrossed in their job that they cannot step away to do something they enjoy. I’m even reminding myself to pick up my hobby once in a while to just relax.

  1. Where are you going on vacation?

I look to the Bible for my inspiration for this question, “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation”. Genesis 2:3

Even God and Jesus rested. Jesus would often go ahead of the crowds or find a secluded mountain and be away from everyone. If someone were to tell you that they weren’t or even couldn’t take a vacation, you would encourage them to do so. The same goes for those who work in the Church, priests included.

  1. What can I do to help?

Even for me this is a hard question to answer, and I know from parishioners who talk to me, it is a hard question to ask. There is always something that needs to be done, whether it is organizing the supply closet, stuffing envelopes, baking brownies getting the word out about an event, being a substitute or even a full time teacher (bless your heart), every little bit helps. By asking to help what you are really showing is your support and value for the program. Also if being a teacher isn’t what you are called to, remember to specify that or every year around July and August you are going to get phone calls asking if you can teach. There is nothing wrong, and I encourage you to do so, to explain where you want to volunteer and what you want to do.

As I said these are questions to let you see how a program works from the Director’s view point. Also by being able to get to know your Director of Religious Education, if and when problems arise, you will already know who to talk to and have a relationship built with them.

What questions are always on your list to ask a Director of Religious Education?

[author][author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Amanda Castro is a Youth Minister and Director of Religious Education at a small rural Iowa parish. Some of her students have begun a crusade to try and stump their youth minister, even so far as asking the local Bishop for help. If they could have remembered the Latin they would have succeeded too! Aside from being happily newly married to her best friend, her passions include (but are not limited too) her 9 nieces and nephews, the Mass, Adoration, and photography. You can find her new blog at Defined by Faith.[/author_info] [/author]

About the Author:

Amanda is a wife, youth minister, and artistic nut. She holds a BA in Mathematics but has over 10 years experience in Catechesis and Youth Ministry. Self referred as a “Jack of all trades, but a master of none” she writes about her life experience at Defined by Faith.

  • These are excellent questions to know the answers to. I especially like #4. Sometimes it can be hard to find priests/people that believe in that. I have a friends mom that is a DRE and won’t pay for any professional development she does. Anything she ends up doing comes out of her own pocket. If you had to take a class for a bank you worked at they would foot the bill.

    I think the hardest thing for some people to understand is how hard DRE’s work. There are many people that think they only work 1 hour a week (when classes are going on). But there is SOOOOO much more that goes into the job than what you see during class time.

  • Amanda Castro

    Beth Anne:

    I am fortunate to work in a Diocese where it is required for DRE’s and Youth Ministers to have continuing education and highly encouraged for Catechists to have continuing education as well. It is a true blessing and has saved my butt a few times. The cost is never cheap but is always well worth the cost.

    Thanks for the comment!

  • Edward

    1. What is your personal philosophy for this ministry?
    This question is very important to ask. Working on behalf of the Church, we find that dissent is still alive and well. As an Catholic educator serving Catholics, the Church’s “philosophy” in regards to catechesis must be my own. Although I know from what you have written that you are in total agreement with the following document and I’m sure that you’ve seen it, Ms. Castro, I just wanted to post the link for others:

    2. Where do you see this program going?
    Where ever the program goes, of course, must be aligned with the bishops’ plan.
    3. What are you doing for your own personal faith development?
    In my work with sophomores, I can become impatient. I consciously practice being polite now more than ever before. Greeting students with no other purpose than greeting them is a good start…

    4. What are you doing for your own professional development?
    Since I completed three courses through their online program (which enabled me to complete my M.Div. coursework), I wanted to suggest Holy Apostles out of Connecticut as a worthwhile source for faith development:

    5. What are your hobbies?
    Posting on Catholic Education symposia…
    6. Where are you going on vacation?
    How ’bout, what are you doing on this upcoming vacation? Preparing for the arrival of a brand new baby daughter…

  • Amanda Castro


    Thank you for your reply. One note I want to make about the Adaptation to the Curriculum Framework from the USCCB, this Document is intended as a structure for Catholic High School Theology curriculum and they are still working on the adaptations for Parish Curriculum is still in the process of being created. Personally I think that these Adaptations are a wonderful structure for Catholic High School Education, whether parish or school based.

  • Edward,

    We are so grateful for your comments here! I’m a HACS student as well.
    Congratulations on your baby daughter. Sounds like a great vacation!

  • Peter M

    1. What is your personal philosophy for this ministry?
    The Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth. I’ll be darned if I let these kids have the same wishy-washy, uninspiring, watered down catechesis I had.
    2. Where do you see this program going?
    With God’s grace, hopefully towards the evangelization of our entire parish. The main problem nowadays isn’t the kids, but the parents, themselves products of awful catechesis. There aren’t half the families in church on Sunday that there should be, and there aren’t half the families with kids in classes as there are in church on Sundays. I get hugely discouraged by this, but if we do well with the kids and parents we have, then the Faith will spread, bit by bit.
    3. Daily prayer, weekly confession, a week’s retreat at least once a year, plenty of spiritual reading and online apologetics. I’m no superstar and still a huge sinner, which is why it’s comforting to turn things over to the Holy Spirit.
    4. Our diocese’ catechist training program is a bit lacking, unfortunately. I’m mainly self-educating. And of course, now with a year and a half of experience, I’m getting better.
    5. Running, singing, playing computer games…yes, I’m a millenial.
    6. My grandparents’ place on a beautiful lake in upstate New York, where I’ve gone every summer since birth.
    7. Any *young* (teens, twenties, thirties) people on fire for their faith, I can use you, if only to be a witness to these kids. They pay more attention when we’re younger than their parents. If you’re up on pop culture, that doesn’t hurt either, meet ’em where they’re at!