September 2011 Evangelization Exchange – Gutierrez

Waiting for an Encounter with Christ

by Magdalena Gutierrez

With Teresa, the Director of Religious Education in a parish with a 90% Hispanic population, I recently gave a two-hour workshop to a group of catechists in Maryland. This was Teresa’s invitation to me: “Maggie, my catechists have long complained that they need new ways to carry out the class, but I would like you to talk to them about prayer and the different ways of praying before and after class because if you pray before, it prepares you well.” I began by praying that the Lord would grant Teresa her desire to help her catechists grow.

More important than curricula is the person of the catechist. Our goal was to help them discover once more the importance of prayer as part of the preparation process, and even more, to experience in prayer that Christ Jesus comes and encounters us to renew our vocation and give us the grace necessary to respond with faith. We prepared for them a moment of prayer – an encounter with the Lord and an activity to put into practice the change of life they would need.

This schedule was as follows:


3:00 – Preparing the Environment – 

We begin with a word of welcome. All of them were immigrants so we quickly established rapport. As we recently had our first earthquake in Maryland, it was very easy to strike up a conversation in which everyone participated. The participants were mostly young adults.

3:28 – Prayer – 

Short and easy to get in the hands of God as a group. Material taken from the bishops for Catechetical Sunday 2011.


3:30 – Introduction – 

What is my experience preparing a catechetical lesson? We know that time slips away and commitments and distractions accumulate. We arrive to class relying more on the saving intervention of the Holy Spirit than in the talent that God gave us.


3:35 – Dialogue with Participants-

We get deeper into the experience by contrasting tradition, catechetical practices and reviewing our attitudes and errors of judgment that become obstacles. The catechists express their own experience and we discover the areas that need to be diagnosed and healed by the Doctor of Souls, who best knows our needs and capabilities.


3:45 – Gospel reading and silent reflection-

Invitation to hear from the gospel the words and attitude of Jesus, his life that enlightens the situations of our life. Moment of prayer and silence in which participants ask God for enlightenment and understanding. Hope in God’s grace is renewed.


3:50 – Witness-

They affirm each other as they recognize their relationship with the Lord.


3:55 – Invitation to faith-

Call for change, to give a response of faith as a result of grace revealed during the prayer time. We announce they will have an activity to assimilate the grace obtained.


4:00 – Expression of Faith-

Exercise to discover how to put the new decision to change into practice with concrete actions and commitments . We give them the opportunity to act, to think, and to exercise the will with the Lord’s help. Each catechist received 7 sheets,-one for each day of the week, with 24 hours marked. We gave then labels with daily activities and tasks, including time for prayer and family time. Then we ask them to use them to fill every space.


4:40 – Thanksgiving-

Give testimony to the experience of encountering Jesus through the exercise.


4:55 – Prayer and farewell-

As expected, the Lord was very generous with the catechists. And why would he not, these are the men and women who volunteer each week and strive to present the loving face of God and Church! One participant shared: “I had been praying and was very sad thinking I would never achieve my dream to devote myself to what He is calling me and now I see he has placed the solution at my disposal.” Another said: “I have no wife, or children, but brothers and sisters and nephews. I thought it was impossible to spend time to talk with them and now I gladly see I can and I know how I’m going to make it happen!”

The Pope, during the Angelus of September 18 said “Let us turn in prayer to the Virgin Mary, that throughout the Church the vocations to the priesthood, religious life and the laity will mature in the service to the new evangelization…vast horizons open to the proclamation of Gospel…” Who are the agents of the new evangelization? “…Humble and generous workers who do not ask any other recompense than participating in the mission of Jesus and the Church …the gospel has transformed the world, and still is changing it…”