By: Meggie Welch – Staff Writer
The Forum for Young Catechetical Leaders is a program through University of Dayton’s Institute for Pastoral Initiatives that sends undergraduate and graduate students to Holy Angels Parish to catechize their youth.
Currently, there are about 30 UD students that are going through the program, which involves time spent in the classroom, planning sessions and going to Holy Angels with the kids. FYCL is a four-phase commitment that takes place over four semesters, switching between the two settings every other semester.
While time in the classroom and creating lesson plans was deemed “helpful” by Angelica O’Brien, a sophomore early education major, and Jenna Gerstle, a senior early childhood education major, they said they enjoy going into the parish and interacting with the kids that are there for catechesis.
The overwhelming majority of the students in FYCL are early childhood education majors who have grown up in the Catholic faith and want to eventually teach in Catholic schools. With the program, if the catechists finish it, they will receive a certificate saying they can be catechists in any archdiocese in the United States.
Sister Angela Ann Zukowski said the most impressive feedback she gets from her former students is that they are deeply involved in their home parishes, which they tie back to being so involved in the program in their college years.
Kitty MacLean, a second year graduate assistant studying pastoral ministry, helps direct and facilitate FYCL. She believes this type of package is not offered anywhere else in the country and it should be taken full advantage of.
However, Zukowski warns that it is something that someone must be called to do and feel very deeply is the right thing.
“The most honorable vocation in the world is to be a catechist,” she said. The only drawback is the amount of time that is taken out of a catechist’s schedule, as once a month they meet for seven hours.
“The amount of time these students give is so impressive, especially the engineers and business majors that take the initiative to get involved in an area completely independent of their area of study,” Zukowski said. O’Brien said the amount of time spent in the classroom learning has helped her to prepare lesson plans, but being around the kids helped even more.
“My first semester I was with fourth graders, who I really enjoyed,” Gerstle said. “Now I am with seventh and eighth graders. Let’s just say I know I want to be an early childhood teacher.”
Some of what the catechists are doing is mostly trying to help older students prepare for Confirmation, as most of the kids have not had the religious education throughout their lives as Catholic school students have.
O’Brien said she thinks most of the kids are there because their parents force them to be there, but she tries to draw them in by answering all of their questions and getting them all to talk to her.