Let’s Discuss: Small Moment Catechesis

Each month I’m going to share an OSV Talk we can listen to and discuss together. These talks are intended to “get the Church talking” and are a wonderful way to dive deeper into a particular topic. I had the privilege of preparing and delivering my own talk in June of 2022 which will be released sometime in 2023 – I’ll share it when it is. The library of talks includes topics of ministry, suffering, Liturgical music, what it means to be human, innovation, evangelization, and more. There’s something we can all learn from each of these talks, and they just might change our ministry and the world if we let them! Catch up on past posts here.

OSV Talks Site

As we begin a new school year, I thought it would be a good month to listen to Ela Milewska’s OSV Talk entitled “Catechesis in Small Moments.” Ela has served in a few different dioceses and parishes in the role of catechist and youth minister. She has trained youth ministry and catechetical leaders, catechists, and educators across the United States and internationally. Currently she serves as the executive director of the Department of Youth Faith Formation in the Archdiocese of New York overseeing the ministries that help parishes form young people and their families from baptism to twelfth grade. 

While Ela sees formal catechesis as important, she’s encouraging us all to embrace our role as catechists outside of the classroom. This basic premise makes perfect sense to me as I recall saying this exact sentence to a friend just the other day, “We’re crazy if we think that 20 hours of faith formation a year makes disciples.” We cannot only think about, talk about, and learn about God and how to follow Him while we are sitting in a pew at Church or a make-shift desk in a faith formation classroom – He wants our whole life, so we need to bring Him into every aspect of our life.

I was sharing about how I was asked to be a catechist at my parish for our new Family Faith Formation program. The goal of family faith formation or whole family catechesis is to form both parents and children in the faith and give them the tools to continue teaching these concepts at home. I would even go further and say that we want the faith to become part of everything the family does at home because while formal instruction is good, it’s not enough.

Ela says, “I think, in understanding and regarding growing in our faith, the small moments are the big moments.” These are the times when the “faith is caught” by those around us. It’s the times when children imitate what they see their parents doing. It’s the times when people see someone who is joyful even in the midst of suffering. It’s the times when we act differently as neighbors or at work or in response to something negative because we are different than everyone else.

She mentioned the new Directory of Catechesis states, “Parents are the best way to share the beauty of the faith with their young people by their own witness of everyday living” which just reinforces a foundational teaching we’ve all heard more than once, “Parents are the primary educators/catechists of their children.” This education doesn’t only refer to formal study of the faith. It’s about everything that happens in the family to form disciples. I’m reminded of this text I received from my godson’s mother a few weeks ago – he’s 5 and his little brother is 3, they are just now entering school for some formal faith formation.

It’s the times at Mass when she points to the altar during the consecration to say “there’s Jesus” or when they’ve stopped in at their parish to say hello to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. It’s the regular use of the phrase “Isn’t that amazing” when talking about delightful and joyful things. It’s in her speaking of the kerygma in a way that small children can understand over their lifetime. It’s in the small moments.

“What I really believe is that it’s the small moments are the big moments that inflesh the bones of knowledge and turn that into belief.”

Ela Milewska

She continues her talk speaking about her experience as a child with her parents witnessing to the faith. She recalls a small moment where she saw her father do something he has no memory of. Ela remarks that this is the moment she knew that transubstantiation was real – where knowledge became belief.

I encourage you to gather together with other ministry leaders in your parish, watch the talk together, and then have a discussion about how we can “get the Church talking” about this topic:

  1. Recall some small moments that were the big moments of the faith for your own life?
  2. As a parent, godparent, aunt, or uncle, what are some of the small moments that you’ve seen grow fruit in someone else’s faith?
  3. How do you define your call to be a missionary disciple?
  4. What might you do in the parish to help every person embrace their baptismal call to be catechist?
  5. In what ways might you be able to celebrate the small moments in your own faith, your ministry, your family, or your parish?

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