Read: Beyond the Catechist’s Toolbox

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Article Reviews

By Joe Paprocki (Loyola Press, 2013)

How many of us endured years of boring religious education classes trying to stay awake and engaged? How many of our children are struggling with the same problem today? And what of the enthusiastic catechist who can’t figure out what the problem is? 

Joe Paprocki feels our pain. On the first page of his helpful book Beyond the Catechist’s Toolbox, Paprocki gets to the heart of this age-old problem: “If we ourselves are on fire, and the message we are teaching is ‘hot stuff,’ then it stands to reason that the fault must lie in one other place: our method of delivery.” For many catechists, the “method of delivery” consists primarily of reading from the textbook—and therein lies the problem. According to Paprocki, the textbook is only one tool of many at the catechist’s disposal, and should be used deliberately, precisely, and above all, sparingly.  

What’s a catechist to do? Paprocki proposes a novel approach: Make religious education “more like Mass and less like class.” Faith is experiential, he reminds us. It is not enough that students know about God. We want them to know God, an outcome that requires a different sort of language altogether. Paprocki suggests we use the language of mystery as expressed in the symbols, rituals, movement, silence, song, and story of the Mass to convey the wonders of the Kingdom of God.   

From the moment a student enters the classroom to the closing prayer, Paprocki asserts that with a little planning each lesson can offer experiences that do not merely inform, but transform, our children. Every chapter is full of practical, workable activities that will appeal to catechists of all levels of experience—and their students. 

Paprocki’s extensive knowledge of his subject, his creativity, and his enthusiasm and passion are evident on every page. To pastors and directors of religious education everywhere: This is a book for every catechist in your parish.

This article appeared in the April 2013 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 78, No. 4, page 43).