All posts tagged: Echo

Reflections on Latino Ministry

“Others always have something to give me, if we know how to approach them in a spirit of openness and without prejudice.” As an apprentice in the Echo program, I have spent the better part of the past two years working in ministry with Hispanic people, most of whom are immigrants from Southern Mexico. Over the course of my apprenticeship, I have tried many times to put pen to paper with regard to my experience, willing myself to compose a piece of writing that could capture the challenges, joys, necessities, and singularity of Latino ministry. Until now, these earlier attempts were always met with some measure of self-resistance. The doubts would arise early on: how can I, an educated, white female, claim to say anything of merit about ministry with the Hispanic community? How could my reflections not just be an appropriation of another culture—the use of someone else’s story to further my own name? Is it okay to reflect theologically on experiences of life that don’t belong to me? At the end of the …

Formation Like the Dewfall

“Haec ergo dona, quaesumus, Spiritus tui rore sanctifica,” “Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall.” These words, prayed during Mass, at the time of the epiclesis – when the priest extends his hands invoking the Holy Spirit to consecrate the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, express the slow work of my formation. “Like the dewfall” are words that consistently capture my attention during the Eucharistic prayer, and I find myself echoing the prayer over and over again in my head, long after they escape the priest’s mouth, as if trying to retain the image forever, connecting my growing awareness of God’s love to the slow formative work of the dewfall. “Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall.”  Dew is a mysterious substance, a film of moisture that appears when we wake to each new day, coating the ground we walk on. This coat of condensation is subtle, not overpowering, …

Catechesis Through Love

My parish embodies a probably not uncommon reality in the shifting demographic and identity of American Catholicism. As I arrived at my parish a year and a half ago, our Director of Religious Education and her assistants were in dialogue about a rising number of high school students, specifically from the Spanish-speaking community, who were out of step with their sacrament preparation. At sixteen or seventeen years old, many had only received their first Eucharist a few years ago, and with Quinceñera expectations hurrying parents to the Religious Ed office by the dozens, these kids needed to be confirmed. “So what do we do?” asked our DRE. “Put them in Confirmation prep classes with a bunch of seventh graders?” Deciding that approach wouldn’t be particularly fruitful, we envisioned a class specifically for these high school students, to effectively catch them up on whatever catechesis they’d missed, fill the gaps in their knowledge, and get them ready to be fully initiated into the Church. So I offered to take on the class, found a brilliant co-catechist …

A Light on the Unknown Way: On Being Mentored

On August 14, 2015 at 9:00 am, I found myself at my Echo parish placement. Even though I had studied ministry as an undergrad and interned at a parish before, I was scared out of my mind to be at Christ the Redeemer. My fear came from not knowing what to expect—the unknown. I was a sojourner in a foreign land. Echo had placed me in Houston, Texas to work at a parish I had never heard of in an area where I had never been. Would I find a place here at this new parish with 6,500 families? Would I be ordered around to make copies and coffee, or would my gifts and talents be used well? Would my coworkers like me? Would I be able to find my way around? As a part of my commitment to Echo, I also had signed up to be mentored by a veteran catechetical leader. In addition to being unsure of the entire parish of Christ the Redeemer, I was apprehensive about my Echo commitment to be …

Holy Family in stained glass

Stories of Grace: Episode 8

“There isn’t a tidy bow that I can wrap on this story. But, I learned, it’s not the bow that makes things beautiful; it’s the gift of life itself.” Visit here to listen to Alex White, a graduate student in the Echo program and a theology teacher in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, tell a story of family and finding God who gently holds the world. Subscribe to the free Stories of Grace podcast on iTunes U and receive automatic notifications when a new story is published. The full text of Alex’s reflection is below. Io ho una gran famiglia italiana pazza.  I have a crazy and large Italian family.  The first 18 years of my life were drenched in love and pasta sauce.  Being loud and affectionate was the name of the game and if you didn’t agree, “Eeehhhh, wassa matta youuuu?” I came to college at Notre Dame and was blazing through my first semester when I got a phone call from my brother, Austin.  Just before my brother hung up, he threw this line at me: …

An image of Jesus on a donkey riding into Jerusalem

Teaching As If the Kingdom Has Come

“Without confidence and love, there can be no true education” – St. John Bosco. I carried these words of St. John Bosco and no teaching experience into my high school junior and senior theology classrooms. Anyone who has ever faced a “first day of school” on the chalkboard side of the classroom knows that it can be a particularly intimidating and paralyzing event. Within those four walls, the teacher has recourse to no one but him- or herself and it can feel as though the classroom has become a parody of Lord of the Flies…with the teacher auspiciously cast in the role of Piggy (if you haven’t read this book, know that it doesn’t end well for Piggy). Needless to say, confidence is not the virtue that leaps spontaneously to the fore in this situation. As I write this, I have sixty some days of school under my belt. Any success I have had has little or nothing to do with my mastery of my subject matter. This is isn’t a novel insight—to which anyone …

Echo Teaching Theology

Incarnation and Re-Incarnation

Taking summer Theology classes at Notre Dame last June, I heard John Cavadini say more than once, “Our children know more about re-incarnation than the Incarnation.” I thought it was catchy, and that it was a testament to Dr. Cavadini’s commitment to helping all of us taking Theology MA classes be better catechists. I didn’t imagine it was a literal comment about the knowledge of my future students. About a month later, I found myself in Indianapolis, teaching Religion to about a hundred and twenty middle school students through the Notre Dame Echo program. The topic for the seventh graders is “The Story of Jesus” and since unit one is all about the “Mystery of the Incarnation,” I devoted a couple days in class to exploring that term with my seventh graders. As soon as I put up the definition of “Incarnation” on the board, in both classes, I immediately got a hand up in the air, “Ms. Burr, isn’t that the thing where you could be an animal?” Had I not heard the phrase …

Catechetical Spirituality: Sharing the Fruit of Contemplation

When we think of our title as catechists, we usually only consider it to be the name of the volunteer work that we do one or two nights a week at our parish. The rest of the week, we live out our vocations in our married lives, families, careers, and hobbies. However, what would it take for us to see ourselves as being called to be catechists? That, as lay catechetical ministers, our volunteer work with children and adults at our parish is also a vocation? Even though our main ministry as catechists may take place only once or twice a week, the call to be a catechist is something we are challenged to live out every single day of our life, even when we are not in a classroom with our students. Pope Francis echoes this important sentiment in his address to catechists in 2013: Catechesis is a vocation: ‘being’ a catechist, this is the vocation, not ‘working’ as a catechist. Be careful: I have not said to do the work of a catechist, …

How to Become a Catechist

Earlier this year, I walked across Notre Dame’s campus for the first time in order to interview as a parish apprentice for the Institute for Church Life’s Echo program, a two year graduate program in theology with a heavy emphasis on ministerial experience. Throughout my life, I’ve gotten to know several ND alumni. They gradually managed to build the University up to an almost legendary status in my mind. That being said, I was, unsurprisingly, enthralled, and fairly incredulous, that I was among some of the well-known buildings, memorials, and statues that grace the University’s grounds. But looking back now, as an actual Notre Dame student and apprentice, I believe that I would have been excited for very different reasons if I had known all that I would learn and experience in such a short period of time with the Echo program. My apprenticeship began with a rigorous summer filled with theology classes over Church doctrine, catechetical techniques, pastoral solutions, and various theological topics like the Sacraments of the Church and the Holy Trinity. I …

The Dangerous Art of Becoming

I stopped writing cursive in the sixth grade. If I were to handwrite this sentence for you, you would likely find my penmanship immature, unrefined, and inefficient. Its unwieldy form and bubbly profile—adorned with loopty-loops and fancy curls—would sit fat, proud, and unapologetic upon the page, the way a toddler wears her protruding belly. Such is my cursive, hopelessly stuck in the grasp of my pre-adolescent hand. My painting, ceramic, and clarinet playing skills are also frozen in an earlier time. I have just recently acquired a loom and an easel, though not with any intention of “showing” my work. Suffice it to say, no one would call me an “artist.” And yet, my experience of fashioning retreats for Echo apprentice catechetical leaders over the last eight years has made it impossible for me to consider faith formation without also considering art. “Art is not a thing; it is a way.” —Elbert Hubbard   The art experiences that have become inherent to Echo formation retreats are not a professional cover to explore a personal hobby. …