All posts tagged: Echo

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. …

The Hidden Vocation of the Catechist

Editor’s note: These remarks were delivered at the annual Echo Mentor Dinner on July 9, 2016. Dear Friends, I recently received a book in the mail, a gift of the author, Michael Foley, who used to teach here. The title seems to sum up our evening together so I’ve brought it so show to you: it’s called Drinking with the Saints. He opens the book with the famous lines from Hilaire Belloc which I am sure you all know, but it never hurts to hear them one more time: Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine There’s always laughter and good red wine, At least I’ve always found it so, Benedicamus Domino! Speaking of the sun, I don’t really remember an Echo Mentor Weekend Dinner for which the weather was not perfect and the summer evening so shot through with seemingly infinite light and warmth that it did not seem symbolic for a moment set apart in the actual infinite. Being suspended in light from up in the Press Box always added to the impression, but …

Theology and Catechesis: Renewing Method

In less than three weeks, I’ll be back in the classroom teaching an intensive course introducing over forty students to a fundamental theology for catechesis. Most of my students will be parish ministers, high school teachers, or those involved in campus ministry at a secondary or collegiate level. Each day of the class on our blog, I will offer a series of reflections drawn from our syllabus to invite readers to follow along virtually. Yet, before launching into this virtual syllabus, I wanted to offer a defense of the course’s title: Introduction to Catechetical Theology. Often enough in the academy, catechesis is preceded by the term “mere.” While the theologian advances knowledge and is engaged in critical inquiry, the catechist is “merely” teaching the particulars of Christian faith. Such an assumption fails to grasp that the catechist is performing an act of theological interpretation in every moment of teaching. As Augustine notes in his De doctrina christiana (On Teaching Christianity), the first act of the teacher is not presentation but interpretation. A catechist without a theological …

A Letter to the Newly Baptized

To the Recently Baptized: You may already feel it–the fact that this journey you are made a significant transition when you were baptized. Though you remain on the same path towards Christ, your landscape and means for getting there have radically changed. I want to share three ways in which your baptism marked a significant moment in your journey, changing you irreversibly, and then speak to the continuing nature of your journey. First, in Baptism you were adopted into a new family. Though you were born into a birth family many years ago, Robin Jensen in Baptismal Imagery in Early Christianity notes that “unlike a birth family, this was a family one chose” (57). Tertullian exhorts the one being baptized saying “when you come up from that most sacred washing of the new birth and for the first time you raise your hands with your brethren in your mother’s house, ask of your Father, ask of your Lord, for special grants of grace and attributions of spiritual gifts” (58). You now have a new mother and a …