L.A. catechists say pandemic changed them
95% are female, average age 55

2022-10-20T16:59:56-07:00October 21st, 2022|California Diocese News|

Kenneth Arguelles, a 60-year-old parishioner of St. Mary’s Church in Palmdale, was part of a group of certified catechists officially commissioned last month at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels following four years of studies at Loyola Marymount University and the Catholic Bible Institute.

His mission as a catechist is a busy one, now including Bible study on Thursday nights on Zoom; Order of Christian Initiation of Adults classes on Monday nights; and first Communion classes on Wednesday nights.

“My spirituality is much more developed and life has more joy in it today because of the gifts I received from our Church as a certified catechist,” said Arguelles, who by day works for the Los Angeles County Assessor’s office as a real property appraiser in the Antelope Valley.

Arguelles traces his vocation as a catechist back to an encounter more than 20 years ago with Flor de Maria Luna, then the director of religious education at St. Mary’s and now catechist formation coordinator for the entire archdiocese.

Arguelles was first certified as a catechist in 2006, then as a master catechist in 2019 following a three-year formation program. Today, he’s part of a team that meets on Saturdays to develop certified catechists in the Antelope Valley and the rest of the San Fernando Pastoral Region.

Not all are officially certified, since pastors ultimately decide how catechesis is given and who gives it in each parish. The Catechist Formation Ministry estimates that about 95% of the more than 1,500 active catechists in the archdiocese are female. The average catechist age is about 55.

Luna admitted the recent pandemic saw a notable number of older catechists decide to step back from ministry work. Connecting catechists with children, teens, adults, and new converts across various programs became more difficult.

But following the worst of the pandemic, Luna said her office is working to identify people’s needs and “ways to accompany them.”

Giovanni Perez, the archdiocese’ coordinator of catechist formation in Spanish for the last 10 years and a catechist for 30 years, sees not only a need for new English and Spanish-speaking catechists, but also those in Korean, Chinese, and Vietnamese, plus a growing population of indigenous Mayan communities.

“I remember the first message that Pope Francis sent in 2020 — from a crisis like a pandemic, one comes out either better or worse, but we’re not the same,” said Perez, who lives in Whittier and attends Dolores Mission Church in Boyle Heights.

“We as a Catholic community in general are coming out much better equipped to address the needs of the people in the 21st-century reality. Technology is only one part of it. The whole paradigm has changed. It has asked that families be more involved.”

But when it comes to the technology part, the pandemic seems to have inspired some fresh creativity in catechists like Monalisa Hasson. The catechist at St. Joseph’s Church in Hawthorne who taught in public schools for 30 years, she created a free website (GoodNewsCatechist.com )  to help fellow catechists get on board with simple things like lesson planning.

“I struggled so much at the beginning I thought it would be good to create a clearinghouse of resources,” said Hasson.

She recently completed two faith formation and catechist preparation programs offered through the archdiocese: One Faith, One Mission and Vision and Skills for Faith Formation. Now back in the classroom for the second year in a row, she sees Covid as an event that unexpectedly “brought us together to meet each other’s needs through unconventional means.

“Zoom helped me engage more with parents, to chat about things they were facing,” said Hasson.

But Hasson believes the effects of pandemic-induced isolation on young people — apprehension, hesitancy, social awkwardness — calls for catechists to spend more time in the “pre-evangelization stage of getting to know our students….”

Likewise, Ernesto Vega, coordinator for adult faith formation in Spanish, sees “pros and cons” to the consequences of the pandemic on religious education….

Vega has found using Facebook and Instagram effective in recruiting new catechists on the parish level, but an overwhelming percentage come through personal relationships that lead to recommendations by a friend or a pastor.

As Luna outlined in a recent essay on AngelusNews.com, it is those personal relationships that in turn form the true foundation of effective catechesis.

“The programs feel more like retreats than ‘educational’ learning,” said Cara Crosetti, business manager and coordinator for adult initiation formation at Our Lady of Sorrows in Santa Barbara….

The above comes from an Oct. 17 posting in Angelus News.

12 Comments

  1. Catholic Men, Step Up! October 21, 2022 at 12:42 pm - Reply

    More examples of the Church being feminized, which is a disaster!

    Boys and young men need strong male role models to help them develop their spirituality, iron sharpens iron.

    • Your Fellow Catholic October 23, 2022 at 7:55 am - Reply

      Many of us were catechisms by nuns and came out fine. Mothers (along with fathers) are the “first teachers of the faith”. No need to turn catechisms into another sexualized role. Your sexist remark is historically inaccurate and theologically backwards.

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  2. Unvaxxed and Unapologetic October 21, 2022 at 3:48 pm - Reply

    What changed was the realization that so many people are sheep, afraid to stand for truth. Shameful.

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  3. what you pay for October 21, 2022 at 9:35 pm - Reply

    You get what you pay for.

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  4. Deacon Craig Anderson October 22, 2022 at 7:56 am - Reply

    I have high regard for women over 55 and their service to the Church. I’m married to one. But, when they are the overwhelming demographic of catechists, it should not surprise us that we’re failing to reach most millenials, GenZers, boys and men. The Church needs to intentionally and effectively reach out to youth and young adults. And, we men need to step up our game too. If you’re a Catholic man who wants to do so, check out Heroic Men at
    https://heroicmen.com/

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    • female-dominated October 22, 2022 at 3:23 pm - Reply

      Teaching has been female-dominated for as long as I can remember.

  5. Dennis October 22, 2022 at 10:53 am - Reply

    Deacon Craig, you hit the nail on the head. “We men need to step up……” The Church is fenmine; from Bible studies to Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion and everything in between, except the Knights. ‘Why? Men think religion is a womens world. The churches are filled with women in a 5 to 8 to 1 over men. Why? Men are not interested. Are they not interested in gaining eternal life with God? Or are they depending on the women to get them there? Or do they even thinnk abou it? Malaise, apathy and ‘Satan at work.

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  6. women vs men October 22, 2022 at 3:37 pm - Reply

    Teaching catechism is really difficult and takes a lot of prep work.
    Women who do not work outside the home and whose children are at school or out of the home have more time to devote to it.
    I can’t speak for men but they probably know that they do not know enough to be catechists and when the DRE says “You don’t have to know anything. You are just presenting the material in the book..” women say “Oh OK, I can do that.” and men say “I can contribute better in other ways.”

  7. Catechist training October 22, 2022 at 10:05 pm - Reply

    Are many Catholics familiar with today’s Catechists– and years of training required? Why not instead, get a Master’s degree, and go teach at a Catholic high school or college? I bet many young men might be more interested in becoming a priest– or maybe a Pernanent Deacon, if married and middle aged. Perhaps many Catholic lay men think more in terms of a traditional career, and a deeper dedication to God. Are all lay Catechist jobs volunteer work? With lots of (expensive) college-level professional training? The 1960s garbage, feminism and Vatican II, derailed men and masculinity, and men’s traditional roles. The Vatican II Church is full of lay women taking new Vatican II roles– we used to have no women or girls on the altar. I prefer the older Church– full of married couples with children, at Mass– and the kids taught by the nuns, in Catholic school. And a stable life for all, in all areas of life– the Church, society, Marriage, everything. And good morals, responsibility, and good discipline, required of all. No fooling around. Doesn’t matter, which Mass is being mandated for use– when everything else is falling to pieces!

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  8. Catechist training October 22, 2022 at 10:48 pm - Reply

    We were all recently invited to an “Evening to Congratulate Cardinal Robert McElroy,” at the Cathedral, on Oct. 27th, with Sung Vespers and light refreshments afterwards. No thanks. I politely declined. Can you imagine working as a certified Catechist under a prelate like McElroy or Cupich? No way! And by the way– who are the Catholic professors at bad Jesuit Catholic schools, like LMU, training the Catechists?

  9. me October 23, 2022 at 4:28 pm - Reply
  10. Catechisms October 23, 2022 at 7:02 pm - Reply

    Catechist is a calling although often there have not been enough so they have to fill in with a volunteer who agrees to do it for a year or two.
    Both of those Cardinals that you mentioned are over diocese that have catechetical certification.
    Having lived through the doctrine-free catechesis years, I am glad to see this.
    The Faith is the Faith. It is the same all over the world.

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