Introduction to Basic Catechist Certification
- Develop the faith and knowledge of all catechists in the Diocese of Sioux City.
- Enhance the catechetical community throughout the Diocese of Sioux City, and in turn, strengthen catechesis on every level.
- Provide venues and learning opportunities in and through which the faithful of the Diocese of Sioux City may grow in faith, be strengthened in spirit, grow in community together, draw closer to Jesus Christ and go forth as missionary disciples.
- Concerning the certification itself, proactive efforts will be made to continue to evaluate methods and the needs of parish catechists to ensure a solid program that accommodates, equips and empowers the catechists of the Diocese.
What is a “Basic Catechist Certification”? And Why is it Necessary?
The Church places a great emphasis on the formation of catechists. Indeed, their proper training and ongoing formation is essential to catechesis. Pope St. John Paul II declared, “To set high standards means both to provide a thorough basic training and keep it constantly updated. This is a fundamental duty, in order to ensure qualified personnel for the Church’s mission, with good training programs and adequate structures, providing for all aspects of formation – human, spiritual, doctrinal, apostolic and professional (GC 19). Furthermore, canon law states, “Local ordinaries are to take care that catechists are duly prepared to fulfill their function properly, namely, that continuing formation is made available to them, that they understand the doctrine of the Church appropriately, and that they learn in theory and in practice the methods proper to the teaching disciplines.” Certainly, “A well-formed catechist will pass on the faith with confidence, knowing that what he or she is handing on is the pearl of great price, the Lord Jesus Himself… A well-formed catechist is excited about his or her faith and cannot wait to pass it on to another. For a well-formed catechist is not just full of ideas but has met the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and is eager that others meet Him too.”
Moreover, the purpose of the Basic Catechist Certification can be found in the General Directory for Catechesis:
[D]iocesan pastoral programs must give absolute priority to the formation of lay catechists… Formation seeks to enable catechists to transmit the Gospel to those who desire to entrust themselves to Jesus Christ. The purpose of formation, therefore, is to make the catechist capable of communicating: “The summit and center of catechetical formation lie in an aptitude and ability to communicate the Gospel message…” The formation of catechists is nothing other than an assistance for them in identifying with the living and actual awareness that the Church has of the Gospel, in order to make them capable of transmitting it in his name.
Qualifications and Requirements of a Catechist
All catechists and administrators in parish catechetical programs and all Catholic school teachers and administrators are expected to complete the basic catechist certification and ongoing faith formation requirements. Those teaching in the parish catechetical programs must be approved by their pastor. Catholic school teachers and administrators must meet the local qualifications for hiring. All catechists should be practicing Catholics in good standing with the Catholic Church in that he or she believes and practices what the Catholic Church teaches and professes. All non-Catholic teachers who participate in the Basic Catechist Certification will receive a certificate of participation, but will not be considered a “catechist” in the fullest sense of the word.
Record Keeping and Certificates
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Program Completion and Renewal
Parish catechists participating in the Catechist Certification Program begin by completing the initial requirements for the Basic Certification within two years of the date of hire or start of volunteering within the parishes. Catechists may do this in one of two ways. The traditional classes/workshops held at the local level or via the online Catechist Certification offered through the Augustine Institute which utilizes the Symbolon program.
Once this first step is completed, the certification is renewed by completing one or a combination of the Ongoing Faith Formation (Renewal of Certification) options.
Step One: Initial Certification
Basic Catechists will be initially certified by completing the 6 Basic Catechist Workshops designed by the Diocese of Sioux City’s Office of Catechesis.
- Divine Revelation and the Deposit of Faith
- Catechesis and Catechetical Methods
- Christian Living
Step 2: Options for Ongoing Formation (Renewal of Certification)
Once initial certification has been earned, it must be renewed every year. This can be done in one of the following ways.
Ideally, this would come from at least 6 hours of additional formation each year, in a few of the suggested content areas listed below. This could be achieved in a variety of ways, via conferences, seminars, in-services, lectures or workshops offered by the Diocese of Sioux City.
Additionally, local pastors and deacons, as well as qualified lay leaders, may offer these opportunities in consultation with the Diocesan Office of Catechesis. Furthermore, classes taken through Franciscan University’s St. John Bosco Conference and/or similar institutions and conferences can also serve to meet this requirement.
Suggested content areas are:
- Liturgy & Sacraments
- Life in Christ
- Life of Prayer
- Catechetical Methods and Professional/Ministry Development
- Church History
Beginning, November 1, 2017, if a diocesan event will meet this requirement, this logo will appear on the marketing to make it easy to identify.
Ideally, faith formation and ministry development classes such as these would be done in person. Our faith is communal, and we live it and celebrate it in community and in relationship with one another. Nevertheless, realizing that the demands placed upon volunteer catechists can make it difficult for them to attend such events, the Office of Catechesis will offer opportunities for ongoing faith formation in an online setting via the Blackboard Learning Management system.
For more information about this option, contact Fred Shellabarger, Director of Evangelization, Catechesis & Family Life at firstname.lastname@example.org or (712)233-7532.
It is also possible to meet this requirement through participation in faith formation programs, retreats and studies at the local parish level. Clergy and qualified lay leaders can offer these programs on a weekly or even monthly basis, or throughout the year as need arises or schedule permits. Some examples include, but are not limited to:
- The Great Adventure Bible Study
- Bishop Robert Barron’s Catholicism series
- Beloved (Marriage Enrichment Program)
- Journey Through Scripture Bible Studies
- Ascension Press, Oremus Prayer Series
- Family Faith Formation Parent/Catechist Sessions
- A local program such as a monthly study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church or presentations on Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body
 Code of Canon Law, c. 780 in The Code of Canon Law: Latin-English Edition (Washington, DC: Canon Law Society of America, 1983).
 Carol Harnett, “Eight Tips for the Formation of Catechists,” The Sower, January 2014, 14.
For more information, contact Fred Shellabarger, Director of Evangelization, Catechesis & Family Life at email@example.com or (712)233-7532.