I recently had the pleasure of interviewing author, Lisa Mladinich about her inspiring and very attractive and AMAZING catechist booklets.
Here's our interview:
DONNA-MARIE: Lisa, I'm looking at your latest booklet, "Be an Amazing Catechist: Sacramental Preparation." It's very attractive and filled with so many valuable concepts, teaching tips and tools for lesson planning, and even help with classroom discipline. I think it's great!
Lisa, what compelled you to write it?
LISA: My publisher! I had written the first booklet, “Be an Amazing Catechist: Inspire the Faith of Children” directly from my own experiences in the classroom, which developed over a long period of teaching children both in and out of the Church. So when my publisher asked me to write a booklet on Sacramental Preparation, I was a little nonplussed. I had taught sacramental preparation, but I didn’t feel I was expert enough to create something as densely packed and useful as the first one. However, the team at OSV is largely made up of experienced catechists and DREs, so I knew that my work would be in the best of hands. I set about researching and interviewing passionate, experienced catechists and DREs whose specialties related to the subject and ended up with more than enough high-quality material. I learned a lot in the process and discovered that my own experiences were echoed in those of others. It was a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to the next one.
DONNA-MARIE: Would you please tell me about your booklet that preceded this one and a bit about this one?
LISA: The first booklet, “Inspire the Faith of Children,” is a ton of fun. It’s packed with powerful, easy-to-use teaching methods adaptable to absolutely any curriculum. It encourages the catechist to do something personal, but well-informed. It offers a clear-cut system for everything from lesson-planning to classroom discipline, from teaching children to pray to drawing them closer to God through creative, unforgettable lessons. Using the Bible, movement, music, and even puppets are explained.
Everything is founded on three ideals: 1) teaching authentic, orthodox Catholicism, which God richly blesses and supplements abundantly with His grace; 2) the catechist’s own intimate walk with Jesus Christ; 3) the catechist’s individual teaching style, informed by a brief inquiry into learning styles, personality, and native talent.
Building on these same ideals, the “Sacramental Preparation” booklet addresses such topics as: inspiring heroism in children, teaching them reverence, reducing fear of the confessional, exciting activities and insights for imparting abstract concepts, help with logistics for First Penance and Holy Communion, Confirmation prep, getting teens to open up, inspiring them, helping them develop a positive and powerful Catholic identity, the value of rote learning, assessments, and much more. I was very privileged to interview catechists of great commitment, orthodoxy, and creativity for this booklet. They inspired me so much I wanted to get back into teaching the sacraments myself.
DONNA-MARIE: I understand there's a Spanish version of one or both? Is that right?
LISA: Yes, OSV has a strong commitment to providing resources for Spanish-speaking Catholics. I’m very proud of the translated booklets and pray that they continue to be of help to the Hispanic members of our Catholic family.
DONNA-MARIE: How long have you been involved in Faith Formation? Have you taught as a catechist?
LISA: I have taught as a catechist in various environments over the years, primarily with children, beginning when I was in high school. But there were long breaks in-between as I went through college, struggled to build a career, settled down and became a mother. I was an actress for many years and taught improvisation to adult actors and then later to teens. For a few years I taught secular workshops for children in nursery schools, libraries, scout troops and summer camps. My work with young children was primarily about character development and encouraging literacy. I used songs, puppetry, improvisation and storybook theater games to help young children connect dynamically with abstract concepts. It was great, great fun and quite successful. Particularly moving were the responses of special needs children to my work with puppets, which have a strange power to hold the attention of even the most challenged students. By the time my daughter entered our parish’s RE program and I went back to work as a catechist, I had developed a powerful methodology that transferred easily to teaching the Faith, but then exploded in terms of efficacy because of the addition of prayer and an awareness of God’s presence throughout. I still occasionally do special programs for children, but most of my teaching involves instructing catechists, these days.
DONNA-MARIE: As catechists begin their new school year, what do you think are one or two of the most important things he or she should keep in mind?
LISA: Most importantly, that they are never alone – in or out of the classroom. That teaching and learning the Faith can and should be a supernatural experience. Our Biblical heroes aren’t memorable because of their great brilliance or talent, they are heroes because of their trust in God. When we pray, make small sacrifices for our students and their families, do our best and leave the rest to God, He moves powerfully. And don’t let discouragement set in. You won’t see the fruits of much of what you do in this life. But God is faithful to water the seeds you plant, and if you are faithful to the Church’s teachings and cling to Jesus Christ through sacramental life and prayer, you will one day see that blessed fruit revealed in heaven.
DONNA-MARIE: Lisa, how do you see this pamphlet and your previous one helping catechists? Have you received feedback?
LISA: Because of technology, I do have the joy of receiving wonderful feedback. I love hearing that someone was afraid to take on the task of teaching the Faith, but that my booklet swept away their feelings of intimidation and they’ve signed up for the year. One catechist told me that my booklet got her started, and then saved her several times when she would hit the wall again and get frustrated when things weren’t going well. She just kept going back and re-reading it. By the end of the first year, she’d become so confident and successful that she was appointed grade-level coordinator for the following year. I also dearly love to hear that veteran catechists who were experiencing burn-out are now refreshed and excited again about teaching, that they’re full of ideas and trusting in God to provide more, because they’ve read this little booklet. Catechists are “my people.” I dearly love them and learn a great deal from them, so it doesn’t just help them. It helps me.
DONNA-MARIE: What are your hopes for this booklet?
LISA: That God uses it as a small part of a greater effort, made up of tons of catechists, writers, speakers and religious education leaders; a genuine revolution in the teaching of the Catholic faith that will smash through decades of watered-down or heretical programs that have, unfortunately, dominated the American Church for decades. Generations have been lost from active participation in the Church, and the damage multiplies with each successive generation. This, however, is just another Goliath, and we needn’t fear. The battle is the Lord’s and there are great signs of hope, especially among young people. There are wonderful people entering this gentle, loving “fight.” My little booklets are like small troops of soldiers out there hollering, “Charge!”
DONNA-MARIE: How can we get a copy?
LISA: Our Sunday Visitor sells them for $2.95 each, or $17.95 for packs of ten. They’re magazine sized, about 30 pages, very colorful and easy to roll up and stick in a purse, briefcase, or book-bag. Right now they’re being featured at the Parish Resources home page at OSV.com, which is very exciting for me. Here are the links!
Sacramental Preparation - https://catalog.osv.com/Catalog.aspx?SimpleDisplay=true&ProductCode=X1206
Inspiren la Fe de los Niños - https://catalog.osv.com/Catalog.aspx?SimpleDisplay=true&ProductCode=X1211
Inspire the Faith of Children - http://www.osv.com/ParishNav/ParishProducts/BeAnAmazingCatechist/tabid/8235/Default.aspx
DONNA-MARIE: Is there something else you'd like us to know about your booklets for catechists?
LISA: Yes, something very important and central to their intent.
Both booklets emphasize what the Church refers to as “a call within a call”; that all those who teach the Faith must recognize God’s intimate, personal call to them as individuals to draw near to Him. Yes, He wants us to teach, but even more, He wants us to cling to Him through study, prayer, and sacramental life. It’s all about conversion. To teach powerful, effective lessons with staying power, we have to learn the Faith, love it, and live it. We don’t have to be perfect, just willing to learn in baby steps as we go along, and to have the integrity to submit to the Church’s proper authority. God blesses that willingness. It is in humility that He raises us up and makes us radiate His light to a dark world.
Donna-Marie, thank you so much! I am very honored to address your readers in this way. Thank you for having me.
DONNA-MARIE: Thanks so much, for sharing your time, Lisa. I hope the interview will help draw attention to your AMAZING work!
God bless you and yours!