I was happy with the effort I poured in as I prepared for my first ever formal lecture with my catechism class. Getting some inspiration from one Internet site, I made two innovations for that meeting. The suggested teaching methods were somewhat novel, at least, in as far as my teaching standards are concerned.
I convinced myself that these novelties would certainly bring our discussion to a different level.
Modesty aside, I can say that somehow, it did. Especially since when I peeped inside the question box, I was satisfied that the question box was filled with so many questions coming from my overly curious students.
However, after that very session, I felt exhausted. I probed within and I realized that there were at least three probable reasons why I felt heavy.
For one, there was still a grand confusion about the schedule of my catechism class, to think that it was already September! It turned out that the conflict in schedule had not been ironed out by the parish office with the principal. In fact, the teacher was already inside the classroom when I came. One of my students who was thoughtful enough told me to just tell his teacher that it was supposed to be the period for our catechism class. Awkwardly, I did exactly that. The teacher was kind to consider yielding that slot to me. Inquiring with my students afterwards, I learnt that their teacher would just look for another period to meet my class.
Another reason, which has brought my spirit down, is that personally, I felt that I did not perform so well. My perceived inadequacy with classroom management and my faltering voice seemed to make me lose control of the class at certain points. I consoled myself with the fact that “it was my first stint in the classroom after some months of hiatus, and I have the entire school year to regain my glory!”
After the class, we were already leaving the campus when a vehicle arrived. The inscription on the side of the vehicle distinguished it to a property of a Protestant sect. I recall that it came also the previous week.
I realized that like us, these preachers would have their time with our students. They would preach to our students about the Bible, they would teach them about God.
Honestly, I don’t have anything against this. In fact, I cannot even complain of this, since the constitution of our land guarantees everyone the freedom of religion. It is the preachers’ right to teach what they believe in, and our students are also free to choose a religious sect they wish to belong in. A strong democracy enshrines these privileges.
But the thought pushed me to realizing that it’s a lot harder to evangelize now especially because we would have to share this piece of our ‘mission land’ to ‘missionaries belonging to a different faith.’
Hence, the challenge for a catechist and for a young Salesian like me becomes a tall order: to prepare the lessons well, to make each Church doctrine become relevant to the lives of my students, and to explore other teaching methodologies in order to hold their attention.
The leadership of the congregation may have been cognizant of this reality (cf Art. 26 of the GC document) that the urgency to proclaim the message of the Risen Lord impels us to confront situations that resonate in us as both an appeal and a concern.
After all have been said and done, I believe that it is not my work after all. I just happen to be an instrument, a mere co-worker. At the end of the day, it remains to be God’s work after all. I may be able to hold the attention of my students and make the lessons appealing to them, but the touching of their hearts ultimately remains to be His.
The task to evangelize remains to be difficult. But the thought that the One who sends us to carry out this mission journeys with us, and helps us in every single step should remain a consolation.
The task of evangelization may be extremely difficult, but still, it remains to be doable.