Note: This story is part of a series highlighting the 2019 Bishop’s Annual Appeal, which launches in February.
On a blustery Sunday night at Christ the King School in Browerville, Beverly Geraets warmly welcomed rosy-cheeked children as they shook snow from their boots and called out hellos to their friends.
Greeting the students at their bimonthly faith formation classes is a ritual — and a joy — Geraets has been part of for over 25 years. As the director of religious education in Browerville, Geraets has been trained and, over the years, has helped train others to be catechists in the Catholic faith.
“As a DRE, I really want our students to be able to ask questions about their faith, to really learn and understand what the sacraments are all about. They need to understand, or they are going to walk away from their faith. We need them to understand why it is so wonderful to be Catholic,” she said.
Geraets works with students as young as 3 years old using the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a hands-on learning approach to the religious education of children with presentations based on the Bible and liturgy.
“Seeing those little 3- to 5-year-olds coming to class and just ‘getting’ it, they understand more about their Catholic faith. I wish we’d had this program 20 years ago,” she said. “It makes me want to learn more about my faith. I have learned more about my faith by teaching them.”
Geraets has tried many different teaching methods to engage students and families. One of the more recent additions to faith formation is inviting high school seniors and other catechists to her home, where they share a meal together. After the meal, they have a 30-minute Bible study and spend time in reflection and prayer.
“What questions do they have that we are not answering?” Geraets wanted to know. “It’s about giving them a chance to get to ask questions about their faith so they know why we do certain things in the Catholic Church. It’s totally awesome.”
Her main drive is to have a good relationship with the youth.
“I try to go to as many events at the public school as I can so they see me there and then they see me here at church,” she said. “It’s so amazing when we go someplace and kids come up to me as adults and say, ‘Mrs. Geraets, I’m going to church more often’ or ‘Mrs. Geraets, I got the Bible out the other night.’ It makes you feel good that these conversations did help them, not only in their Catholic faith but in their personal lives as well.”
Lay ministers, like those who work as parish catechetical leaders, need and deserve good formation for ministry. They are co-responsible with the clergy to further the mission of the Gospel in our parishes and need the skills and knowledge to do so well. A contribution to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal helps to ensure that good formation will enable them to lead and perform the tasks of ministry confidently.”
— KRISTI BIVENS, associate director of lay leadership formation, Office of Catholic Education Ministries