By Angelina Estrada
It’s hard to imagine going through what teens deal with today. With technology being more and more in our homes our teens are closer to the outside world than ever before. Tiktok, Instagram, Twitter can drown our teens with confusing thoughts. From telling them what’s on trend, what to “cancel” and how to feel about certain things, teens have lots of different thoughts and emotions to figure out in their lives.
I won’t lie, I’ve fallen victim to the internet telling me how I should feel about certain topics. So I know how teens today feel sometimes. This is why more than ever teens need strong young adults in their lives. Teens need people who can be role models and show them how to practice their faith. Though teens need relationships with people of all ages, they relate best with young adults. Not only does this relatability allow young adults to be teachers for teens, but they also become witnesses to the faith by living out the sacramental life.
When I was about 12 years old going through CCD, I remember having a young adult serve as a catechist aide in my class. Her name was Dulce, and she was someone I knew from summer camp rather than church. I remember thinking as a kid I wanted to be like Dulce: I wanted to help teach other kids about God.
Unfortunately, my family had begun to distance themselves from the Church, so I never had the opportunity as a kid to finish my sacraments. Then when I was twenty-two, God called me back to the Church through a homily by Fr. Victor Hernandez. The homily was about the importance of making time for Christ and of sharing God’s love through evangelization. I remembered I felt a calling to get involved.
Then Fr. Victor started giving announcements, saying, “Tuesday we will begin RCIA classes and we want to remind everyone we are short on catechists. Anyone interested please talk to the secretary. If you’re interested and have not yet completed your sacraments what better time than now to get those done and help to catechize and evangelize.” Because of Dulce’s witness, I was inspired to follow Father’s instructions and begin to serve in my praish.
If you asked me a few years ago if I would ever help catechize teens my answer would have been no. I would have responded this way because I thought that I had to learn everything before I could start teaching. However, I had to remember that we never really stop learning. Now, I have been teaching RCIY (the youth version of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, which is a process for those who are unbaptized to become Catholic) for about two years.
When I started this journey I didn’t realize the impact it would have in my own life. When I first began working in this ministry, I wanted to work with children simply because they are cute and innocent. However, once I began working with teens, I realized that it is a gift to cultivate young minds who are beginning to form views about the world.
Faith formation is not only about teaching the baseline of our faith and prayer, it is about encouraging children, teens and adults to become real disciples of Christ. I love the name of our RCIA book we use in class, The Way of Christ. It reminds me of my responsibility as a catechist to help my teens follow the way of Jesus.
The Way of Christ is the teaching material for the Diocese of Tyler which introduces readers to the fundamental teachings of the Catholic Church and how Catholics should live. Starting with Divine Revelation, we discuss the journey of faith; how God has revealed himself to the world, and how he has revealed himself to each of us personally. We then move on to discuss the “basics,” the Trinity, creation and fall, etc.
As time goes on, the class moves into Q&A as the teens begin to challenge everything they are learning. This is when it becomes the most rewarding. Not only do the teens begin to understand the basics of the Catholic Faith, but they also begin to question your beliefs, and challenge you to search deeper for the answers. This has helped me as an individual to understand the truths that the Church teaches. The teens help us become better at evangelizing while we are helping them understand and grow into evangelizers themselves.
Just a few weeks ago in class we spoke about holy matrimony and throughout the topic we focused mainly on the sacrament. But knowing my teens are not quite at that season of life where they will be getting married, we began to discuss the purpose of dating. We discussed how important dating is to the sacrament of holy matrimony as a form of discernment; dating is learning if a person is who you want to raise a family with and the person who will help lead that family to heaven. By the end of class my kids were so hyped up and excited that they wanted to share this with their friends.
This is the beauty of catechesis. You teach your students and then they want to share what they learned with the world. To see the growth of each teen, to see the flame inside them ignite as they become inspired to become future catechists, readers, and servers.
Throughout The Way of Christ, the scripture and catechism references are able to help the teen understand what the Church teaches, while being a reminder to teachers like me. I’d be lying if I said I never learned anything new while teaching a lesson – one never stops learning!
My job as an RCIA catechist is to help my teens grow closer to Christ, to become disciples, and follow the way of Christ. But at the same time, with every class, my teens help me grow closer to Christ. They help me remember to be a good disciple, a better evangelizer, and above all things to follow the Way of Christ.
If I had to give advice to someone thinking of becoming a catechist I would say what Fr. Victor said, “there’s no better time than now.” If God is calling you to serve, let the Holy Spirit guide you and do not be afraid to put yourself out there. Pope Paul VI once said “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 41). We must remember as we decide to take that step to being catechists, that we first serve as witnesses and that there’s no better time than now to take that step.
Angelina Estrada is the Events and Sales Manager for the St. Philip Institute. She is originally from Delray Beach, Florida but now resides in Tyler, TX. When she is not working or teaching she enjoys spending time with her nephews.
Cover Image: Angelina Estrada with Bishop Joseph Strickland.