The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, the third largest Archdiocese in the U.S., serves more than 2.3 million Catholics in Cook and Lake Counties in Northeastern Illinois, and administrates the nation’s largest private school system. Recently, the Archdiocese took an innovative approach to restructuring their Catechist Management program. Their first step was to speak with more than700 individuals to help draft the future direction. What they discovered was their programs weren't as accessible as they needed to be, weren't always aligned with expectations and outcomes, were taught with mixed quality, and were often too expensive.
Fr. Peter Wojcik, Director, Office for Catechesis and Youth Ministry, explains the next step, "We decided to address those issues in the context of the global market and decided that, if we are going to invest in any training programs and formation models, we would have to offer an online option now so we would not have to make another big change in 3-5 years. As Bishop Barron said to me a few months ago, 'in five years, unless formation programs are offered- online, they won't exist.'"
Fr. Wojcik continues, "Our new programs are reflective of requests we received, as well as of the time demands of the younger people we want to attract as catechists. Our people are different today - so our programs also have to change! We cut the initial programs by 50 percent and built a structure of ongoing formation to make formation easier, more accessible and exciting for all age groups- including young professionals. We also developed a catechist formation and certification program in Polish, as nearly 15,000 students attend and learn their faith through Polish schools. We now have almost 300 Polish speaking catechists who are fully certified and teach the faith in the same way as parish-based English and Spanish programs."
MCFD’s Product Manager, Jeremy Foster, says, 'I admire the approach that Fr. Peter and his team have taken to ensure consistency in teaching the Catholic faith in the Archdiocese. They assessed the needs and the formation of those teaching and using feedback from throughout the Archdiocese, developed a plan, and sought out a solution to fulfill it. The “'Answering the Call” program they created helps catechists and school teachers in the Archdiocese to be trained consistently and provides them many options for retreats, online and live classes, and ongoing formation. The Lifelong Formation team has received wonderful feedback from the pilot group and are looking forward to launching the entire program this summer.'