Home » Brazil » Finding my ministry

Our first planning meeting – somehow I don’t look as stressed as I felt!

When a Maryknoller finishes language school in their placement country, the next task is to find a ministry.  The experienced missioners in country help out — setting up meetings, coming up with ideas — but the new missioner can also find their own contacts. I had let the Maryknoll Brazil group know that I was interested in pastoral ministry, and that I liked the idea of a parish setting as well as prison ministry. It was through one of our Maryknoll sisters that I become connected with Sta. Terezinha.

When I first got involved with the parish a few months ago, I realized that the pastor was announcing to the parish that I was starting a program to train catechists. This caused me no small amount of panic because a) despite over a decade of ministry in the church, I don’t have any experience with parish catechesis (I was never even a CCD teacher), b) I have no experience training catechists and don’t know anything about teaching children, and c) my Portuguese needs quite a bit of work!  I expressed my concerns to the pastor, and he said, “Don’t worry, you have all month to learn Portuguese!” Great. My sympathy for Moses and Jeremiah — when they protested to God that they didn’t have the skills or experience to do what he asked — increased greatly.

Our first planning meeting with the catechists felt to me like a disaster!  There were about 15 people there, all talking very fast and all at the same time, and all complaining about the state of catechesis in the parish (lack of resources and unsupportive parents, and who knows what else I missed because of the language!).  And the pastor announced that I would begin the course for catechists the next week.  Ack!  Fortunately, it’s only gotten better since then.  I formed a leadership team with a group of experienced catechists and they’ve been a great source of ideas and advice.

Catechists’ Formation Program

An initial group of about 20 has now stabilized at around 12 people, and I’ve been surprised at how much I’m enjoying myself. I’ve picked up a few popular education techniques from colleagues and am using various dynamics and group work rather than just lecturing.  I’m getting good feedback — the catechists (to-be) say that they enjoy the course and the more dynamic way of learning.  And when I said at the last meeting that we don’t have an encontro next week, there were some real expressions of disappointment in the room!  What a relief.

I’ve still got a ways to go and lots to learn, but now I’m looking forward to it rather than dreading it.  Graças a Deus!

Catherine Heinhold
Catherine Heinhold (Class of 2010) served for five years as a Maryknoll lay missioner in São Paulo, Brazil. She is the pastoral associate for Ignatian spirituality & prayer at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Washington, D.C.