Passing on the faith to a new generation

Diana Oliva (Michael Zahn)

In countless parishes across the United States, volunteers take on the task of passing on the faith to a new generation. Some 2.7 million children and more than 630,000 teenagers are students in parish-based religious education, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.

For this Volunteers special section, NCR put out a call on social media asking readers to tell us about outstanding volunteers who teach kids in parishes. Who has enlightened and challenged young minds about the Catholic faith, or made them excited to go to church?

On these pages is a selection from among the stories of worthy parish catechists that readers sent along.

Although she is only 20, Diana Oliva is an old hand at teaching catechism classes at St. Hyacinth, a large Hispanic parish on Milwaukee's south side.

"My mom jokes that I've spent my whole life in catechism classes because I kept wanting to go after I made first Communion," Oliva said. "When I was in the confirmation program, I felt the call to serve as a catechist. I felt it was the right way for me to live my faith and I've been doing it ever since."

This is her fourth year teaching Saturday classes at the parish. She admits she was initially nervous about this year's class: nine boys, ages 11 to 16. No need for the jitters — the boys are attentive and respectful, almost always showing up on time. She teaches the class mostly in Spanish, the language she and most of the boys speak at home, but flows into English when needed.

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