Last night we welcomed 25 or so new Peer Ministers, which was very exciting! One of the PM leaders asked everyone to tell their names, their favorite ice cream flavor, and why they want to join Peer Ministry. Over and over again, the newbies said "I loved the retreat, and I wanted to do what the peer ministers on my retreat got to do. I want to make the retreat great for the next class."
Many years ago, I was trying to figure out where we were going wrong in our catechetical efforts. I thought to myself "what works?" and the answer was, at least in part, retreats. So what was it about retreats that work, where catechetical programming doesn't (or didn't, for us)?
It's the Big Question for high school catechesis; Heart? or Head? Or... both? The NDC talks about learning by heart and by head, and recommends we aim for both. The Big Problem with catechetical curricula that you buy from publishers (textbook series) is that they can only do by-head learning, and you can't have one without the other, and think that you're preparing disciples for life in the Church. So where does the heart come from? The people. The catechists, the sponsors, the Youth Ministers, the mentors who lead them in service and justice activities.
Waaaaay back in the 70's our Bishops told us that catechesis is only one component of many needed to serve young people in the Church. It's a concept we're still struggling with. But 30-some-odd years later, it's no less true.