January 17, 2020 // Diocese

Convienient grace: Profiles in the CCD/Religious Education setting

The journey continues for catechetical leaders throughout the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, as faith formation programs enter the new year with renewed hope inspired by the Christmas season.

Bridges of trust are building in the lives of the catechist and student. Catechist Jonathan Alvarez of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Elkhart, continues to build that trust and encourage hope in the 24 boys in his confirmation class.

Alvarez has been a catechist since graduating from Marian University in 2018. He is in his second year of teaching. “I am constantly learning new things to improve my teaching styles and bring kids closer to the love of Christ,” he stated.

Born in Mexico, Alvarez came to the United States when he was 4 years old. “I lived in Elkhart up to the fourth grade and then moved to Goshen, where I continue to live. I have been a parishioner of St. Vincent de Paul since childhood, where I received both my first Communion and confirmation.”

Photos by Tami DeLucenay
Father Matthew Coonan presents catechesis to more than 140 confirmation students at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Elkhart, as catechist Jonathan Alvarez, foreground, follows along with the lesson on his laptop.

It was during his high school years that Alvarez began to make what he called “some poor choices I was heading down the wrong path. I started attending the youth group in Goshen, and that was the culminating factor of my faith life. The love of Christ that was shown to me by the youth ministers at St. John (the Evangelist) set me on a new path.”

He remained strong in his faith, and now passes on to others the love of Christ that was shown to him.

While in college, Alvarez considered a vocation to the priesthood and majored in Catholic studies and philosophy. Although his discernment has led to a different vocation, he continues to serve the Church any way he can.

“My favorite work in the Church is with the inner-city kids. I feel that my life experiences help me to relate to the young people in my class. Our confirmation class meets once a month for three hours. I have 24 boys that I meet with each month; we begin our class as a large group with catechesis from Father Matthew (Coonan), then break off to our classroom for our lessons. The first thing we do is prayer, I ask the boys who wants to be the beginning or the end, the boys volunteer and we say a prayer to start or end our class time. We spend some time in review from the previous lessons and then dive into the lesson of the day. I have them participate by acting out the stories, along with just being present to them and checking out what’s going on in their lives.”

Alvarez explains the Nicene Creed to his students in December.

Alvarez shares with his students that the biggest thing he has learned is to come to Mass and to stay close to Christ. “I spend time in personal prayer every morning. If I’m not growing every day, then I’m falling behind. I have a great devotion to Mother Mary to help me in my faith walk. I also look to the intercession of St. John Bosco; he, too, worked with kids on the edge.”

“There is such an attack on the family, and I just want to reach out to parents to encourage them to teach their kids about the faith, he noted. “If it’s not taught at home, it’s hard for kids to grasp on to what we are teaching in our short time together.”

Alvarez looks forward to celebrating the sacrament of confirmation with his students later this year. He also continues to live out his call to serve others by helping with youth retreats and his parish youth group, along with bringing Communion to the sick at Goshen Hospital and assisting with ministry to inmates at the Elkhart County jail.

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