Advice from a committed catechist: Take time to listen – Feb 23
Glen Cazoe’s story is characterised by the courage and commitment of a dedicated catechist. Glen, who has lost his vision almost completely, operates with an infectious spirit of joyful gratitude for life and for all its lessons – another trademark of a catechist who models the faith he/she encourages. He gratefully remembers that Sr Rose Marie Carvalho took the time to listen and to answer his questions as a Confirmation candidate and recognises that he has been the most effective when he has taken the time to listen to his own students. Undaunted, spirit-filled and involved are the words that come to mind on hearing the story of this catechist, but judge for yourself. His story is best told in his own words:
“I grew up in a Roman Catholic home, going to church every weekend with my family. I did my Confirmation in 1976 at Holy Cross College (HCC) where I was a student. Although HCC is a Catholic school, there were many different questions raised by others regarding the faith and I was looking for answers in class. Sr Rose Marie, who taught us Confirmation, would stay back to answer all the questions I asked. I will always be grateful to her.
After Confirmation I knew I wanted to become involved in the Church. I got involved in youth groups and started teaching Confirmation class at 18 years at the Holy Trinity Parish at Arouca. I was part of the first COR (Christ Our Redeemer) Retreat at Lopinot and found it the most spiritually life-changing experience I have ever had. I took part in a three-year youth leadership training programme under Fr John Theodore and also got involved with Lectio Divina sessions conducted by the late Fr Michel de Verteuil. I started teaching Lectio at Arouca and incorporated the method into the Confirmation classes. At that time the RCIA programme had not been formalised and I taught persons 18-21 years old. My reference point was always Sr Rose Marie who had taken the time with me. I always wanted to ensure that the questions of faith were answered.
In 1987 the Maloney Housing Development opened and our church was initially linked to the Holy Trinity parish so I was assigned to develop the youth group at Maloney. There I met and married my wife who was also involved in the group. Unfortunately we separated in 2000. My learning from that experience was learning to let go. I had to work through that while remaining a person of faith. Our parish priest Fr Lennox Mc Phillip pointed me to the Eucharist as an incredible source of strength then. By 2000 I had taught two Confirmation classes and began the RCIA programme with my wife.
By 2010 I realised that I had to go closer and closer to the computer in the workplace and realised I was also knocking into objects at home. I was then diagnosed with advanced glaucoma which runs in my family. Although told that the nerves were badly deteriorated, with only 10% residual vision in one eye, the experience did not shake me. Through my involvement in Social Justice work in our parish I knew where help could be found. I have received retraining at the Blind Welfare Association in braille and craft and in the JAWS (Job Application With Speech) computer programme and now use that at work.
God often gives us gifts which we do not appreciate until a particular situation arises. This has happened with my memory. Since childhood my memory was exceptional. I am now able to apply that as a catechist as I vividly recall Scripture verses and other material. I use this to answer the questions on faith which are asked. As a committed Christian I also speak of my faith to other blind persons. I have found that the degree of frustration amongst the blind is very high, with many persons whom I have met having attempted suicide at least once. I have often shared my faith that loss of vision is not the end of life, merely a different situation. I have continued teaching RCIA in Maloney and was Coordinator up to 2013.
God knew what plans he had for me and knew my gift would help witness to others. Listening is the best way I have touched people. Sometimes as catechists we feel we know all the answers. When I listen I am able to hear where they need the hand of God to touch.”
Glen took the time to share his story after a day of blind cricket practice for a regional tournament.
May we all be blessed with the joyous energy of a committed catechist
Archdiocesan Catechetical Office