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Both the mentor relationship and direct parish/school experience, as well as formal ministerial and pedagogical training, serve to prepare apprentices and theology teachers for their catechetical ministry within the Echo Program and beyond.
In our partner parishes, a mentor is a parish catechetical leader who is certified at the host diocese’s highest level of catechetical leader certification, has three or more years of service in parish catechetical leadership, and has been approved to serve as a mentor by the host diocese. In our partner schools, a mentor is a master educator as well as a witness to faith at the partner school, interested in and capable of accompanying the Echo theology teacher and of reflecting theologically with the theology teacher on his/her professional experience. Both diocesan partners and Echo staff members collaborate in carefully matching each apprentice and theology teacher to a mentor for this invaluable two-year relationship. As one who assists an apprentice/theology teacher in on-site ministerial formation, the mentor helps apprentices and theology teachers to navigate and process their experiences of service and leadership in various aspects of parish or Catholic school ministry.
In addition to this on-site mentoring relationship, both the partner dioceses and the Echo staff afford apprentices and theology teachers a number of opportunities for professional and ministerial development throughout each year. Partner dioceses assist in making both regional and national professional development opportunities accessible to apprentices and theology teachers. Echo staff and faculty, assisted by other Notre Dame faculty members, offer both courses and workshops in pastoral ministry and theological pedagogy, helping apprentices and theology teachers integrate theology and ministry, engage in theological reflection, foster their own developing ministerial identity, and develop practical skills essential for contemporary catechetical leadership.
Apprentices and theology teachers are also frequently invited to participate in diocesan and even national-level ministerial experiences that further contribute to their formation. In addition, many apprentices and theology teachers attend diocesan and national conferences dedicated to pastoral and catechetical praxis. For example, many Echo apprentices receive scholarships to attend the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership every year. On occasion, apprentices have even assumed leadership roles as co-presenters at such conferences.