Pope John Paul II (1980)

In a previous article, I wrote about the Role of the Catechist in transmitting the Christian faith. Essentially, the catechist’s place is within the process of evangelising people, i.e. in bringing people to a personal faith in Jesus Christ, and inserting them into the whole life of the Church. The catechist must be a model Christian whose whole life is a witness to the Gospel. In order to accomplish this role, the catechist requires thorough and ongoing formation in the Christian life.

The first task of the Catechist is to proclaim explicitly the Christian message and to accompany catechumens and newly baptised Christians on their road to full maturity in the faith and sacramental life. Secondly, the role of the catechist “comprises presence and witness, and involvement in human development, inculturation and dialogue” (Guide for Catechists, 3). Hence, catechists require proper formation in the Christian life so that they can be outstanding witnesses in their living of the Christian life. Their formation equips them to promote human development in accordance with Christian principles. Catechists help people to recognise “structures of sin” within their society and seek to replace them with “structures of solidarity” so people can flourish together. Structures of sin in today’s society include those motivated by materialist philosophy which denies man has a spiritual soul. This leads to the dehumanising practices of human trafficking, abortion, and euthanasia. In shedding the light of the Gospel upon culture, catechists teach people to uphold the culture’s good elements, while simultaneously purifying the culture of its evil elements. Thus, the catechist helps Christians build a civilisation of love and overcome a culture of death.

Since bishops bear the primary responsibility for catechesis they establish catechetical centres, like the St. John Centre for Biblical Studies, for the formation of catechists and the catechetical instruction of the faithful. These schools provide formation in Catholic doctrine, Scripture, liturgy, catechetical method, and pastoral practice. Clergy and religious assist their local bishop as “instructors in the faith” and are to do all they can to ensure the Catholic faithful are not left without catechesis. The local bishop commissions lay catechists in his diocese to catechise children in preparation for reception of the sacraments, and adults as they journey towards full reception into the Church. Catechists provide ongoing catechetical formation to youth groups and adult faith formation groups. Since lay catechists are commissioned by the bishop, they follow the teaching of the bishop, who in turn follows the teaching of Christ himself. In following the bishop, the intention of lay catechists is “to transmit not one’s own teaching or that of some other master, but the teaching of Jesus Christ, the Truth that He communicates or, to put it more precisely, the Truth that He is” (Catechesi tradendae, 6).

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