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Catechists are critical in evangelization

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

September 12, 2018

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

The Church celebrates Catechetical Sunday on September 16, 2018 when some of our parishioners will be commissioned as catechists. We are so fortunate and truly blessed to have such generous women and men who sacrifice their time to help our parents in their critical responsibility of training their children in the Catholic faith.

In the past, our catechists were clergy or religious who had extensive training and formation in the Catholic faith. Given the drastic decrease in their number, dedicated lay people now lead our parish’s catechetical efforts. Their Catholic education and faith formation have become more urgent. The catechist works to understand and be comfortable in articulating the Catholic faith in the many areas that comprise the fullness of Church teaching.

First and foremost, the catechist, him or herself, must be a disciple of Jesus Christ. This year’s theme, “Enlisting Witnesses for Jesus Christ,” reminds us that catechesis is not the mere sharing of information, but an inherent aspect of discipleship. I must know Whom it is that I am called to follow and with whom I am on this journey. If we desire that those whom we lead would develop a personal encounter with Jesus, we best have one ourselves. When we don’t, our words reveal a hollow, fraudulent witness.

The catechist seeks to understand the changing parish landscape and is an active force in the ongoing vitality of the faith life of the local parish as local pastoral planning evolves. They have an acute sensitivity to and respect for the parishioners whose parishes have closed or have been merged or reconfigured into new parish communities. No one must feel left behind or lost in the cracks. Our catechists develop the skills that enhances collaboration and flexibility in community-building endeavors in our parish catechetical programs.

More and more, our parents, our families need our help. Increasingly, they are unable to pass on the faith inasmuch as their own personal knowledge of it may be weak. Strengthening Faith Formation in Family Life, our catechetical efforts energetically support our parent’s role as the first catechists of their children. That can only be accomplished with a real sensitivity to the complexities of today’s family.

Flexibility is an essential characteristic in any endeavor to meet the varying needs of today’s families. What we’ve always done, what everyone else is doing will not suffice.

As Pope Francis wrote in The Joy of Love, “We need to find the right language, arguments and forms of witness that can help us reach the hearts of young people, appealing to their capacity for generosity, commitment, love and even heroism…” (#40)

Inspired and energized by the Gospel and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we invite our families to discover, celebrate and deepen their relationship with Christ in the midst of the local family of faith. Catechesis is critical to the evangelizing mission of the Church and to the health and vitality of a parish and its people.

We congratulate and support all those in our parishes who help to strengthen faith formation in family life.

Faithfully yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Terry R. LaValley
Bishop of Ogdensburg

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