February 5, 2010

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Catechesis and evangelization are key responsibilities for us all

Last week, I wrote about the importance of our Catholic schools. This week, I want to emphasize the importance of our parish religious education programs.

We offer religious education not only for our children, but also for young adults and adults.

In our recently updated archdiocesan leadership strategic plan, we named evangelization our No. 1 priority. A significant component of evangelization is catechesis, which is the fullness of religious education.

The aim of catechesis is not only to communicate knowledge about the Catholic faith and tradition, important as that it is.

But a further goal is through teaching and preaching to move our hearts as well as our minds. The goal of catechesis is to proclaim the person of Jesus Christ.

As Pope John Paul II once said, we need to do more than talk about Christ; we need to show Christ. It was in his letter introducing the new Christian millennium that he said like the Greeks who came to Philip and said we want to see Jesus, so in our day people want to see Jesus.

That is the goal of catechesis as it is the goal of evangelization. Every baptized Catholic, according to his or her state in life, shares in the Church’s responsibility of making Christ visible.

Our catechetical programs are intended to provide the assistance all of us need to fulfill our role in evangelizing our world. We also need the opportunities for religious education so that we know our Catholic faith. We need catechesis to help us understand why we believe what we believe.

And so our parishes provide catechetical programs. Some are offered on Sundays before or after Mass. Some are offered on weekday evenings. Some programs are geared for children, some for high school youths and some for adults.

Some programs are offered through youth ministry, some through our young adult ministry program. I encourage those parishes that are able to foster important adult catechetical programs.

Most of us have become familiar with the RCIA program, which prepares people who want to receive baptism in our Catholic tradition and become full members of our Church. Usually, the same program is offered for those already baptized in another Christian tradition, but who want to be confirmed and received into full communion with the Catholic Church.

We owe a debt of gratitude to those people of our parishes who administer and who teach in our catechetical programs. The number is huge. And these catechists offer many hours doing so, and they work hard to prepare our programs. I commend them and encourage all of us to support them with gratitude and prayers.

I also want to encourage participation in the various parish catechetical programs. All of them are important.

Programs offered for our children and for our high school youths are especially important and helpful to our youths as they face the challenges of our secular culture. Our youths and young adults need help in understanding the content of our faith and also in explaining to questioning peers why we believe what we believe. The same is true for adults who need help in explaining and interpreting our Catholic beliefs to their children.

Most of us are aware that we live in an age that is critical of religious faith and moral practices. Our secular culture prefers to relegate faith and religious practice to the private sphere, and often ridicules Catholic doctrine and moral practices. In the early years of our nation, Catholics did not find a friendly reception. In some ways, in our own times, we face hostility if in somewhat different circumstances. All of us are helped by catechetical preparation.

Knowing Jesus Christ in a personal way gives us the courage to stand tall and proud for our Catholic faith and practices. We have the confidence of knowing Jesus if we participate in catechetical programs and also in the liturgical life of our Church. Jesus gave us the Church and the sacraments of the Church to nurture us, and make us strong on our pathway to the kingdom of heaven.

Besides our parish catechetical programs, we have other resources to assist us as faithful Catholics. A couple of years ago, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops published a substantial catechetical resource titled The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults. The teaching of our faith is presented in a reader-friendly manner.

Besides presenting our doctrine, each section offers a way to explain our beliefs in the face of secular criticism. The Catechism of the Catholic Church provides an in-depth explanation of our beliefs and moral practices. Of course, the Bible is always a great resource to bolster our faith.

Catechesis and evangelization are fundamental responsibilities of all of us. May God bless our efforts! †

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