September 6, 2019

Evangelization and Catechesis Supplement

The three ironies of catechesis

By Ken Ogorek

Ken Ogorek“There are two types of people in the world,” quipped a college professor of mine. “Those who have a sense of irony, and those who don’t.”

Separating the world into two types of people is above my pay grade. Jesus will take care of that when he comes again in glory.

I do see three ironies, though, as we celebrate another Catechetical Sunday on Sept. 15. I’m not sure if this makes me a sheep or a goat today, but here goes:

Hidden in Plain Sight

The Catholic Church isn’t exactly secretive about her basic doctrinal and moral teaching. We have a website. We have a catechism. The teaching of the Church is readily available to folks who are looking for basic information.

Yet many adult Catholics say they’re unclear on what the Church teaches about various matters. Are we unclear, or are we unwilling to embrace the basic teachings of our faith because of the demands such acceptance would place on our daily lives? Addressing that question is also above my pay grade. For now, I’m just pointing out an irony.

The Frozen Chosen

The teaching of our Church is meant to be lived out in the context of a vibrant, disciple relationship with Jesus. Without a warm, personal connection to our Lord, the doctrine we learn and the moral guidance we receive can start to sound like “interesting but odd facts about God.”

I know people who are pretty clear on the basic teachings of our faith, and even live the Church’s precepts pretty well by God’s grace, yet don’t have a deep sense of personal, discipleship connection to our Lord Jesus. Happily, this is an irony that is shifting by God’s mercy as more Catholics are living the both/and of knowledge about our Catholic faith and a focus on living in an intense, personal relationship with Jesus.

Frozen Chosen, Part II

The word catechesis, to some, evokes thoughts of a sterile question-and-answer approach and a harsh focus on doctrinal accuracy over concern for the real-life struggles of genuine human persons.

Yet, the catechetical documents of our Church—whether the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the General Directory for Catechesis, the Catechetical Sunday resources available at, or other official documents—are permeated with a pastoral, parental love that sees no conflict between concern for doctrinal authenticity and care for all God’s children who, one way or another, struggle at times during our earthly pilgrimage.

This third irony of catechesis, then, is more of an urban myth in that catechists of today are encouraged to combine clear teaching with compassion for those who are taught—even when the loving words of our faith can sound like hard sayings to those striving to navigate the sometimes perilous waters of our culture.

Maybe there really are two types of people in the world: Those who separate the world into two types of people, and those who don’t. No matter what type of person you are, I hope you’ll enjoy this annual supplement to The Criterion as well as praying for all your fellow parishioners engaged in the beautiful ministries of evangelization and catechesis.

(Ken Ogorek helps orchestrate the ministries of catechesis and evangelization throughout the 126 parishes of our archdiocese. He can be reached in the Office of Catechesis, part of the Secretariat for Worship and Evangelization, at


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