September 4, 2020

Evangelization and Catechesis Supplement

New directory shows connection of evangelization and catechesis

Directory for CatechesisBy Natalie Hoefer

Much has changed since the Vatican last produced a new version of its Directory for Catechesis in 1997, an update of the original 1971 version.

The “World Wide Web” was just coming into more common use. “Hotmail” was only one year old, and sites like Google, Facebook and YouTube were yet to be created.

But technology is not the only way in which the world has changed.

“My sense is that after more than 20 years since the previous directory, it’s become even more apparent how desperate the world is for a basic proclamation of the Gospel,” says Ken Ogorek, director of the archdiocesan Office of Catechesis.

So when the Vatican released a new Directory for Catechesis in June, he was quick to promote it to catechists in the archdiocese.

“It’s a great opportunity for disciples of Jesus to be reinvigorated in seeing the value of and need for effective evangelization and catechesis,” says Ogorek.

Where two ministries intersect

While evangelization—the spreading of the good news of the Gospel—is distinct from catechesis—the teaching of the faith—the two are intricately linked, and the new directory recognizes that fact, he says.

“The importance of these two ministries unfold in relation with each other,” says Ogorek. “This directory really helps define these ministries—evangelization and catechesis—and helps in understanding how they operate in relation to each other.”

For instance, he notes, catechists have observed through the years that “sometimes they feel like they’re trying to teach the faith to people who haven’t really been evangelized.

“So there can be a sense of frustration when you’re trying to convince someone of the value or significance of a teaching. Without that strong sense of a personal relationship with Jesus, sometimes a participant won’t see the point in it all.”

The new directory emphasizes the need for catechists to teach the faith in a way that is similar to evangelization, says Ogorek, “always proclaiming and making connections to the basic Gospel message, that basic opportunity for salvation from sin and death but the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus.”

‘Clearly within the realm of evangelization’

The link between catechesis and evangelization is addressed in the first of the three parts in the new directory: “Catechesis in the Church’s Mission of Evangelization.”

On the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ webpage regarding the revised resource, it states that the directory “places catechetical instruction and formation of catechetical teachers clearly within the realm of evangelization.”

At the same time, it relies on solid resources for teaching the faith, such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Scripture and the writings of recent popes, particularly Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”). The second part of the directory, “The Process of Catechesis,” underscores the various sources from which one can learn about the faith in addition to those listed above, including the family, sacred art, sacred music and more.

This section also notes the need not just to teach the faith, but to accompany those being instructed.

“In his proclamation of the Kingdom, Jesus seeks, encounters, and welcomes people in their concrete life situations,” the directory states.

Some “concrete life situations” specifically addressed include people at various stages of life, those with disabilities, migrants and those in prison.

The third part, “Catechesis in the Particular Churches,” focuses on catechesis in parishes, ecclesiastical movements, Catholic schools and other Church associations.

It also looks at teaching the faith amid “contemporary cultural scenarios,” such as the modern scientific mentality, the digital culture, the work environment and more.

‘Both teacher and witness’

The availability of the new Directory for Catechesis doesn’t mean there will be “any dramatic changes immediately,” says Ogorek. “But I think as catechetical leaders have a chance to digest and start applying what we see in the directory, I’m hoping that we’ll notice a few things.”

For instance, as catechists seek to also evangelize their students, Ogorek sees an opportunity for observing more witnesses of the power of the Gospel message.

“We know a catechist is both teacher and witness, and one of the areas of deeper interest in this document is the element of witnessing,” he says. “There has to be an evangelistic fire in a catechist so participants can grasp how life-changing these teachings are.”

Another change Ogorek foresees in time is more fruit in parish evangelization efforts guided by the archdiocesan Office of Evangelization.

“We will help parishes to be more effective in their efforts to evangelize both within the parish community and the neighborhoods that comprise a parish’s territory,” he says.

Ogorek hopes those fruits will in turn lead to “more parishioners growing and proclaiming their faith to their friends and relatives.”

There are also effects Ogorek hopes to see more “down the block” than “down the road” as catechists begin to implement the ideas, concepts and practices laid out in the new directory.

“One near-term effect, we hope, will be that our parish catechetical leaders will deepen their own knowledge and appreciation of the ministry that they’ve been invited to by God,” he says.

‘Not left groping in the dark’

Parish catechists are not the only ones who can benefit from the new directory.

“We know that catechesis is a part of so much of what the Church does,” Ogorek notes. “So many of her ministries have a catechetical element.”

Consequently, the new resource is also being reviewed by archdiocesan leaders of areas outside the Office of Catechesis. Those leaders are holding discussions “to begin understanding what the directory is saying and its implication for various archdiocesan ministries,” Ogorek explains.

“We’re trying to model at the archdiocesan level what we hope will happen in parishes—that parishes will read the document and help each other apply its principles to their various ministries. I think it’s a sign of our faith that we don’t do ministry in a vacuum.”

Ogorek is grateful for the new Directory for Catechesis and other Vatican-produced resources.

“For a ministry like catechesis, which is so important to the life of a parish, it’s telling that really from the highest levels of the Church we’ve got resources to help us continue learning how to do things better by God’s grace and mercy.

“There’s some assurance in that—we’re not left groping in the dark. We’ve got good resources for learning best how to share the faith.”
 

(For more information or to order the new Directory for Catechesis, go to www.usccb.org/resources/directory-catechesis-new-edition.)

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