I want to offer a very special "Thank You" to Bishop Dale Melczek for this this very thoughtful and inspiring reflection for the the readers and members of www.eCatechist.com. As we Celebrate Catechetical Sunday, September 15, 2013, please feel free to share with your catechists and encourage them to subscribe to www.eCatechist.com.
Dan Pierson, founder
At the closing Mass of World Youth Day, Pope Francis challenged the more than three million young people and their chaperones to "Go and make disciples of all nations." He urged them to share the good news of their relationship with Jesus and His Gospel with everyone. He challenged them to bring Jesus everywhere and into every area of their life.
Jesus charged all of us to share His very person and the meaning of His actions and words with others. Who has taken this challenge more seriously than our catechists? I am confident that even as you seek to make our faith living, conscious, and active in those you catechize, your experience of Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit becomes an even greater source of comfort and joy for you.
I pray that the Year of Faith has been a time of special grace for you and those whose lives you touch. You may recall that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI articulated two purposes for this year of grace. Both purposes speak to the aim of catechesis.
First, Pope Emeritus Benedict wished for this Year of Faith to help us grow into a deeper and more mature communion and intimacy with Jesus and through Him, with the Holy Spirit and the Father.
Secondly, he invited us to use this time to come to a richer understanding of what it is we profess when we recite the Creed together at Mass every Sunday.
We were invited to use the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Documents of the Second Vatican Council to undersand our faith more fully and to be able to articulate it more clearly and faithfully. While the Year of Faith draws to a close, its objectives remain a lifetime challenge.
In the Diocese of Gary, I have challenged parish leadership to examine all goals and objectives, as well as parish activities through the lens of the New Evangelization. With renewed ardor, how can our worship, our catechetical efforts, and our service outreach help lead us deeper in our own faith, touch those who once practiced the faith but no longer walk with us as active members of the Church, have some impact on those who have never heard the Gospel before, and shed the light of the Gospel upon our highly secularized culture?
With particular reference to our catechists and directors of religious education, I challenge our complacency with regard to those families with students who have not registered at all or who attend our formation opportunities only sporadically. We want to engage as many parishioners as possible in the various ministries in our parishes. Should we not recruit a number of dedicated faithful whose sole challenge is to visit the families whose children are not registered in our formation programs and call each week those who are registered but absent? Jesus' Parable of the Lost Sheep often haunts me (Mt 18:10-14). Jesus really wants us to go in search of the stray. He concludes the Parable: "It is not the will of your Heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost" (Mt 14).
While every baptized person shares our common vocation to grow deeper in our relationship with the Lord Jesus and to live His Gospel values joyfully, the Church owes special recognition and gratitude to those who have responded to the Lord's invitation to serve in the parish community as director of religious education or catechist. It is clearly a daunting challenge, but one with truly rich rewards. When tempted to discouragement, remember the Lord's consoling words found 350 times in the Scriptures: "Be not afraid." With the Lord's presence and guidance, all things are possible.