A little after 3 p.m. on a Thursday, children in grades three through eight begin dashing through the doorway of an old red brick convent behind St. Mary’s Church in Waltham, Mass., having finished their days at nearby public schools. Lugging backpacks and wearing shorts and T-shirts, they have arrived for religious education — although you wouldn’t know it, just by looking at them during the next couple of hours.
The first stop is the lunchroom, where the kids help themselves to hot bagel sandwiches and juice. Then they separate out into six classrooms upstairs for an hour of homework with help from parish volunteers. After that comes an hour of recreation: soccer and other pursuits on St. Mary’s sprawling front lawn, on a summer-like day in October. Not until the third hour will the children take part in what most would recognize as a spiritual activity — a celebration of the Eucharist in the building’s six-pew chapel.
For St. Mary’s pastor, Father Michael Nolan, all of it is religious education.
I am pleased that this meeting was organized for the
Year of Faith.
Catechesis is a pillar of faith education and we need good catechists! Thank
you for your service to the Church and in the Church. Even if at times it may
be difficult and require a great deal of work, and although the results are not
always what we hope for, teaching the faith is something beautiful! It is
perhaps the best legacy we can pass on: the faith! To educate in the faith, to
make it grow.
To help children, young people and adults to know and love the
Lord more and more is one of the most exciting aspects of education. It builds
up the Church! To "be" catechists! Not to "work" as catechists: this will not
do. I work as a catechist because I like to teach… But unless you "are" a
catechist, it is no good! You will not be successful … you will not bear
Catechesis is a vocation: "being a catechist", this is the vocation,
not working as a catechist. So keep this in mind: I didn't say to do the "work"
of catechists, but to "be" catechists, because this is something that embraces
our whole life. It means leading people to encounter Christ by our words and
our lives, by giving witness.