10/3/12 | 532 views
New York’s Catechetical Leaders Learn About New Document From Bishops
Catechesis is the ministry of teaching the faith to persons of all ages and helping them to keep their faith strong and growing. It is essential to the life of the Church, and it must be led by competent, committed catechetical leaders who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
That was a key theme at a daylong meeting Sept. 27 at which Cardinal Dolan and the bishops of New York state introduced their new document, “The Catechetical Leader in the Third Millennium.” The meeting took place at Immaculate Conception Center in Douglaston, Queens. Attending were about 400 lay and religious women and men from the eight dioceses in New York state, including diocesan directors of religious education, directors and coordinators of parish catechetical programs, and leaders in adult faith formation, youth ministry and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.
Sister Joan Curtin, C.N.D., director of the archdiocesan Catechetical Office, noted in an interview that the bishops’ document grew out of a conversation between Cardinal Dolan and the diocesan religious education directors from throughout New York state. Among their shared concerns, she said, was the need for “a qualified, professional leader” of catechetical education in every parish. The document addresses that need, as well as “the opportunities and challenges” of catechesis today.
Cardinal Dolan celebrated Mass in the center’s large chapel, with 19 bishops concelebrating, including the heads of the state’s seven other dioceses and a number of auxiliary bishops.
In his homily, the cardinal thanked his fellow bishops for their presence, and praised the catechetical leaders for the “exquisite precision, commitment, generosity and competence” with which they carry out their apostolate.
The main message of the cardinal’s homily was that religious educators must teach not only the facts of the faith, but the “pivotal importance” of charity.
“We know that acts of service, charity and love are essential to the New Evangelization,” the cardinal said. He cited Pope Benedict XVI’s teaching in the encyclical “Deus Caritas Est” (“God Is Love”), that “charity ranks up with preaching the Gospel and the celebration of the sacraments in defining the essence of the Church.”
Later the cardinal spoke with CNY about challenges faced by religious education leaders and catechists. He mentioned the busy schedules of today’s families and the “competing interests” that can push religious education to the back burner, such as sports and dance or music lessons.
“It’s harder and harder to get them for that solid chunk of catechesis each week,” he said. “So even more do we need to show our support and appreciation to our catechists. But in spite of that we keep going on, and we have to remind ourselves that handing on the faith is more important than anything else.”
What message would he convey to parents?
“We only cooperate with you; we can’t replace you,” he said. “The Second Vatican Council reminded us that the parents are the first teachers of the faith, and the family home is the greatest classroom in the faith.”
Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo spoke on “The New Evangelization.” The other speakers were Bishop Terry R. LaValley of Ogdensburg and Auxiliary Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, who worked closely with the diocesan directors of catechetics in writing the new document.
Bishop LaValley stressed the need for high-quality catechesis.
“You know the numbers, you see the empty seats,” he said. “You are keenly aware that the treasures of our Catholic heritage are frankly unknown to more than a generation of the baptized.” He also noted that in the past, catechetical leaders were mostly priests and religious with extensive training in the faith. Now they are mostly lay, and “their Catholic education and faith formation has become critical,” but most of all, the catechetical leader “must be a disciple of Jesus Christ.”
Bishop Caggiano likewise said that catechesis is much more than simply imparting information; it’s about “encountering the person of Jesus Christ.” In a homey touch that delighted the audience, he remarked that his grandmother used to say, “You cannot give what you do not have.” The bishop then said, “If you and I are not, as leaders in the Church, deepening our relationship with the Lord, this document will make no difference.”
He also stressed that outreach is personal. The audience applauded when he said, “We have to invite people in, one person at a time.”
Bishop Malone stressed the importance of the parish community as the “focus” of the New Evangelization.
“The parish must be a community of missionaries” who carry the faith to others, he said. Noting the challenges of contemporary civilization, he added, “The toughest missionary field is Western culture.”
He emphasized the importance of attending Mass.
“The Sunday Eucharist is the heartbeat of every Catholic’s life,” he said.
Joanne Cunneen, director of religious education and a pastoral associate at St. Ignatius Loyola in Manhattan, is director of the Interparish Religious Education Program, serving parishes on the upper East Side. She said that catechetical leaders must provide faith formation for parents.
“We’re working with a percentage of parents who are not educated in the faith,” she told CNY. “They are that swing generation who lost a lot…They’re being asked to pass on to their children what they don’t have. Parents need to be educated more than the child. If you don’t get the parents, you’re going to lose the children.”
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