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Your Part in the Church's Teaching Mission

  Consider Your Own Catechesis

  Consider Your Calling

  What Are You Teaching?

Jesus' final earthly marching orders to the disciples were, "Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:16). The new General Directory for Catechesis (GDC) takes that order to evangelize seriously.

This new Directory replaces the first of its kind, issued in 1971. Its purpose is the same: to provide an orientation for catechesis, which is essentially the teaching mission of the Church. Much longer than its predecessor, the GDC places a far stronger emphasis on evangelization.

If you were about to settle back for a private, perfecting sort of Lent, the GDC poses a challenge or two about your need for ongoing faith formation and a renewed sense of mission. Basically, it addresses these questions: How, when, where and from whom is the faith to be learned? And how, when, where and to whom is it to be taught?

The GDC, issued from Rome and now translated into English, is directed to those who share in the teaching mission of the Church. Bishops carry the staff as chief shepherds, but their deputies include priests, pastors, educators, parents, grandparents—yes, all the baptized.

Thus you share in the catechetical mission of the Church. This Directory, then, has something to say to you. Some of its central passages could direct not only the rest of your Lent but also the rest of your Catholic life.


Consider Your Own Catechesis

According to the GDC, the primary audience for catechesis is the adult (#258). Adult faith "must be continually enlightened, developed and protected, so that it may acquire that Christian wisdom which gives sense, unity and hope to the many experiences of personal, social and spiritual life" (#173). The GDC recommends adult study to enable a Christian critique of the culture, to clarify current religious and moral questions, to develop the rational foundations of faith, to participate fully in liturgy and prayer, to take appropriate responsibility for the Church's mission and to be able to give witness. (See #85, #86, #175.)

That you are now reading St. Anthony Messenger is evidence of your commitment to continue your faith education. Your first catechetical challenge is to pray, "Lord, teach me." What you already know will benefit from review, updating and expansion. You may need the challenge of study in a less familiar area: the Bible, the Church's social teaching or how to evangelize.

Catechesis, however, is experience as well as study. You can also learn the way of Jesus from observing people who live it and involving yourself in the life of the Church.

The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is the model affirmed in the GDC for adult catechesis in the Church (#90). For many who participate, the RCIA becomes a small community of faith, a safe place in which to consider life's deepest questions.

This model is a good one for other adult learning opportunities within the parish, deanery and diocese. The classroom model may work fine in academia, but since we learn faith in relationships, we can learn especially well in a community setting.

Adult Catholics must hold up their end in the "dialogue of salvation" (#143) by showing up not only for study groups but also for events that celebrate parish life. Potlucks and fish fries build community. Soup kitchens and other styles of outreach extend it. Catechesis can happen everywhere.

Consider Your Calling

The same circumstances in which you are taught may also find you teaching. At Mass, your full participation may teach by example and encouragement even as you learn through listening, prayer and song.

What you have learned, you are called to teach. At home, parents can awaken a sense of God in their children (#255). There you can connect faith with daily life in a most effective way. Each family needs to ask how its members can bring the gospel to those who might not hear it otherwise.

Teachers are needed in parish schools of religion and other formal settings. Those who share, volunteer and, moved by faith, work for justice teach a profound message. Just as Jesus taught through both deeds and words, we evangelize "through proclamation, witness, teaching, sacraments and love of neighbor" (#46).

Those who lead and volunteer in parish schools of religious education should be supported and honored for their efforts. But every Catholic can "encourage a living, explicit and fruitful profession of faith" (#66). We must all teach as Jesus taught.

What Are You Teaching?

Not too long ago, a Seattle mother heard that she was featured in a book students at the parish school had compiled for All Saints' Day. Each student had been asked to write about a present-day saint. Of this mother, a student wrote that she was impressed that the woman "brought Christ into daily living, was willing to talk about Jesus to others and even prayed daily."

This young mother was surprised that anyone noticed her behavior. In fact, she said, "I often wish I was more evangelical." Her evangelization was so natural to her that she didn't even recognize it!

The General Directory for Catechesis affirms the object of the Church's teaching mission: that all may know Jesus Christ and his gospel and discern the path on which they may best follow him. This book also affirms the subject of that mission: you. --C.A.M.

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