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Parish catechists’ awesome job: Bringing children to faith in Jesus

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Dialog Editor

“You bring children to Jesus,” John Collins told about 140 catechists from the Diocese of Wilmington at Catechetical Day, March 11 at St. Thomas More Academy in Magnolia.

“It’s not all about facts and memorizing; it’s about getting to the heart and then the action of living our faith,” Collins, a national speaker for W.H. Sadlier, told the religious educators and parish directors of religious education at the day’s afternoon assembly. Read more »

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Christians must make history, never be prophets of doom, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christians must put their mark on history, transforming the world every day driven by the joy of proclaiming God’s love, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis waves after celebrating a Mass for the Jubilee for Catechists Sept. 25 in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

Pope Francis waves after celebrating a Mass for the Jubilee for Catechists Sept. 25 in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

“We are not prophets of gloom who take delight in unearthing dangers or deviations,” handing down “bitter judgments on our society, on the church, on everything and everyone, polluting the world with our negativity,” he told catechists Sept. 25.

Instead, “whoever proclaims the hope of Jesus carries joy” and can see both far-off new horizons and pressing needs under their nose, driving them to help and “go out from themselves to write history.”

The pope’s homily came during a special Mass for a Year of Mercy jubilee for catechists in St. Peter’s Square.

Nothing is more important for catechists, and all Christians who are likewise called to give witness and share God’s word, than to keep the core, essential message of the faith “front and center: the Lord is risen,” he said.

“The Lord Jesus is risen, the Lord Jesus loves you, and he has given his life for you; risen and alive, he is close to you and waits for you every day.”

“Everything in the faith becomes beautiful when linked to this centerpiece,” he said; from that proclamation all other teachings of the faith gain meaning and force, especially when Jesus’ commandment of loving one another is followed.

“It is by loving that the God-who-is-love is proclaimed to the world: not by the power of convincing, never by imposing the truth, no less by growing fixated on some religious or moral obligation,” he said.

Because God “is not an idea, but a living person,” Pope Francis said, he is proclaimed by an actual encounter with another person, accompanied by listening, welcoming and caring for the other’s past and journey forward.

Also, since God is love, goodness, joy and hope, then God must be proclaimed by living that way “in the present moment,” he said. “We do not speak convincingly about Jesus when we are sad; nor do we transmit God’s beauty merely with beautiful homilies.”

The pope highlighted the day’s Gospel reading in which Jesus tells the story of the poor man named Lazarus who went to heaven, while the rich man who ignored his plight, ended up in hell.

This parable in the Gospel according to Luke tells people “what it means to love,” the pope said.

The rich man did nothing overtly bad or evil, the pope said, he was just indifferent, an illness worse than whatever caused Lazarus’ sores.

The rich man suffered from being self-centered, materialistic and superficial, he said.

“This worldliness is like a ‘black hole’ that swallows up what is good and extinguishes love,” and anaesthetizes the soul, the pope said.

The rich man’s obsession with appearances also means he suffered from a kind of blindness that kept him from seeing anything that did not interest him.

This blindness makes people act “cross-eyed,” the pope said, with one eye looking “with adulation at famous people of high rank, admired by the world,” and the other shifted “away from the many Lazaruses of today, from the poor, from the suffering who are the Lord’s beloved.”

The rich man remains nameless and, therefore, forgotten in history, he said, while “Lazarus is the only one named in all of Jesus’ parables,” and is welcomed to the banquet in the divine kingdom.

“Whoever lives for himself does not write history,” Pope Francis said. “And a Christian must write history.”

With so much worldliness, indifference and selfishness in the world, he said, Christians “must go out from themselves to write history,” which means being disturbed by the pain they see and seeking ways to help without procrastinating or delegating the task to others.

Responding to a situation of need with ‘“I have no time today. I’ll help you tomorrow.’ This is a sin,” he said. The time given to help people now “is time given to Jesus; it is love that remains. It is our treasure in heaven, which we earn here on earth.”

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Catechetical Sunday, Sept. 18 — A vocation to teach the faith

By

Dialog Editor

The catechists who teach the faith to 10,000 religious education students in the Diocese of Wilmington are being commissioned for their important ministry at parishes this Catechetical Sunday, Sept. 18.

Colleen Lindsey, director of the diocesan Office for Religious Education, recently reminded all catechists, including the parents of the students attending weekly classes, that they educate and prepare children, young people and adults “to enter the fullness of Christian life and to live as they have been taught.”

Colleen Lindsey is director of the diocesan Office for Religious Education. (The Dialog/wwwDonBlakePhotography.com

Colleen Lindsey is director of the diocesan Office for Religious Education. (The Dialog/wwwDonBlakePhotography.com

Lindsey’s reminder, in a letter to all in religious education in parishes, included Pope Francis’ job description of catechists:

“People who keep the memory of God alive; they keep it alive in themselves and they are able to revive it in others. This is something beautiful.”

In other words, directors of religious education, coordinators and their volunteer parish catechists are performing a crucial ministry, along with Catholic school teachers.

To fulfill their vocation, the U.S. bishops’ conference has given the theme for this Catechetical Sunday — “Prayer: the Faith Prayed.” The theme, Lindsey wrote, invites catechists “to a deeper study and practice of prayer for your own spiritual good and for the good of whom you serve.”

Lindsey, 30, knows whom catechists serve. She’s been a director of religious education in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and serves as a catechist now in her parish there.

Prayer is an important aspect of a catechist’s life, she said. Especially when the teacher’s job is to transmit the faith “authentically and purely” to the young.

“First-graders ask the toughest questions,” Lindsey said. “How do I transmit the faith to a 6-year-old? How do I do that without watering down the authentic teachings of Christ?”

On the parish level it’s up to the directors of religious education (DREs), coordinators and catechists to teach authentically and lead the children and adult learners “into a personal relationship with Christ,” Lindsey said. “That’s what catechesis is.”

The diocese has a curriculum-based program, “Becoming Disciples,” which specifies “core concepts” of the faith that students at each grade level are taught.

“I think our DREs do a great job,” Lindsey said. “I think they should be commended, praised and thanked way more than they are. They do tremendous things that are not noticed for the children. They really are the heartbeat of Catholic education. That goes for all catechists, adult educators, religious ed, sacramental prep, youth ministers and Catholic school teachers.

“We’re all catechists in a different capacity.”

Lindsey, in her second year heading the religious ed office, said the parents of children in religious ed need encouragement, too.

She wants catechists to be connected with the parents of their students.

“Parents do the best they can,” Lindsey said. Parish catechists should “keep them connected through their child’s faith journey in religious education.”

Lindsey’s faith journey includes three years in Catholic school, then public schooling until she attended Immaculata University, where she earned a degree in psychology. Next, she studied moral theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary and received her master’s degree.

Always involved in the church, Lindsey started a summer mission program to Mindo, Equador, over three summers while she attended Immaculata.

She raised money for land to grow food, and buy needed items — medicine, clothing, toiletries — for children at an orphanage run by the Immaculate Heart of Mary sisters who served there.

Living in the Andes Mountain region and experiencing the generosity of the children amid their abject poverty “strengthened my faith extremely,” Lindsey said.

“We’re all missionaries every day; we just don’t realize it. It’s how we react to people in our daily life. … I think we each have our own purpose, our own mission fulfilling what God has set forth for each of us.”

Parishes frequently look for volunteers to be catechists, so Lindsey recommends that people discern if that is where God is calling them, and then speak to the parish DRE or pastor to find out exactly what the commitment involves.

“It’s unofficially a vocation to be a catechist,” Lindsey said. Catechists lead “children, adults and parishioners into a personal relationship with Christ.”

 

 

 

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Ugandans give pope exuberant welcome as he urges unity

By

Catholic News Service

KAMPALA, Uganda — Witnessing to what is true, good and beautiful, even if that witness is motivated by different faiths, brings people together and strengthens a nation, Pope Francis said.

Women holds photos of Pope Francis as the pope visits the Munyonyo shrine in Kampala, Uganda Nov. 27. The pope met with catechists and teachers at Munyonyo, the martyrdom spot of the Uganda Martyrs. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Women holds photos of Pope Francis as the pope visits the Munyonyo shrine in Kampala, Uganda Nov. 27. The pope met with catechists and teachers at Munyonyo, the martyrdom spot of the Uganda Martyrs. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Arriving in Uganda from Kenya Nov. 27, Pope Francis was greeted by a number of dance troupes playing drums as well as traditional horns and stringed instruments. Many of the dancers wore rattles on their calves, and some of the men wore the skins of the spotted hyena around their waists.

While the pope fulfilled the protocol duty of reviewing the military troops, he could not pass by the dance troupes without thanking them, especially the children.

Pope Francis went from the airport to the State House in Entebbe, where he immediately drew people’s attention to the Ugandan Martyrs — 23 Anglicans and 22 Catholics — executed by King Mwanga II of Buganda between November 1885 and January 1887.

“They remind us of the importance that faith, moral rectitude and commitment to the common good have played and continue to play in the cultural economic and political life of this country,” the pope told President Yoweri Museveni, other government officials and members of the diplomatic corps.

The martyrs, he said, “also remind us that despite our different beliefs and convictions, all of us are called to seek the truth, to work for justice and reconciliation and to respect, protect and help one another as members of our one human family.”

On the third evening of his three-nation trip to Africa, Pope Francis said he wanted to draw attention to Africa as a whole, and not just to the continent’s problems. He praised Uganda particularly for welcoming refugees and allowing them to work.

“Our world, caught up in wars, violence and various forms of injustice is witnessing an unprecedented movement of peoples,” he said. “How we deal with them is a test of our humanity, our respect for human dignity and above all our solidarity with our brothers and sisters in need.”

As he did earlier in Kenya, the pope also urged African leaders to dedicate themselves to ensuring education and employment for their young people, the majority of the continent’s population.

Pope Francis said his prayer was that all Ugandans “will always prove worthy of the values which have shaped the soul of your nation.”

The exuberance of the dancers at the airport was only a tiny hint of the welcome Uganda had in store for the pope: Hundreds of thousands of people waited for hours along the entire 27-mile stretch of road leading from the State House to the Munyonyo neighborhood of Kampala.

Munyonyo is the place where King Mwanga condemned the martyrs to death. As the dark of night settled in outside a shrine run by the Conventual Franciscans, Pope Francis greeted hundreds of catechists holding candles.

He told the representatives of Uganda’s 14,000 catechists, many of whom administer remote communities that have no priest, that theirs is a holy work.

“Thank you for the sacrifices which you and your families make,” he told them. It is particularly beautiful that they teach children to pray and help parents raise their children in the faith.

To be effective, Pope Francis said, a catechist must be an example of love, faith and mercy and not just a good and eloquent teacher.

The pope told the catechists to be strong like the martyrs, “go forth without fear to every town and village in this country to spread the good seed of God’s word.”

 

Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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