“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. –Matthew 28:19-20a
Ever see one of these and felt thoroughly confused? CCC, CCD, CEP, CYM, DRE, DYM, EM, FF, RE, REP, SVdP, TMIY, USCCB, YM. These are some of the more common acronyms you might see that you’ll see across multiple parishes. Then there are some of the parish specific acronyms: SJN, SIMCS, STM, STP, SAY, SJV.
Is your head spinning from too many capital letters yet?
Regardless of how involved you are in the Church, some of the acronyms and phrases that are thrown around in conversation can be daunting. And one of the places that we most commonly find acronyms in a parish is related to their parish Faith Formation/Religious Education/Youth Ministry ministries. But all these confusing Faith Formation/Religious Education/Youth Ministry acronyms and words can be summed up in one word: Catechesis.
Catechesis should be a relatively familiar sounding word. Many of us are at least somewhat familiar with the word catechesis because of the word catechism, which is the compendium (summary) of our Catholic Church’s teachings. The word catechist is derived from a Greek word meaning “to echo, or resound,” so the word catechesis is the act of resounding or bringing thing Church’s teachings into the world.
We are all called to be catechists, bringing Christ’s teachings into the world and resounding Christ to others. Christ called on his disciples, including us, to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations… teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20a). We are all called to be catechists, a person who teaches in the name of the Church. We don’t have to be perfect in our knowledge of faith or “know everything” to be a catechist. And honestly, between the mysteries of the faith like the Holy Trinity, and the 2000+ years of teachings and traditions, there’s no way to be perfect in our knowledge and know everything about our Catholic faith. And yet, we are still called to be catechists.
Yes, we are all called to be catechists (get the hint yet?). The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes clear that this is a special and distinct ministry, “Catechesis is intimately bound up with the whole of the Church’s life . . . her inner growth and correspondence with God’s plan depend essentially on catechesis” (CCC # 7). So basically, without catechesis, the faith would not and could not continue. If no one taught about the Catholic Christian faith, a parish could not exist and no one would follow Christ’s teachings because no one would know what those teachings were. And while we are all called to be catechists in one way or another, there are groups of people whom have special roles of catechesis. The most important group? Parents.
As Catholics we recognize the parents are the first and primary catechist of their children. Parents prepare the soil and plant the first seeds of faith within the soul. Parents have the role of making their households a Catholic Christian place where faith is encouraged, nurtured and passed down among the generations. Children model what their parents do, and are educated by those they are first around, their parents.
Education in the faith by parents, which should begin from the children’s tenderest age is already being given when the members of a family help each other to grow in faith through the witness of their Christian lives, a witness that is often without words but which perseveres throughout a day-to-day life lived in accordance with the Gospel… Family catechesis therefore precedes, accompanies and enriches all other forms of catechesis.-Blessed Pope John Paul II
Again, parents don’t have to know everything about their faith. But they do need to provide a healthy, positive faith environment where faith is seen as a priority. Good ways to provide basic catechesis as a parent? Attend Mass together as a family, pray together at meals, learn and recite basic prayers like the ‘Our Father’ and ‘Hail Mary’ and nightly family prayer time.
Aside from parents, often many in the Church are called to teach in ministry settings of Religious Education or Youth Ministry. This too, is a special calling that requires a desire to serve God by seeking to teach and share the Catholic faith. These teachers in Religious Education and Youth Ministry are the people we typically think of when we hear the word catechist.
However, we are all called to be a catechist in the example of our daily lives. We have all been called to be catechists by virtue of our baptism into this Catholic faith. This baptism has placed a catechetical calling into our hearts to live daily as Catholics are living examples of the teachings of Jesus Christ.
And so to all us catechists, new and old, and especially those just beginning to realize and find your catechetical calling, I want to wish you a “Happy Catechetical Sunday,” as this Sunday, September 18, 2011, the whole of the Catholic Church in the United States prays for the efforts of all who catechize. Have a wonderful and blessed Sunday and go, therefore and catechize all nations in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!
A Catechist’s Prayer*
Father of all families, you have called me to serve the family in truth and love as a catechist. May I be faithful to this call, rooted in your Word, and open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
May I use these gifts, especially the gifts of faith, hope and love, to serve the family as witness to you, who are love and life and the source and destiny of all families.
Let your Spirit enlighten my mind and strengthen my heart so that I can be a path of Christ’s love to families, especially those in need, the homebound and aged, the disabled and disheartened.
Through the intercession of Mary and Joseph, I pray for the Church, the Bride of Christ, whose mission to build a civilization of love passes through the family.
*United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Copyright 2010
More information about Catechetical Sunday: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/catechetical-ministry/catechetical-sunday/index.cfm
CCC- Catechism of the Catholic Church
CCD- Confraternity of Christian Doctrine
CEP- Christian Education Program / Catholic Education Program
CYM- Coordinator of Youth Ministry
DRE- Director of Religious Education
DYM- Director of Youth Ministry
EM- Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist / Eucharist Minister
FF- Faith Formation
RE- Religious Education
REP- Religious Education Program
SJN- St. John Neumann
SIMCS- St.Ignatius, Martyr Catholic School
STM- St. Thomas Moore
STP- St. Paul
SAY- St. Albert’s Youth
SJV- St. John Vianney
SVdP- St. Vincent de Paul Society (Ministry serving the poor while seeking charity and justice)
TMIY- That Man Is You (Men’s Ministry program)
USCCB- United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
YM- Youth Ministry