CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 November 2018

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Welcoming catechumens

IT IS September and many parishes have begun catechism classes for those learning about the faith. In an increasingly complex society, it is no simple task to respond to the signs of the times when teaching about Christianity.
 
The Church in the United States of America (US) celebrates Catechetical Sunday this year with the theme, Enlisting Witnesses for Jesus Christ. It is a day when catechists are commissioned and also serves as a reminder that all of us have a share in handing down the faith as witnesses to Jesus Christ. 
 
The idea for Catechetical Sunday emerged from On the Better Care and Promotion of Catechetical Education, a document published by the Vatican in 1935. It encouraged the acknowledgement of the Church’s teaching ministry at the local level as well as the recognition of catechists.
 
The challenges of evangelising, as analysed in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) 2018 Catechetical Sunday Welcome Message, may be relatable to the faithful in Hong Kong as we also live in a similarly secularised society. On the one hand, they sail against the current to proclaim the gospel, while on the other, they cannot break away from their social context when helping catechumens to face challenges in the family and the workplace.
 
The Church in the US is listening carefully and will be looking into what causes the erosion of faith and leads people to step away from the Church. Through evangelisation and witnessing, the USCCB hopes to help people learn about the goodness of the gospel again. It will also focus on the steps needed to empower people to witness to Jesus Christ and learn how to assist in exploring the reasonableness of the faith and to encounter Jesus.
 
Conversion goes beyond catechism classes. It demands an encounter with God and keeping faith with Christ. If the foundation of faith is not solid and parish groups do not share their joys and sorrows, those new to the faith will likely stay away. Thus, it is also important for parishes to sustain formation and small faith communities.
 
Apart from the Church in the US, the Holy See will hold the Second International Congress on Catechesis at the Vatican from September 20 to 23, at which theologians will present the different facets of catechesis.
 
For the Church in Hong Kong, the Jubilee for Catechists two years ago was a good opportunity to re-attach value to the work of proclaiming the gospel through catechism. Follow-up to identify and address the challenges faced by catechists, and to give them encouragement and support at the diocesan level, is needed.
 
In an era when secularism/cosmopolitanism is prevalent and family values are being challenged, teaching catchism is particularly difficult. Young people also need the Church to use a more lively and interactive in disseminating the faith. Thus, in addition to diploma courses, the Diocesan Catechetical Centre and the Diocesan Catechetical Commission run regular seminars to help catechists and Catholic teachers enrich their teaching. In recent years, Church organisations have also organised life ethics seminars to address controversial issues with the faithful.
 
Last year, Pope Francis, addressing participants in the First International Catechetical Symposium held in Argentina, emphasised creativity, and pointed out that catechists need to seek different ways and means to proclaim Christ. 
 
The Church continues to try and find new ways to address the needs of the times in spreading the message of the gospel. Let us be more creative and strengthen the spirit of love to better embrace catechumens and bring them into family that is the Church. SE