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Institute for Pastoral Initiatives News

Third International Congress insights for Catechists

The Institute for Pastoral Initiatives VLCFF participated in the Third International Congress in Rome this past September, hosted by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Evangelization. With about 82 countries represented, the conference focused on the third pillar of Catechism and was titled "The Catechist, Witness of the New Life in Christ." It also featured a session with Pope Francis.

The Pope stressed the important role catechists play in the Church, calling them "a sign of the Church's responsibility to so many people: children, young people and adults who wish to make a journey of faith."

Archbishop Rino Fisichella delivered the opening remarks, discussing vocation and the mission of catechists. Fisichella said the new life in Jesus Christ is a gift of the Holy Spirit to be experienced as a life of freedom rooted in love of God and neighbor. Catechesis, he says, invites a person into the radical law of love expressed in the commandments and the Beatitudes as preparation for a Christian life of selfless love and freedom in Jesus.

According to Christina Mines, Director of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Diocese of Hamilton in Canada, simply being in Vatican City was an overwhelming experience, and one she won’t soon forget.  

“Gathering together with Catechists from around the world was a heartening experience," Mines said. "We are not alone on the journey. There are so many others working in the fields alongside us.

“It was affirming to listen to the various presenters who spoke of the importance of evangelizing catechesis and the significance of the role of catechists in the work of the pastoral Church. The audience with our Holy Father at the close of conference was a beautiful highlight and, with His blessing, we were sent forward to continue to make a positive impact on our communities, witnessing to the Gospel with great joy and enthusiasm.”

Pope Francis said it is a source of joy to meet all of you because I am well aware of your commitment to the transmission of faith.

"I beg you: never tire of being catechists," he said. "Not of “giving a lesson” of catechesis.

"Catechists cannot be like an hour at school, but rather a living experience of the faith that each one of us feels the desire to transmit to the new generations. Certainly, we must find the best ways to ensure that the communication of faith is adequate to the age and preparation of the people who are listening to us; yet the personal encounter we have with each one of them is decisive. Never forget the purpose of catechesis, which is a privileged stage in evangelization, that of meeting jesus Christ and allowing him to grow in us.”  

Read the Pontiff’s full address here

Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect for the Dicastery for promoting integral Human development during his plenary session stated: “Do our teams reflect the diversity of the community? The problem is not that of renewing language but of understanding reality and thus understanding the Gospel. We need to actively inhabit reality and know how to interpret it spiritually in order to avoid answering questions no one is asking and letting crucial questions go unanswered.” 

Meanwhile, Dr. Donna Lynn Orsuto, professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University, also spoke at one of the plenary sessions, discussing the importance of joyful catechists. Orsuto conveyed some best practices for communicating challenging proposals:

  • Communication the message “you are loved” in words and deeds.
  • Embed the challenging proposal in the message, “you are not alone.”
  • Communicate that the Christian path to holiness and the moral life is beautiful.
  • Listen

The new Directory for Catechesis will offer helpful guidance, the Pope mentioned, especially in how to renew catechesis in dioceses and parishes. The Pope also paid tribute to an elderly Sr. Dolores, who left an impression on him, helping him in his faith life. 

Pope Francis encouraged the catechists to never overlook the good work and impression they can have in their own ministry and on others, as Sr. Dolores did with him.

VLCFF team member, Dr. Dorothy Mensah-Aggrey, Ph.D.,CPO (pictured above, center, with Christina Mines and Nicole McCowell from Diocese of Hamilton) attended the Congress.  Dorothy is administrative specialist-curriculum design and adult catechesis. VLCFF Online classes resume Jan. 9, 2023. See the list of online courses here.

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