Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 14, 2005
Wanted - volunteer catechists
Catholic religious educators prepare catechist document
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
After several years collaborating with the Western bishops, the Western Conference of Catholic Religious Educators has prepared a document not only to help people deepen their faith, but to encourage them to teach others.
Sister Mary-Ann Bates, chair of the WCCRE and a Religious of the Sacred Heart, presented the document to the Western bishops during their annual conference recently in Edmonton. The WCCRE prepared the proposal with 14 recommendations, looking in part at what it was doing for volunteer catechists, their hours of flexibility and whom their vocation is reaching.
It's for everyone
"Until quite recently, the preponderance of catechists has been people working with children. What we are trying to do is to realize faith formation is a life-long process," Bates said. "We are looking at how to build up resources in terms of personnel to work with the young, the youth and adults to make it more equitable. When people hear catechesis, they think of children. But it is all of us."
(A catechist is a guide who walks with others on the faith journey.)
The document will eventually be produced as a booklet and sent to anyone involved in catechetical leadership in Western and Northern Canada, Bates said.
It examines the catechist's formation. The hope is that leadership groups will take the document and use it as a tool for discussion and planning of events for the formation of catechists.
Bishop Gerald Wiesner, president of the Western Catholic Conference of Bishops, thanked the WCCRE for its work and endorsed the document.
"The WCCRE has prepared an extensive program for the preparation and training of catechists. They presented a draft document last October that we have now formally approved," he said.
"We are grateful to the WCCRE who have basically done the work for us, giving us a vision. We hope to implement the program this fall."
Bates said the Western bishops want to help everyone in the adult faith community celebrate what is happening in different regions involving catechist formation. Much is happening to help catechists grow in their own spirituality and skills as catechists.
The sower and the seed
"We looked at the catechetical ministry through the ages, starting with the image of the sower and the seed and how it has been the responsibility of the adult faith community to respond to that call to provide faith formation for the members of the community," she said.
"We are trying to give people in catechetical ministry an overview of different groupings of people - from children to adults - who require catechesis for various reasons."
The document looks at the revised general directory for catechesis that was produced in 1997, outlining several tasks involving liturgy, morality, community, mission and prayer formation. It looks at the catechists - their role in vocation and their call from God to share faith.
Bates said the general directory outlines different groups that are entitled to formation in terms of developing to maturity as disciples of Jesus. It considers children, young adult and adult groups and their challenges in different situations such as being in prison, drug addiction or unemployed.
In 2002, the WCCRE surveyed all of the eparchies and dioceses in Western Canada asking them to name their catechists in their region, including schools and parishes, youth workers, RCIA and sacramental preparation.
"We asked how people were chosen and what opportunities for formation are provided for them," Bates said. "We wanted to determine our current practice in the region."
Bates analyzed the leadership of the WCCRE to determine if there were any gaps or areas requiring more focus. She also looked at its strengths in terms of formation for catechists.
The WCCRE wants to attract people who have time to commit to a catechetical vocation, and on a more permanent basis.
"The document is designed to approach and invite people who might want to become catechists; to recognize and develop a mentality of vocation, for someone other than a mother with several children who is willing to help out."
Although no specific timeline has been set, Bates anticipates the booklet could reach the eparchies and dioceses as early as this fall.
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