Cardinal Donald Wuerl makes a point during his May 10 talk at Nothing More Beautiful.

May 21, 2012

For 40 years, Cardinal Donald Wuerl has been a prominent force in promoting Catholic education in the faith of both young and old.

In the 1970s, he and others developed The Teaching of Christ, an adult catechism, now in its fifth edition and still widely used. During 18 years as bishop in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Wuerl had a half-hour catechetical TV show produced in the diocese's own TV studio and which garnered good ratings on the local CBS affiliate.

He has written a series of articles in the monthly Knights of Columbus magazine, Columbia. He is the author of 12 books, including another catechism, one on the sacraments, another on the Mass and, mostly recently, Seek First the Kingdom which calls lay Catholics to rely on Church teaching in working for the transformation of American culture.

In 2006, Wuerl was appointed archbishop of Washington and he became a cardinal in 2010.

"I've always been convinced you have to start with the basics of the faith and, just as the apostles did at the beginning, tell the story over and over again," Wuerl, 71, said in a May 10 interview in Edmonton.

An evangelist, he said, is a disciple who shares the Good News. That disciple can be either lay or ordained.

"Today, that is every bit as necessary as it has ever been in the history of the Church," he said. "We live in a highly secular culture, a culture that is focused on the material and is riveted on the individual.

"Against that background, we are preaching a Gospel that calls us to recognize the transcendent and the sacred, that this world is a passing world."

The Gospel, he said, calls us to live in communion, to be a community of faith, love and care.

"That rings strange to many people who live in this culture. But it rang strange 2,000 years ago when the disciples preached the message."


Catechetical formation is for Wuerl an essential part of the New Evangelization. "The New Evangelization is a call to share the Good News that Jesus is risen, he walks with us, to a world that thinks it has already heard this and moved beyond it."

Wuerl has seen a great growth in catechesis since he and others wrote The Teaching of Christ 40 years ago. At that time, "there wasn't any one summary of our Catholic faith that you could count on as being rooted in the magisterial teaching of the Church."

Since then has come the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which lays out what the Church teaches, and the General Directory for Catechesis, which says how to catechize.

Those are "two great tools given to the Church universal" and they have been applied in various ways to meet the needs of local and national cultures.


Wuerl's passion for passing on the teaching of the Church might well be contrasted with the evangelical enthusiasm of Pentecostal churches that have had enormous influence in the developing world.

"There's always going to be a need for renewed enthusiasm," he said. However, Jesus established a Church rooted in the sacraments.

"He is present to us, not just in the excitement of Pentecostal experience, but he chose to be present to us in the Eucharist where he is body and blood, soul and divinity."


Baptism brings us into the Body of Christ; Confirmation renews us with the Spirit, the cardinal said. "It is the Eucharist that sustains us and makes us participants in the very act of redemption."

Despite his Trojan efforts in the cause of catechesis, Wuerl is reluctant to claim success. "My catechetical ministry is one small participation in the great catechetical ministry of the Church."

Asked if he sees the fruits of renewal in Pittsburgh from his many years there, he replies simply that all that catechesis laid the foundation for "elements of the New Evangelization" now present in the diocese.