What is Catechism?
The Greek word catechesis means ‘instruction by word of mouth’. It is basic Christian religious education of children and adult converts to Christianity. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church “Catechesis is an ‘education in the faith’ of Children, young people and adults which includes especially the teaching of Christian doctrine imparted, generally speaking, in an organic and systematic way, with a view of initiating the hearers into the fullness of Christian life” (CCC, prologue # 5).
Aim of Catechism
Catechesis aims at making the candidates to encounter Jesus Christ, the Truth, the Life and the Way (Jn 14,6). Catechetical classes do not aim at mere imparting of some knowledge about God; rather it should help the students to have a deep, intimate and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It should be a means to encounter Jesus in their lives. In his apostolic letter ‘Catechism Today’, Saint Pope John Paul II enumerates that the vision/ aim of catechesis is to help the faithful to believe and practice the faith that Jesus is the Son of God and to build up the mystical body of Christ, i.e., the Church (no.1).
Catechesis aims at, Christ being formed in the faithful. St. Paul’s words provides correct vision about the aim of catechism: “My children, I am going through the pain of giving birth to you all over again, until Christ is formed in you” (Gal 4,9).
Mission of Catechesis
As per the General Directory for Catechesis, knowledge of faith, liturgical life, moral formation, prayer, communal life, missionary spirit are the six tasks of catechesis.
1. Growth in Faith through Knowledge and Experience
The primary mission of catechesis is to make growth in faith life through continuous nurturing and providence. Catechesis should make the candidates aware of the foundations of Christian faith. It aims at making one mature in Christian faith. The knowledge of God, imparted in the Catechetical classes, should lead one to the experience of God. Here comes the importance of catechesis through liturgical celebration.
2. Liturgical Life
The most important celebration of our faith is the celebration of the Holy Qurbana. All our learning, prayers, celebrations and blessings are oriented to and derived from the Holy Qurbana. The fundamentals of catechesis; teaching, formation and transformation, find their realization in the liturgy. What is taught in the classes should form the life so that it shall be transformed according to the Gospel principles. Liturgy, especially the celebration of Holy Qurbana where Christ’s teaching is carried out through the Word of God, prayers and hymns, give formation to the faithful so that they may be transformed as His true disciples. So liturgy is catechesis in action. If liturgy is not illumined by proper catechism, it will be empty and meaningless action. At the same time if catechesis is not directed to active liturgical life, it will be merely an intellectual process. What should we aim is a liturgical catechism. Therefore proper emphasis should be given to liturgical formation so that participants can encounter and experience Jesus during its celebration.
3. Formation of Conscience
Formation of conscience depends upon the values and principles learned and appreciated. Through catechesis the candidates should know the Christian values revealed in Sacred Scriptures and Church teachings, so that they can mold a good conscience founded on the gospel principles of faith, love, goodness and truth. The formation of right conscience is important to discern and follow the will of God in our personal and community life. Catechesis is of great importance in the formation of conscience.
4. Prayer Life
What we believe and celebrate should help us to live with a vital relationship with the living and true God. This is actualized through a prayer life. Catechesis should help one to be united with God through prayer. This relationship with God is implied in the question “Where are you?” (Gen 3:9).
5. Communitarian Life
Communion with God necessarily leads to communion with fellow beings. Faith formation should help one to become a member of loving community of faithful, i.e., Church. The communitarian dimension of Christian life is well expressed in the question “Where is your brother?” (Gen 4:9).
6. Missionary life
To be with the Lord is meant to send out with a definite purpose. Catechesis is a process of being with the Lord so that one may be send to the world with a definite purpose of being true witness of Jesus Christ in the world.
The Role of Family
Family has the primary responsibility in the formation and transformation of faith. Parents, by word and example are the first heralds of the faith with regard to the children. Praying parents are the first agents of faith formation. Every family should be a centre of faith formation through a life based on prayer and gospel values.
The Role of Parish
After the family, parish is the space where life of faith is manifested. Catechetical classes are the extension of the proclamation of the Word of God, performed during the celebration of the sacraments, especially the Holy Qurbana. Just like Jesus gave burning experience in the hearts of the disciples of Emmaus through the explanation of the Word of God,catechetical classes should provide spiritual enlightening in the life of candidates. It should open their eyes of faith so that they can recognize Jesus during the celebration of the breaking of the bread.
Difference between East and West
There are differences between the West and the East in their approach towards theology; however both are complementary, like the two lungs. In the West, theology is more a class room exercise; therefore it is more an intellectual process. In the East, theology is more centered on prayer and meditation. It is more related to heart and has an experiential nature. The experiential nature of Eastern theology is to be given right emphasis in the catechesis, especially in a society where people thirst for real God experience.
Diocesan Catechetical Commission
Rev. Dr. Augustine Palackaparampil - Chicago, IL
Rev. Fr. Siju Mudakodil – Chicago, IL
Rev. Dr. Jose Kalluvelil – Toronto, Canada
Mr. John Mathew Thekkeparambil, Chicago, IL
Ms. Preethy Thomas – San Francisco, CA
Dr. James Kurichy – Philadelphia, PA
Dr. Jimmy Emmanuel – Coral Springs, FL
Dr. Jayaraj Alappatt – Chicago, IL
Rev. Sr. Jeslin Thalachira, CMC – Chicago, IL
Mr. Joseph Mutholam – Chicago. IL
Rev. Fr. Thomas Kadukappillil – Somerset, NJ
Rev. Sr. Agnes Mariya, MSMI – Houston, TX