Archbishop Goh said he was unhappy with the state of catechesis (children, youth and RCIA) as it had failed to bring people to an encounter with Jesus Christ.

Catechists from the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Association pose for a photo with Archbishop William Goh and catechetical director Fr Erbin Fernandez at the launch of the Catechetical Year on Jan 5.

“Something in this diocese has to change.”

These were the strong words that Archbishop William Goh used in addressing about 200 catechists

celebrating the start of the Catechetical Year on Jan 5.

Archbishop Goh said he was unhappy with the state of catechesis (children, youth and RCIA) in Singapore as it had failed to bring people to an encounter with Jesus Christ.

The archbishop, who wore a specially designed shirt with the words “Archbishop William Goh, Chief Catechist” during the event, said catechists must be people with a deep relationship with God so that they can lead others to Christ through their conviction and witness.

Fr Erbin Fernandez, Episcopal Vicar for the New Evangelisation and catechetical director, commented that adults have failed to preach the Kerygma to young people and failed to make them disciples who choose to follow the crucified and risen Christ.

Instead, he said, catechesis in some instances has made young people weak Christians as the message they hear from Catholic adults is one of worldly wisdom – study hard and get a good job in order to be successful – and faith and religion are merely to attain life goals.

The Kerygma, from the Greek keryssein (to proclaim) and keryx (herald), refers to the initial proclamation of the Gospel message that overwhelms a person and brings him to decide to entrust himself to Jesus Christ by faith.

The Kerygma is distinct from catechesis, which is the teaching that comes after the Kerygma in order to deepen it.

Commenting on what Archbishop Goh and Fr Erbin said, Ms Jane Lau, associate director of the Catechetical Office, said, “Since 2010, when Fr Erbin initiated new training and formation programmes for catechists, it has been a slow process as some catechists, coordinators and even priests are not keen on training and formation.

“Catechists are more comfortable lecturing to the young people rather than being Christian witnesses, because to be a witness means to look at our own relationship with God and that can be uncomfortable,” said Ms Lau, who is also executive director of the Office for the New Evangelisation (ONE).

“But I think we’ve been given our marching orders by the bishop and it’s clear that if we want to touch our young people and have a missionary and evangelistic Church, the current situation cannot continue.

“We as catechists must undergo our own conversion in order to be able to share the Good News with the young people and disciple them.”

For the first time, those involved in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) and the Liturgy of the Word for Children were invited to the event as their training and formation now comes under the Catechetical Office at ONE.

The recently formed Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) Association (Singapore) also made a presentation on their method of catechesis.

The Catechetical Office outlined some key initiatives for 2014 which include strengthening training and formation for Special Needs Catechesis, RCIA teams and Liturgy of the Word for Children (LOWC) teams as well as exploring ways to help parents be more involved in the faith formation of their children.

Certificates of completion were also awarded to catechists who have successfully completed the Level 1 and Level 2 Basic Catechist Courses, which are the recommended training and formation programmes for all catechists.

CGS catechist Jeanne Voo felt the Catechetical Year launch, held at the Catholic Archdiocesan Education Centre on Highland Road, was a wake-up call for catechists.

“It has inspired me to continue in the true spirit of CGS to facilitate the building of the relationship between children and Jesus,” she said. “It was also a good reminder that we ourselves need to be constantly converted.”


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