Community life stressed at launch of Catechetical Year
The Catechetical Office, which used to be part of the Office for the New Evangelisation, is now an independent office called Office for Catechesis (OFC).
Catechetical director Fr Erbin Fernandez announced this at the launch of the new Catechetical Year on Jan 3. He explained that the move was to allow the office to focus more on catechetical matters and better serve those involved in catechesis, which includes the RCIA and Liturgy of the Word (LOWC) ministries.
More than 300 catechists and RCIA and LOWC facilitators packed St Peter’s Auditorium at the Catholic Archdiocesan Education Centre for the annual event.
In his sharing, Fr Erbin noted that like the Magi who came looking for the Christ child, catechists have to keep looking for Christ, as they must experience the Good News first before they can share it with others.
Evangelisation, Fr Erbin stressed, is very important. However, other stakeholders such as families, parish ministries, young adult communities need to do the initial work of making catechumens feel a sense of communion within the parish community.
Catechesis proper can then initiate the catechumens into the sacramental and missionary dimensions of the parish community that has welcomed them.
Without encountering Jesus, Catholics can celebrate the sacraments but not appreciate the full meaning of the celebration. But on the other hand, if they are evangelised but not further initiated into the sacramental life of the Church, they will lose the Catholic context in which evangelisation can achieve its true goal: the re-establishment of the culture of life.
Guest-of-honour Archbishop William Goh focused on the theme, Discipleship is Communion, in his address.
He felt that the main weaknesses in catechesis are a lack of discipleship and a lack of community. Discipleship, he emphasised, requires mentorship which means catechists must look at their whole way of life.
He pointed out that the heart of all communion is being with God in prayer. So if catechists are not praying people or do not have a deep love for the Word of God, they cannot be agents of God’s love.
The key to catechesis, Archbishop Goh noted, is bringing catechumens into communion with Jesus in the context of community.
He suggested ways to build authentic Christian communities in parishes such as getting parents involved in catechesis, and catechists learning to share and work more with each other.
Ms May Quek, a parent of a child enrolled in OFC’s Bridging Programme, shared her experience of the programme.
The programme was created in response to requests from parishes who did not have the resources to catechise older children and youths who had missed catechesis. It is designed to help young people catch up on catechesis and is also open to young people seeking baptism.
Ms Quek said her non-Catholic child found the programme moving. This led to his older sibling also embracing the faith. Both children were baptised last year.
Ms Quek also expressed gratitude at how the regular parent formation sessions, which are part of the Bridging Programme, helped her grow in her faith.
OFC associate director Wendy Loe spoke about the office’s new initiatives for the year, which include a free one-year trial of online formation resources as well as a catechetical trainers’ programme. In addition, all OFC course fees for 2016 will be waived.
The event also saw certificates given to those who have completed the requirements for the Basic Catechist Course.
Prior to the launch event, a tea session was held for children’s and youth catechetical coordinators and core teams. Fr Erbin led participants in a reflection on Ephesians – that as catechists, they have been entrusted with the mystery that Christ has been sent to us and loves us while we are still sinners.