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Hi-Yo, Silver, Away!
by Cullen Schippe
The legend of the Lone Ranger was simple and appealing to me.
The legend of the Lone Ranger was simple and appealing to me.

Obviously, it was appealing to generations of radio listeners, television viewers, and moviegoers. It was an iconic view of the rugged individualism that described the American frontier.

The stories of the Lone Ranger followed an inevitable pattern. Somebody got into trouble. A masked stranger rode into town on an impressive white horse. The masked man made everything right again—and then rode off. There were no ties or emotional bonds.

As the stranger rode away on that “fiery horse with the speed of light,” someone always asked, “Who was that masked man?” “Why, that was the Lone Ranger!” was the answer. Then the audience was treated to the signature cry, “Hi-yo, Silver, away!”

Jesus was the polar opposite of our masked friend. Jesus had an identity. Jesus gathered a community around him. He called disciples and loved those disciples, wept with them, challenged them, and shared his mission with them. Jesus touched people and ate with them as well. He forgave sinners. He taught people to view life as a banquet where everyone was welcome.

Jesus gave his life to form a community. He promised that he would not leave the people orphans and sent a Helper—the Holy Spirit. As if to seal the deal, Jesus gave himself as real food to keep the community gathered around his table.

As a catechist, you help to bring people into the life of the community. Community involves a sharing of beliefs, experiences, ideals, and values. Christian community helps folks lay aside their own personal pleasure and private interests for the sake of the common good.

A catechist is passionate about community. To be a follower of Christ means to join with other people in a relationship—a family relationship that is the sign to the world of identification with Christ. “By this will people know that you are my disciples, that you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

The Church sees itself as a “communion of saints.” The Church understands that this community extends beyond the grave—the living and the dead are part of the family.

The Church celebrates Sacraments of Initiation. Initiation underscores that Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist are visible signs of the invisible grace of community.

This is a world of contradictions, however. Every day, in all the media and in public discourse, the primacy of the individual is promoted and celebrated. At the very same time, the most significant development in recent years has been the meteoric rise of the social media—the growth of an electronic family.

There is even a new word for community floating around: connectivity. People strive to be connected to friends, family, colleagues, coworkers, celebrities, and even television programs and chain stores twenty-four hours a day. Take a seat in a park some afternoon and watch all the people who have their hands to their ears or whose thumbs are flying over tiny keyboards or who are fingering images across a glowing screen.

Yet, in this manic swapping of personal information and opinion, and in the constant thirst for what’s happening now, there is an eerie sense of distance and a lack meaningful relationship. It is as if all the constant and personal banter serves as a mask to hide and blur the hearts and spirits of those doing the sharing.

In your ministry, you promote the greatest “connectivity” of all. “I am the vine and you are the branches. The one who lives in me and in whom I live will produce abundantly, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5-6).

You have the opportunity to show that faith is family. You take seriously the image of the vine and the branches. You do not hide behind a mask of texts and tweets. You are not about to ride out of town. You are in the community for the long haul, and you take strength from that community—especially from your fellow catechists.

Your witness shows that you understand that you have not chosen Christ and his Church, but Christ has chosen you. Your faith community is your connection to the Vine.

It is my wish for you that no one ever question who you are. You are the catechist whose life and mission are to obey and to teach the commandment: Love one another.

Cullen Schippe has been in Catholic publishing for over 40 years and currently serves as Vice-President of Religious Education for the Peter Li Education Group. He co-authored (with Chuck Stetson) and served as general editor of
The Bible and Its Influence (BLP Publishing, 2005). E-mail Cullen at

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