The Heart of Catechesis — why we do what we do

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The first time I attended a religious education class, I was in grade one. My catechist, a lively high school student, taught our little class each week. I remember she wore her Catholic school uniform, a navy blue blazer with a school insignia, and a matching kilt. I don’t remember her lessons, but I do remember that she prayed with us. She was the first person in my memory, outside of my parents, to pray with me.

The next year, my parents placed me in a Catholic grammar school and I met Sr. Sylvia, a holy dynamo. Sr. Sylvia helped me prepare for first holy Communion. I met a series of teacher-catechists in my next 10 years of Catholic education. Their knowledge gave me a good foundation.

Yet the people who really stand out in my memory were the adults who supported a vibrant youth ministry at our local church. Their holy influence was life-changing for me. They handed on the faith with joy. They knew Jesus on a first-name basis. They read, learned, and followed the things he said. And like my first blazer-clad catechist, they prayed with me and for me … as if Jesus was right there with us. Because he was.

I am forever indebted to the people who loved me enough to share the way, the truth, and the life of Jesus with me.

Who handed on the faith to you? Who helped facilitate an encounter with Jesus in your life? Who prayed with you when you needed it most?

The heart of a catechist must beat in sync with the heart of Jesus Christ. And we must bring his heart into our daily lives— especially into our ministry of catechesis.

St. John Paul II, whose words are now enshrined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, describes the heart of our mission.

At the heart of catechesis we find, in essence, a Person, the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, the only Son from the Father … who suffered and died for us and who now, after rising, is living with us forever. …

Catechesis aims at putting people … in communion … with Jesus Christ. …

(CCC, 426)

Once upon a time, somebody handed on the faith to you. Say a prayer for them today. Thank them in person, if you can, for introducing you to Christ and to the life of grace in the Church.


Pat Gohn, MA, is the editor of Living Faith. This article was originally published as part of an Editor’s Note in Catechist, October 2016, and has been modified to fit this format.

This article was written by the Catechist Staff and appeared in Catechist magazine, September 2017.

Image credit: Suzanne Tucker, Shutterstock ID 208817080

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