GDC 219: “The ministry of catechesis in the particular Church”

Four important characteristics of catechesis:

219. In all the ministries and services which the particular Church performs to carry out its mission of evangelization, catechesis occupies a position of importance. (The expression ministry of catechesis is used in Catechesi Tradendae 13) In this the following traits are underlined:

a) In the Diocese catechesis is a unique service* performed jointly by priests, deacons, religious and laity, in communion with the Bishop. The entire Christian community should feel responsible for this service. Even if priests, deacons, religious and laity exercise catechesis in common, they do so in different ways, each according to his particular condition in the Church (sacred ministers, consecrated persons and the Christian faithful). (Catechesi Tradendae 16: “Shared but differentiated responsibility”. Cf. also note 54, as well as note 50 for a clarification of the term “ministry of the Word”) Through them all and their differing functions, the catechetical ministry hands on the word in a complete way and witnesses to the reality of the Church. Were one of these forms absent catechesis would lose something of its richness as well as part of its proper meaning;

b) On the other hand it is a fundamental ecclesial service, indispensable for the growth of the Church. It is not an action which can be realized in the community on a private basis or by purely personal initiative. The ministry of catechesis acts in the name of the Church by its participating in mission.

c) The catechetical ministry—among all ministries and ecclesial services—has a proper character which derives from the specific role of catechetical activity within the process of evangelization. The task of the catechist, as an educator in the faith, differs from that of other pastoral agents (liturgical, charitable and social) even if he or she always acts in coordination with them.

d) In order that the catechetical ministry in the Diocese be fruitful, it needs to involve other agents, not specifically catechists, who support and sustain catechetical activity by performing indispensable tasks such as: the formation of catechists, the production of catechetical material, reflection, organization and planning. These agents, together with catechists, are at the service of a single diocesan catechetical ministry even if all do not play the same roles or act on the same basis.

*It is important to underline the nature of the one service which catechesis has in the particular Church. The subject of evangelizing activity is the particular Church. She proclaims and transmits the Gospel, which celebrates… The agents of catechesis “serve” this ministry and work “in the name of the Church.” The theological, spiritual and pastoral implications of the ecclesial nature of catechesis are considerable.

There is a lot on which to comment here. In trait (a), the Church clearly intends that the catechetical ministry be a team effort, and that the various elements of the team acknowledge and respect this. From this, we read that catechesis is not a private enterprise, but one aligned with the evangelical mission of the Church (b) as well as one that cooperates with the Church’s aspects of worship, service, and the sense of community.

The last mentioned trait extends the team effort beyond people who are actually “doing” catechesis. Rather than label authors, mentors, typists, and other support people as “ministers,” I think the Church is accurate to say that all these people are part of an overarching ministry, “even if all do not play the same roles.”

Thoughts on this?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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