I have just returned from the International Conference on Catechesis in Rome. Focusing on part one of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), the title of this inaugural conference was The Catechist witness of the faith.
Present at the sessions were 1600 clergy, religious and lay catechists from around the world, including a delegation from England.
With five presentations, including a session by Pope Francis, four interventions and then a summary of the presentations to conclude the conference on Saturday morning, there was plenty to take in over the three day conference (26-28 September 2013).
I start with a taster- I was delighted when following the opening liturgy, Archbishop Rino Fisichella introduced the Congress, speaking of the catechumenate. How evangelisation is not to be a purely intellectual exercise; that there has to be new ways of using catechesis as a tool for evangelisation that responds to the changes in culture. He spoke of the importance of witness, and of mystagogia. While the content of faith is important it has to be imparted in a way which is proportionate to the development of the individual.
- For RCIA catechists that is exactly what we do as we follow RCIA 4 of the rite**
Mentioning those who come to faith for the first time as adults, the archbishop reminded us how it should not primarily be an individual effort, but the task of the whole community, who takes on board the first announcement.
- I saw this as promoting ‘whole parish RCIA’ where parishes adopt the baptismal catechumenate model as a model for all catechesis, where journey, story and witness are essential ingredients.
Archbishop Fisichella urged us to ‘Abandon our obsolete stances, and be open to a new model of transmission and communication of faith’. He went on to suggest that the time has come for our bishops in our cathedrals to give catechesis, just as Pope Francis does in his Wednesday audience in St Peter’s Square.
- That will be an interesting one to see if it is taken up, but how amazing if it is! Just think of 1600 delegates going back to their country with the same message, including the many visiting bishops who were present.
It was a continuing theme with the different speakers, to look for new ways of catechesis.
• With all the Paul Turner events this summer, which I know touched many of us greatly with a desire to look again at the way we practice the rites of RCIA, if you have decided to try something new for the forthcoming year, do let us know.
Share the challenges of change and how you deal with them.
** RCIA 4 The initiation of catechumens is a gradual process that takes place within the community of the faithful….’