“Let us make it our aim to work for peace and to strengthen one another” Romans 14:19
The call to evangelize and to catechize is not the work of one parish leader, but is rather a collaborative effort calling for a partnership between the diocese, clergy, catechetical and evangelization leadership and the entire parish community. “All members of the community of believers in Jesus Christ participate in the Church’s catechetical mission” (NDC, p. 217). Because ministry by its very nature is relational, the catechetical or evangelization leader is one for whom mutuality is key. “The Church is the communion of those called by Christ to be his disciples. Discipleship is the fundamental vocation in which the Church’s mission and ministry find full meaning” (CW, p. 19). There can be no “lone rangers” when it comes to ecclesial ministry. The leader must foster relationships with others in parish ministry, with members of the parish community and with those beyond parish boundaries in the deanery, the diocese, the larger Church. The relationship which the leader fosters with each person she/he encounters can easily help or hinder the mission. The often quoted statement “the medium is the message” rings true.
As lay ecclesial ministers, certain key relationships must be understood, cultivated and maintained by the Director of Catechetical Ministry as well as other evangelization and catechetical leadership.
The proclamation and transmission of the Gospel have priority in the ministry of every Bishop: “by the power of the Holy Spirit, ‘bishops have been constituted true and authentic teachers” (CD, no. 2 quoted in NDC, p. 219). While catechesis is the “responsibility of the entire Christian community” and every Christian has a “duty to bear witness to the faith” (see NDC, p. 218), bishops are, beyond all others, “the ones primarily responsible for catechesis, the catechists par excellence” (CT, 63). The bishop has a specific responsibility for “the transmission of the Faith in the particular Church entrusted to him” (NDC, p. 218). [See Guideline 27: Handing on the Faith] In his role as chief catechist of the diocese, the Bishop assumes the overall direction of evangelization and catechesis in his diocese and establishes structures for the design and implementation of programs of catechesis and evangelization which hand on the faith in a systematic and authentic fashion. According to the National Directory, the Bishop
- has a unique and authoritative role in teaching the faith to the Church entrusted to his care
- transmits the teachings of Christ in his own preaching and teaching
- is responsible for and supervises the total catechetical mission of the local church
- supports catechetical ministry in the diocese with competent personnel and adequate financial resources
- sees that textbooks transmit the Catholic faith completely and adequately
- issues norms, goals and priorities for catechesis
- ensures that catechists are adequately prepared to proclaim the authentic Gospel and hand on the faith completely and accurately
- integrates a plan for catechesis into the overall diocesan pastoral plan (See NDC, pp. 219, 248-249).
The bishop is assisted in the ministry of catechesis by priests, deacons, religious, lay ecclesial ministers, parents, catechists and teachers.
Bishop Robert H. Brom is the chief catechist in the Diocese of San Diego and notes in “Unity in Communion and Mission, the General Plan for the Diocese of San Diego:”
We are called to COMMUNION and sent on MISSION. As a prophetic people, we are called to COMMUNION in the truth and sent to teach. We are called to be faithful and to hand on the faith, to know Christ and to make him known, to be obedient to the truth by knowing and handing on the teaching of Christ and the Church. This requires collaboration in ministries of the Word: evangelization and catechesis….
Evangelization means embracing the message of the Gospel and sharing the Good News of new life in Christ….Its purpose is personal conversion while respecting the identity and culture of every individual.
Catechesis builds on reception of the Gospel. Its two-fold objective is to bring initial faith to maturity and to form true disciples of Christ through a deeper and more systematic knowledge of the person and message of Jesus (“General Plan, Teaching Mission of the Church,” p. 2). In 2006, Bishop Brom established Pastoral Priorities for the Diocese of San Diego, in collaboration with the Diocesan Pastoral Council, the Presbyteral Council and the Diocesan Curia. Priorities for Evangelization and Catechesis are:
- Parish leaders and members are committed to evangelization as their common mission to witness to Christ and to proclaim the Good News of salvation.
- Parishioners are invited to ongoing evangelization through ever deeper conversion and communion with Jesus and are encouraged to live Gospel values in order to actively evangelize their environments.
- Parishes reach out to those who do not know Christ, to Christians seeking full communion with the Church and to alienated and inactive Catholics.
- Newcomers are warmly welcomed into the parish.
- Parishes have a clearly articulated vision of life-long faith formation to which adequate attention is given and resources are committed.
- Parishes have a comprehensive plan for catechesis respecting language and cultural diversity as well as special educational needs including
- Sacramental preparation and systematic catechesis for children and youth including their parents,
- The Christian initiation of adults and children,
- Scripture study and faith-sharing experiences,
- Adult faith formation.
- Parishes provide for the certification and ongoing renewal of catechetical ministers in accord with diocesan policies.
- Parishes engage qualified Directors of Catechetical Ministry according to diocesan policies and guidelines.
- Parishes have active committees for evangelization and catechesis.
- Parochial schools are integrated parts of the educational mission of parishes and are adequately supported by the parishes.
- Parishes without their own grade schools, offer support for their children who attend parochial schools in the area.
OFFICE FOR EVANGELIZATION AND CATECHETICAL MINISTRY
Since the early 1900’s catechetical offices which are part of the diocesan curia, were established in dioceses throughout the world as the means by which Bishops direct and moderate the catechetical activities of the diocese (See NDC, p. 250).
In general, Bishop Brom directs evangelization and catechesis through the diocesan office responsible for these activities, namely, the Office for Evangelization and Catechetical Ministry (OECM). [See OECM Website for OECM Staff and Calendar of Events]
In accord with the General Plan and in a spirit of collaboration with other diocesan offices, OECM carries out the “MISSION in behalf of COMMUNION” in the areas of evangelization and catechesis.
In keeping with the “Diocesan General Plan,” the “Diocesan Pastoral Priorities” and the functions of diocesan offices delineated in the National Directory, the Office for Evangelization and Catechetical Ministry:
- provides training programs, in-services and consultation to evangelization and catechetical leadership;
- offers programs of certification, formation and renewal for catechists of varying levels and abilities;
- advises DCM’s, Program Coordinators and other evangelization and catechetical leadership of diocesan policy, guidelines and procedures which affect their ministry;
- coordinates the Diocesan Rite of Election;
- sponsors workshops, courses and inservice opportunities in the areas of evangelization and initiation of children and adults;
- provides a media and resource center;
- maintains a library of recommended texts [See Practical Help 14: Recommended Texts];
- serves as a liaison for placement of new DCM’s and Program Coordinators in parishes where there is a need;
- collaborates with parish leadership to promote and provide effective catechetical and evangelization programs.
Most programs are offered in English and in Spanish.
The Office for Evangelization and Catechetical Ministry is advised and assisted by the Diocesan Commission for Evangelization and Catechetical Ministry. The Commission, comprised of members approved by the Bishop, reflects the diverse areas of evangelization and catechetical ministry and is sensitive to the multicultural constituency of the Church of San Diego. The Commission advises the office in the planning of programs and events; in addressing needs and concerns of parish evangelization and catechetical ministry; in setting goals, objectives and strategies for the Office for Evangelization and Catechetical Ministry; and in the drafting of policies, guidelines and procedures which affect evangelization and catechetical ministry. [See Guideline 11: OECM Goals]
PASTORS AND PARISHES
The National Directory for Catechesis states that “pastors are the bishop’s closest collaborators in ensuring that the goals of the diocesan catechetical mission are achieved” (NDC, p. 220). The norms of Canon Law reinforce the serious duty which pastors have to provide for the catechesis of their people, to provide suitable catechesis for the sacraments and following the reception of the sacraments and to develop and strengthen the faith of young people and adults using various means (See CIC, Nos. 773, 777). The National Directory stresses the important role of the Pastor in catechesis, noting his responsibility to ensure that:
- Catechesis is emphasized in a way that provides age-appropriate opportunities for adults, youth and children
- A total parish plan for catechesis is developed and implemented in consultation with the parish council and parish catechetical leadership
- Catechesis for adults of all ages is a priority – adult formation should be provided in such a way that parishioners would recognize it as the parish’s primary catechetical mission
- The catechesis of youth and young adults is situated within a comprehensive plan for youth ministry in the parish
- Catechists at all levels are well formed and trained for this task
- The baptismal catechumenate is a vital component in the organization of catechesis in the parish
- The catechumenate is an essential process in the parish, one that serves as the inspiration for all catechesis (NDC, p. 221).
Generally, the Pastor ensures that the catechetical needs of the parish are met through the Director of Catechetical Ministry (DCM), the parish catechetical leader who is directly responsible to the Pastor. Collaboration and a good working relationship between the Pastor, the DCM and other parish ministers are crucial to the success of any catechetical endeavors at the parish. Ordained and lay ministers are called on “to learn the skills of collaboration” and “to value the benefits which [collaboration] brings to Church life and ministry” (CW, p. 48). The ministry, role, qualities and qualifications of the DCM were reviewed in depth in the previous chapter, but in general, it is the responsibility of the DCM to initiate, direct and maintain catechetical programming and to keep the Pastor well informed of all that is happening, seeking his input and approval of all new programming and any major changes in existing programming. In some circumstances, the Pastor may choose to delegate some of his administrative and oversight responsibilities, but nevertheless, regular meetings between the Pastor and the DCM and monthly written reports to the Pastor will provide information, assure accountability and avoid misunderstandings. Depending on the structure of the parish, the Pastor may meet regularly with all staff involved in evangelization and catechetical ministry and provide for periodic performance appraisal, based on the job description.
In addition to ensuring effective catechesis (see NDC, p. 221), the Pastor is ultimately responsible for financial administration of programs; for adequate maintenance of facilities; for provision of information required for centralized payroll, insurance and benefits for staff; and for maintenance of public liability and other insurance for facilities.
While catechesis can and does happen in various settings, the parish is ultimately the setting where most people receive systematic, catechetical formation; it “is the preeminent place for the catechesis of adults, youth and children” (NDC, p. 254). The responsibility for catechesis is not one-sided. “Pastors have the duty to provide catechesis; parishioners have the reciprocal duty to participate in and support the catechetical activities of the parish” (NDC, p. 255).
OTHER PARISH MINISTERS
The DCM must work often with other parish ministers—Associate Pastor, Deacons, School Principal, Coordinator of Youth Ministry, Director of Hispanic Ministries, Coordinators of various programs and/or various cultural groups, etc. For example, the RCIA Coordinator will work closely with the Pastor, the DCM, team members, the Director of Liturgy and/or Music and the Coordinator for Evangelization, etc. In parishes with a parochial school, DCM’s and Principals may work out delineation of some responsibilities for catechesis and sacramental preparation. In parishes with Adult Education Coordinators, Small Church Community Coordinators, Elementary Coordinators, Coordinators of Youth Ministry, etc., similar definition and delineation of responsibilities should be agreed upon recognizing the qualification and expertise of each person. In each case, open communication, cooperation and mutual support is essential to furthering an evangelizing catechesis.
In all cases, clear job descriptions for DCM’s and other catechetical and evangelization leaders are crucial and necessary to effective ministry and avoiding confusion and misunderstanding. [See Guidelines 1 and 2: Sample Job Descriptions]
Once again, collaboration, mutuality and complementarity are key ingredients to responding to the call to evangelize and to catechize. “When participants, parents, and staff see mutually supportive educational enterprises within a parish, everyone benefits, and the basic purpose of Catholic life, the promotion of the reign of God, takes place” (Shaughnessy, p. 38).
PARISH PASTORAL COUNCILS/BOARDS
In some parishes, pastoral councils or education/religious education boards or commissions may advise the pastor on policy for catechesis and evangelization. [See Policy 100] As paid employees of the parish, compensated staff are usually non-voting or ex-officio members of the council or board. In some cases, board members may not have expertise in catechetical or evangelization matters and so the Director of Catechetical Ministry should “continuously educate, motivate and enable those members so that they might intelligently participate in the policy-making process” (NCEA, p. 26). The Board or Commission “should represent the diversity in age, ability, and the cultural, racial, ethnic, social, and economic conditions present in the parish” (NDC, p. 256).
While the DCM may not have voting power in most parishes, he or she should be recognized as the board’s “expert on practical and theoretical aspects of religious education. As such, he/she must take an active part in preparing agendas and formulating tentative policy statements. …When the body has come to its decision, the [DCM] carefully aids its implementation” (NCEA, p. 23). Once again, depending on the structure of the parish, the expertise of other catechetical and evangelization leadership should be sought when specific questions are being decided.
PARENTS AND FAMILIES
As it is the parents who have given life to their children, on them lies the gravest obligation of educating their family. They must therefore be recognized as being primarily and principally responsible for their education. The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute. …It is therefore above all in the Christian family, inspired by the grace and the responsibility of the sacrament of matrimony, that children should be taught to know and worship God and to love their neighbor, in accordance with the faith which they have received in earliest infancy in the sacrament of Baptism (GE, 3).
It is essential that every parish catechetical program for children take into consideration the role of parents as primary educators of their children and involve parents in the catechetical formation of their children. Parents form foundational values and beliefs from the earliest beginnings of life. They are “the most influential agents of catechesis for their children” and “catechize primarily by the witness of their Christian lives and by their love for the faith” (NDC, p. 234). Some parents may need to be encouraged or even made aware of the importance of their call and will need assistance in fulfilling their role. Parents need to know that “their participation in the life of the parish – above all in the Sunday Eucharist – their willingness to evangelize and serve others, and their dedication to daily prayer demonstrate the authenticity of their profession of faith” (NDC, p. 234). Adult faith formation programs which are developed especially to help parents in their role as primary educators, programs at significant or “teachable moments” in the lives of their children and programs of catechesis for the whole community are some ways which the Director of Catechetical Ministry can assist parents and families in their faith journey.
The family’s catechetical activity has a special character, which is in a sense irreplaceable. This special character has been rightly stressed by the Church, particularly by the Second Vatican Council. Education in the faith by parents, which should begin from the children’s tenderest age, is already being given when the members of a family help each other to grow in faith through the witness of their Christian lives, a witness that is often without words but which perseveres throughout a day-to-day life lived in accordance with the Gospel. This catechesis is more incisive when, in the course of family events (such as the reception of the sacraments, the celebration of great liturgical feasts, the birth of a child, a bereavement) care is taken to explain in the home the Christian or religious content of these events. But that is not enough: Christian parents must strive to follow and repeat, within the setting of family life, the more methodical teaching received elsewhere. …Family catechesis therefore precedes, accompanies and enriches all other forms of catechesis (CT, 68).
Parish catechetical programs support, augment and complement the religious life of the family. Given the relatively few contact hours with children which even the most highly developed and systematic catechetical programs provide, the entire responsibility for catechetical formation can not and should not be placed on the parish program. The catechetical formation of young people is a collaborative undertaking where parents, catechists and the parish community share the responsibility for catechizing. Parents have a right to expect that their children will be assisted in their formation in the Catholic faith by catechists who have a deep commitment to Jesus Christ and a strong love for the Church evidenced by a desire to catechize within the Roman Catholic tradition. The DCM and catechists should strive to understand the culture and ethnic background of the families with which they are working and should try to work within the cultural framework to enrich the level of catechesis and parent involvement.
Opportunities should be provided for parents to meet with the DCM and catechists in a spirit of open communication, to view sessions and materials, to receive formation in parenting skills and parent preparation for sacraments. Parents can be kept abreast of what is happening in programs through web pages, newsletters, calendars and parent meetings. Parents should be made aware of program direction, parish policies and procedures through a Parent Handbook sent home at the beginning of each year. [See Guideline 12: Items to Include in Parent Handbook]
Parents have a responsibility to abide by the parish policies and procedures for catechesis.
Programs of Home Based Catechesis or Home Schooling
In those cases where families choose to provide the systematic catechesis for their own children in the home setting, those families should not be isolated but should understand that “they are part of the parish’s total catechetical effort” (NDC, p. 259). Parents who are doing home-based catechesis should provide a catechesis which is “complete and authentic” and adheres “to all the guidelines for catechists as outlined by the diocesan bishop” (NDC, p. 259). Parents should notify the Pastor and/or the DCM of this decision and should follow diocesan policies and guidelines for home schooling in religion. [See Policy 201]
Catechesis in Special Circumstances
In an era when many family structures are changing, it is important for the DCM to approach each family situation with sensitivity. It is sometimes a family’s desire for their children to receive the sacraments which can provide an “evangelizing moment” for healing, understanding and welcoming back to the Church. The DCM is often the first minister of the Church whom a hurting family encounters.
If there are special needs or circumstances which will affect the religious formation of their children, parents should provide appropriate information to the DCM or Program Coordinator. The DCM should be advised if students have a disability or physical limitation, are on medication, or are prone to allergic reactions or seizures, etc. [See Guideline 14: Items for Registration Form]
If there is a situation involving a non-custodial parent, the DCM should be notified who has permission to pick up a child from a program. Parents should be advised of the times before and after programming when supervision is provided.
Parents have a right to expect that their children will be kept in a safe and secure environment while participating in parish programs. It is mandatory that the DCM and other leaders responsible for minors maintain procedures which provide for supervision at all times by trusted personnel. [See Guideline 15: Safety Procedures]
A traffic safety plan should be developed and parents should know where and when it is safe to drop off and pick up students.
The DCM should insure that catechists and students participate in fire and earthquake drills; and that catechists are aware of procedures to use in the case of medical or other emergencies. [See Policy 113] [See Guidelines 18-20: Forms] All catechetical and evangelization leadership who conduct programs in parish facilities should have access to emergency phone numbers and be familiar with emergency plans.
Mandated Reporting of Suspected Child Abuse
Each DCM should be familiar with state reporting requirements and diocesan policy concerning the reporting of suspected sexual abuse. DCM’s, employed by the parish, are aware of the California Child Abuse Reporting Law and must sign a statement saying they understand that they are mandated reporters of child abuse. Catechists who suspect that a child’s physical or mental health or welfare may be adversely affected by abuse or neglect shall report it to the DCM who will report it directly to Child Protective Services. [See Policy 121] [See Guideline 21 and Guideline 22: Awareness Forms]
In all parish catechetical programs, any disciplinary measures used for students should reflect sensitivity, sensibility and Christian charity. Disciplinary procedures should follow diocesan guidelines. Under no circumstances shall corporal punishment be used to discipline a student. [See Guideline 23: Discipline Guidelines]
Any and all student threats of harm to self or others will be taken seriously and whoever hears such a threat should report it to the DCM, Coordinator or catechist immediately. Catechists should report threats to the DCM or Coordinator who will follow the diocesan procedure for dealing with threats. [See Guideline 17: Student Threats]
It is the responsibility of the DCM to maintain accurate and permanent student records of attendance and reception of sacraments. These records are kept in a confidential file and are the property of the parish. The DCM should not release names and addresses of students. [See Policy 240] [See Guideline 24: Sample Permanent Record Card]
Catechesis in a Safe Environment
In any religious education program, an atmosphere of welcome, trust and safety should be fostered and encouraged. It is a sad commentary on our times that incidents of child abuse have risen in recent years and that in some cases that abuse has happened within the church setting. In an effort to respond to the abuse of minors by clergy and other church personnel, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued Promise to Protect, Pledge to Heal – the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. With this Charter, the Bishops stress their “deep commitment to creating a safe environment within the Church for children and youth” (Promise, p. 3). This charter outlines practical and pastoral steps to prevent sexual abuse of minors in the church setting and reaffirms the Bishops’ commitment to “continual pastoral outreach to repair the breach with those who have suffered sexual abuse and with all the people of the Church” (Promise, p. 6).
The Diocese of San Diego, in complying with the Charter, has issued the Policy on Safe Environment Programs, which states that every parish and Catholic school in the diocese must implement a safe environment program. As part of this safe environment program
- adults who work with children or young people on a regular basis are screened and acknowledge in writing that they understand and will abide by the Diocesan Code of Ethical Standards for Church Ministers;
- parents, educators, church ministers, volunteers and others who are regularly involved with minors are trained in the issues of child abuse, including sexual abuse;
- children and young people receive ongoing training with age appropriate education pertaining to their personal safety and with direction as to when they should seek assistance from a trusted adult. The topics are introduced in age appropriate ways by teachers and catechists and parents receive materials to assist them in carrying out this education process.
CATECHISTS AND OTHERS WHO SERVE IN PROGRAMS OF EVANGELIZATION AND CATECHETICAL MINISTRY
Catechists and other non-compensated persons who serve in programs of evangelization and catechetical ministry are the most precious resources for parish catechetical and evangelization programs. With tasks ranging from periodic phone calls and typing, to teaching or leading weekly sessions or coordination of entire programs, the contributions of those who serve in catechetical and evangelization programs are so significant that these programs could not function without their dedication and generosity.
In Catechesi Tradendae, Pope John Paul II encouraged catechists:
I am anxious to give thanks in the Church’s name to all of you, lay teachers of catechesis in the parishes, the men and the still more numerous women throughout the world, who are devoting yourselves to the religious education of many generations. Your work is…carried out with ardent and generous zeal, and it is an eminent form of the lay apostolate, a form that is particularly important where for various reasons children and young people do not receive suitable religious training in the home. How many of us have received from people like you our first notions of catechism and our preparation for the sacrament of penance, for our first communion and confirmation! The Fourth General Assembly of the Synod did not forget you. I join with it in encouraging you to continue your collaboration for the life of the Church (CT, 66).
Recruitment, Formation and Affirmation
The Director of Catechetical Ministry or Program Coordinator is responsible for, and sees as essential tasks, the recruitment, screening, formation, ongoing growth, evaluation and recognition of the countless ministers, most of whom are non-compensated, that are involved in catechetical and evangelization programs. Catechetical and evangelization leaders understand the need to constantly empower the people of God to accept their baptismal call to teach and to evangelize. They encourage and nurture that call and avoid as much as possible any impression that their service is taken for granted. The effective leader motivates and nurtures the faith which has brought numerous persons to this service. An entire chapter of this handbook is devoted to the formation, certification and renewal of catechists.
Without a doubt many persons who respond to the call to minister as catechists are very highly motivated persons of faith. They serve out of a sense of commitment to Jesus Christ and a desire to have a positive influence on others. Many persons respond when they hear of a need or when a personal invitation is extended. Catechetical and evangelization leaders seek out persons for the various programs through personal invitation and communication regarding needs, always trying to match the gifts and talents of the person with the position or task. In accord with diocesan policy they ensure that all adults who work with children or young people on a regular basis are screened and comply with Diocesan Safe Environment policies. [See 24]
It is the responsibility of the parish to provide for formation and training of personnel (compensated and non-compensated) especially catechists, ensuring that they are well equipped to do the task. It is strongly suggested that two adults be present at each session for young people. Since many persons who work with minors do not have professional experience, it is very important that they receive guidance at regular intervals for providing for safety and disciplinary measures for young people in their programs.
Directors and staff are expected to keep all equipment in working order and to render areas used by young people as free of hazards as is humanly possible, in keeping with the standards of reasonable people. Thus, directors of religious education and youth ministers must take an offensive approach with regard to the elimination of hazards. All activities should be carefully monitored. All staff, paid and volunteer, should receive thorough and ongoing orientation and instruction. The reasonable religious education director…supervises staff. The supervisor who practices prevention by constantly striving to eliminate foreseeable risks will avoid costly lawsuit and participant injury (Shaughnessy, p. 24).
The parish’s commitment to those who serve in catechesis should also include a financial commitment for ongoing formation and provision of necessary resources, materials and supplies needed to implement programs.
Communication with Evangelization and Catechetical Ministers
The DCM/Program Coordinator has the responsibility for advising catechists of all diocesan policies, guidelines and procedures which affect their particular area of service. Meetings at the beginning of the year and ongoing in-service sessions throughout the year provide excellent opportunities not only for communication, but also for sharing of creative ideas and resources for classes or sessions. A catechist handbook will assist catechetical personnel in their ministry and make them aware of parish policies, guidelines and procedures. [See Guideline 13: Items to Include in Catechist Handbook] In addition to the DCM, other Program Coordinators have similar responsibility to the persons who serve in their respective programs: for example, the RCIA Coordinator would be responsible for forming the RCIA team and sponsors; the Evangelization Coordinator may train persons who do home visitation.
The DCM has additional responsibilities in regard to the supervision of catechists. She or he should supervise all catechists and should meet with the catechist following the supervision to affirm strengths and make recommendations and suggestions for improvement. The DCM should maintain parish catechist certification and renewal records which are the property of the parish.
[See Policy 240]
For all practical purposes the DCM, Program Coordinator and other catechetical and evangelization leaders are the communication link between the Diocesan Office and their catechists, parents, teams and other adults who are serving in their respective programs. The effective leader develops communication links to advise their constituency not only of policies and procedures which affect their ministry, but also of upcoming diocesan events for formation, education and renewal.