Catechism a Key Tool for Church's Work Among Street Children

According to Rio de Janeiro Catechist

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 11, 2002 ( The Catechism of the Catholic Church’s emphasis on the integral formation of the human being is a moving force behind the Church’s work among Brazil’s street children.

That’s according to the catechist of the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro in charge of these children.

Maria Christina Sa, who is also a consultant of the Pontifical Council for the Family, explained the importance of the Catechism among the children when she addressed the international congress organized by the Vatican on the 10th anniversary of the Catechism’s publication.

There are over 21 million adolescents in Brazil, between 12 and 18 years of age, Sa explained. Almost a third, 32.8%, have had sexual relations, and 28.8% of the girls who became pregnant had abortions.

De facto unions have increased by 10% over the past 10 years. And 24% of young people who live in the “favelas” have no jobs and constitute “a real army at the service of illegality and marginalization,” the catechist explained to cardinals, bishops and theologians.

If the street children are abandoned, Sa said, they would only have two options: “to be killed by violence or drugs, or to be recruited by criminal organizations or prostitution.”

How can these young people be taught the catechism? Sa said the only effective way is through human development, which begins in the family.

“The first school of life and word is the family,” she said. Therefore, it is necessary to do everything possible so that the street children will have the possibility to be taken in by a family or return to their own family.

In an atmosphere of love, the proclamation of the Word takes on a very different value, and leads these young people to “a radical change of their own life and a genuine conversion,” the speaker continued.

This catechetical endeavor requires lay catechists, who at present “are numerous but scattered,” she added.

“They must be conscious of their own responsibilities,” Sa added. However, “to promote the laity does not mean to clericalize it, because the laity cannot replace the priests in the exercise of functions proper to the ordained ministry.”

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