Bishop Wuerl on New Catechetical Tools (Part 2)

Pittsburgh Prelate on a Work Geared for Young Adults

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PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania, NOV. 23, 2005 ( The new catechism prepared by the U.S. bishops’ conference aims to lead young adults into an explanation of the faith and help them encounter Christ.

So says Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh, chairman of the American bishops’ editorial oversight board for the U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults.

He shared with ZENIT how the Catechism for Adults engages and catechizes young people, and how its content can be applied to everyday life.

Part 1 of this interview appeared Tuesday.

Q: Recently the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops [USCCB] completed a national catechism aimed at young adults. What is it that makes the young adult audience different?

Bishop Wuerl: I think it is generally recognized today that we are working with a generation or two of Catholics who were dramatically under-catechized for a variety of reasons. They have only a vague awareness of the content of the faith.

In meetings of catechists, pastors and teachers all over this country, I hear the same refrain. We are working with a large group of people who have drifted away from the faith. We need to find ways of reintroducing them to the wonderful gift that is belief in Christ, to encounter Christ and have a living relationship with him.

The catechism prepared by the USCCB is meant to engage the attention of young adults, and then lead them into an explanation of the content of the faith.

The USCCB catechism follows the structure of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but begins with a story reflective of some aspect of the life and history of the Church, particularly in the United States.

The hope is to catch their attention and bring the under-catechized or dissociated Catholic back into conversation with the Church. Then the elements of teaching, liturgical life, the moral dimensions of the faith and its prayer life are unfolded.

I am convinced that the USCCB catechism can be a very fine tool for RCIA programs, for adult faith formation programs, for sacramental preparation programs and for faith formation at the secondary school level, the college level and with young adults. It is a tool for catechesis at its best.

Q: How is the USCCB catechism unique? What are some of the hardest Church issues for young people to deal with?

Bishop Wuerl: The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults has two specific qualities that I believe make it particularly helpful today.

First, it is directed to those who have drifted away from the practice of the faith and attempts to engage them in conversation about the faith. It does so by presenting an overview of the faith and its content as contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It speaks to young people in a language that will engage them.

Second, it also addresses in each chapter some contemporary problem or issue that presents a challenge to the faith today.

I think we are all aware that we live in a highly secular world that does not have much of a focus beyond the immediate here and now. Thus, a number of presuppositions or presumptions become the frame of reference for many young adults today. These may often be completely devoid of any religious content and the truth offered by Christ as God’s word among us.

The USCCB catechism is conscious of this particular context in which our young adults — in fact, all of us — live. The USCCB catechism tries to relate the mystery of Christ coming into our world, the concept of a transcendent reality breaking into the here and now, and to do so in a way that articulates the beauty of the faith.

At the same time, the catechism shows how Christ completes, complements and fulfills in the truest sense the longings of the human heart.

In each chapter of the bishops’ catechism there is not only an invitation to reflect on the faith through some experience in our own country, but then to look at a current issue in the context of today’s secular world and see where the faith responds in the truest manner to the human condition.

Q: What are some practical ways laity can engage Church teaching in a catechism and use the book to inform their everyday lives?

Bishop Wuerl: One of the great blessings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, its Compendium and the new USCCB catechism, is that each person can use the book to pursue specific issues or concerns.

The section on prayer, for example, is a beautiful and inspiring meditation on the importance of prayer and offers a concrete and practical guide on how to pray more effectively. This is a tremendous help to a person’s everyday life.

There are a growing number of challenges to the faith today in our society, particularly around significant moral issues. A person can readily access in the Catechism the Church’s long-standing teaching on these matters and quickly come to understand what is at the heart of the debate. The same is true of the sections on the creed and the sacraments.

We have found in our own diocese that parishes are using the Catechism for adult faith formation sessions, that our high school students and college students are using this text for class, and that those being trained and prepared for ministry are finding the Catechism to be of immense benefit in their formation.

Since its publication, we have encouraged the faithful to see the Catechism as a great gift and aid in the living out of their faith. The compendium and the USCCB catechism can only serve to introduce the Catechism to an even wider audience.

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