Salvatore Fisichella


To Be a Catechist Is a Mission, Says Archbishop Fisichella

A Ministry in the Church

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The formation of catechists is not done “seated behind a desk: to be a catechist isn’t a role but a mission in the Church, ” said Monsignor Fisichella, as reported by the Italian edition of L’Osservatore Romano on August 11, 2017.
The President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization presided over a Mass in Manila on July 27, on the occasion of the official presentation of the new National Association of Catechists of the Philippines (Nac-Phil), on the theme: “Catechists: Builders of Communion and of Renewed Artisans.” The new Association is geared first of all to the formation of catechists in the Philippines, with collaborations such as that of De La Salle University.
“Our service often leads us above all to identifying ourselves with the role we play in society,” noted Monsignor Rino Fisichella, so that catechists can also have “the temptation to see in their role work that calls for a recompense.”
The Gift of Life
In his homily, the Italian Archbishop stressed: “the role” has schedules, but the mission” calls for the gift of one’s whole of life.”
“When God enters the life of individuals, there is no alternative in face of His revelation. When God speaks it’s an appeal to faith as appropriate and coherent response,” and the faith “is reception of the mission that He entrusts to each one of us,” added Archbishop Fisichella.
In regard to formation, the Archbishop regretted that “sometimes” it is believed that “catechesis is an ensemble of practices to implement.”
“To think that formation consists in staying seated at a desk with an open book in one’s hands to prepare an exam or a lesson, means that one hasn’t understood the value of education,” he stressed.
For Archbishop Fisichella, on the contrary, the formation of the catechist consists first of all in a “return to taking in one’s hands the Word of God to make it become food of our existence.” “A living word, made up of proclamation, of ever more profound understanding of the original meaning, of a transmission that from generation to generation finds the most coherent and proper forms for each age.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
Archbishop Fisichella quoted Benedict XVI’s Post-Synodal Exhortation on the Word of God, Verbum Domini, to remind that “formation has enabled many communities to give life to ‘schools of the Gospel,’ to ‘lectio divina’ and to ‘faith workshops,’ and so many other experiences of which recent history is rich, and the production of ‘catechism.’”
In fact, he made reference to the forthcoming 25th anniversary of John Paul II’s Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum for the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. As the Vatican II event recedes further and further chronologically in the course of the decades, the urgency of keeping its teaching alive grows exponentially” and today the Catechism, “translated into more than 70 languages,” “remains as a fruit of the Council.”
“Nothing is more dangerous “ than the rather widespread tendency to “justify the fact of being Christians independently of knowledge of the contents “ of the Catechism.
He quoted Paul VI’s Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, “which represents a point of no return to verify the strong bond that keeps united catechesis and the evangelizing mission of the Church.”
Hence the importance of the “New Evangelization,” to “overcome a present difficulty in the different Churches – perhaps also in the Philippines – which often limits catechesis to sole preparation for the Sacraments,” he explained.
This way of seeing it “shows its limitations today,” he specified. If catechesis aims at reception of the Sacraments, it is evident that once the course for the Sacraments of Christian Initiation is finished further formation runs the risk of drifting.”
Instead the Archbishop advocated a “permanent formation” for believers, to present “the understanding of the Christian mystery in view of a coherent existence with what one believes.” He appealed for a catechumenate that renders evident the choice of the faith for a permanent intelligence and witness of the Christian life.”
Communal Dimension
Finally, Archbishop Fisichella stressed the “communal” aspect of catechesis: even a supportive study to this dimension of communion: “its ecclesial character belongs by nature to catechesis” and therefore it is good that catechesis “enables one to live directly the communal experience.” More than that, “the subject of catechesis” is the “Christian community” in as much as it is an “act of transmission of the faith.”
In his sense also, “the work of evangelization becomes a service that the community perceives as its responsibility”: No catechist exercises this ministry privately, but always within and in the name of the Church,” stressed Archbishop Fisichella, according to the same source.

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Anita Bourdin

France. Journalist accreditated to the Holy See press office since 1995. Started Zenit in french in january 1999. Classical litterature (Paris IV-Sorbonne). Master in journalism (IJRS Bruxelles). Biblical theology (PUG, Rome).

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