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“Catechesis, an essential part of evangelization, spiritual renewal”: Kenya-based Prelate

Bishop Rodrigo Mejía Saldarriaga addressing participants during the webinar on New Directory for Catechesis Saturday, December 19, 2020.

The passing on of faith through catechesis is an important ingredient of spiritual renewal and maturity in a process that can take a lifetime, a Kenya-based Bishop has said at a virtual event.

During the Saturday, December 19 virtual event conducted under the auspices of the Daughters of St Paul, Bishop Rodrigo Mejía Saldarriaga explored the New Directory for Catechesis.

“Catechesis is an essential part of the holistic process of evangelization and spiritual renewal, which is a process of spiritual maturity that last the whole life, not just the period of infancy and adolescence for Christian initiation,” Bishop Mejía said.

Addressing participants, Bishop emeritus of Ethiopia’s Soddo Vicariate said the new Directory is “addressed primarily to the Bishops as Pastors in the particular churches. It is not a new Catechism text but it provides the main orientations in Catechesis so that the Bishops’ Conferences and each Bishop in his diocese may compose the concrete Catechetical Guidelines responding to the local needs and cultures.”

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He added in reference to the New Directory for Catechesis, “It is a precious tool for the first part offers new perspectives in Catechesis that are important and relevant for the total catechetical process in whatever cultural context.”

Bishop Mejía who is a member of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) went on to clarify during the online session organized under the theme, “New Directory of Catechesis,” “The New Directory for Catechesis, though duly approved by Pope Francis, has not the authority of a Canon Law document but it has the great value of being a source of inspiration that makes the reader understand more deeply the importance and value of Catechesis in the mission of Evangelization.”

“All those pastoral agents in the Church, either in parishes, in schools, in chaplaincies or any other pastoral situations and ministries will find in the New Directory a great source of renewal and inspiration for their renewal, particularly in the formation of catechists for which they are directly responsible,” the 82-year-old Colombian-born Prelate added.

Bishop Mejía continued during the Nairobi virtual implemented under the theme, “New Directory of Catechesis,” “It is the Church as a community and as a mystery of Communion that is the first evangelizer and the first instrument and place of evangelization.”

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“Therefore, Catechesis is not the individual action of a catechist alone but should be integrated into the mission of evangelization entrusted to the whole Church, both universally and locally,” the Bishop said.

On June 25, the Vatican published a new directory for catechesis, emphasizing both its continuity with two previous directories and its new content on contemporary issues such as gender and medical advancements.

“The new Directory for Catechesis offers the fundamental theological-pastoral principles and some general orientations, which are relevant for the practice of catechesis in our time,” Archbishop Rino Fisichella wrote in the introduction to the directory. 

Speaking during the December 19 webinar, Bishop Mejía highlighted the importance of the formation of the Catechist or his or her ministry “not only intellectually, for a good understanding of the content, but also spiritually in order to become a witness to the light with his or her example of life.”

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 “The Directory offers some orientations for the inculturation of Catechesis, not only in the contemporary cultural scenarios but also in the context of scientific and technological circles,” he further said.

In a report following the December 19 shared with ACI Africa, Sr. Olga Massango says, “The Catechetical Apostolate is the first and fundamental apostolic Work. Our Founder Blessed James Alberione urged the Daughters of St Paul to engaged in writing apostolate at that time, around 1950’s to increase their output of catechetical texts and supplementary aids.”

The Mozambican Pauline Sister says, “While producing and promoting catechetical books, songs and movies centred on the person of Christ; we are called to be attentive to the signs of the times by being very alert to grasp the insights and dynamics of the Church and to search for strategies to propose an encounter and vital experience with Jesus to all.”

“For the Daughters of St. Paul, the New Directory for Catechesis being born out of two realities: the digital culture and the globalization of the culture, impels them to renew their commitment to use all instruments of communication as vehicles of catechesis by transforming them into modern and effective versions of pulpits, so as to extend the proclamation of the Word of God and enable the Good News to reach to millions of people,” Sr. Olga further says in the report shared with ACI Africa.

On his part, the Deputy Secretary General of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB), Fr Lucas Ong’esa urged Bishops to “give instructions on the renewal of Catechesis to all pastoral agents (priests, brothers, sisters and laity) in giving priority to catechesis instruction as an integrant part of evangelizing mission in the Church and not to leave the lay catechists alone to carry this ministry.”

Speaking on the topic, “Catechesis Today: Historical-Pastoral Perspective in Times of COVID-19,” Fr. Ong’esa stated that “the reality of COVID-19 has exposed how lukewarm we have become and we need new pedagogical ways and approaches to the instruction of Catechesis as to impart the right knowledge in schools as to help the catechumens to mature in living, proclaiming and witnessing their faith.”

He added, “Catechetical Centres may have the resource material (books and DVDs) to enhance their ministry of evangelization and that parents have to carry on the education of their children in matters of faith as recommended by Catechism of Catholic Church 2221.”

“Catechesis is not a one person’s work but of the community of believers in the Church,” Fr. Lucas concluded.