Dear Fellow Teacher of the Good News of Jesus Christ,
Peace be with you! Thank you for your ministry as a catechist in the Diocese of Belleville of Belleville. Your service as a catechist, informing, forming and transforming our young people in Christ, is a vital contribution to the Church whether in a Catholic school, Parish School of Religion, or other catechetical program. As you know, your vocation as a catechist is to collaborate with the Holy Spirit and help the next generation of Catholics to grasp the profound meaning that our faith gives to our journey from God to God.
The catechist forms the young Christian by creating an environment of spiritual awareness that flows from his or her own interior life. Thus, before teachers even enter the classroom, their personal prayer, their casual encounter with a fourth grader on the playground, the way in which they relate to their fellow teachers, the manner in which they discipline an unruly youngster, all of these lay a foundation. Their attitude of trust and respect, their recognition of the dignity and worth of each person will help to establish the rapport that will be necessary if they are to do more than teach them about faith. If teachers are to help students to experience faith and to know the implications of that faith in their daily lives, the students must actually be able to participate in the teacher’s living faith. Within this divine milieu the lay catechist, priest or religious forms the youthful Christian in the faith that comes to us from the Apostles.
If this formation is to be effective, it must go hand in hand with information. It is imperative that the Catholics who will be the leaders in the third millennium of Christianity be well informed in their faith. A clear, straightforward and integral presentation of the Catholic world view, tailored to the age, intelligence and background of the students is essential. This instruction must also be consistent. It is not helpful to teach second graders something that they will learn is untrue when they are eighth graders. Each year must build upon a firm foundation.
The catechist’s vocation is not only to form and to inform, but also to transform in Christ. Transformation is the most difficult part of this ministry because it requires catechists to become co-workers with Christ in the ongoing work of conversion. To do this catechists must be willing to be spiritual companions to their students. A spiritual companion helps a young person in the process of self-discovery before God. This may occur in formal or informal ways. It requires that we be listening for God in our ministry.
The Catechist Certification process is designed to assist you in this important ministry. It offers opportunities to grow in spiritual awareness. It provides a firm foundation of the information of our faith. It assists in developing the skills necessary to be spiritual companions to young people. In the end, however, no certification process can ensure the most important attribute for effective catechesis; God’s grace. Be assured of my prayers for you in your ministry.
Appreciatively yours Christ,
The Most Reverend Edward K. Braxton
Bishop of Belleville