November 2005 - Volume 10, Issue 4

A Challenge For All

By The Most Reverend William E. Lori, S.T.D., Bishop Of Bridgeport

Last Saturday was a red letter day in the Diocese of Bridgeport. It marked the first meeting of the new "Catechetical Leaders of the Diocese of Bridgeport" organization (CLDB) at Saint Luke Parish in Westport.

Ah, you may say in dismay, a new organization! Just what the world needs most!

I don't know about the world, but I do know a thing or two about the Diocese of Bridgeport! And one of the things I have come to know clearly is that our catechetical leaders - directors and coordinators of religious education (DRE's and CRE's) - and our catechists are engaged in one of the most challenging and necessary ministries in the diocese. CLDB was formed as a diocesan-wide group, linked to my office as the chief catechist of the Catholic Church in Fairfield County, to be a source of support for those women and men who devote themselves to evangelizing and instructing our young people, more than 35,000, in the faith of the Church.

The First Meeting Of The New Catechetical Leaders Of The Diocese Of Bridgeport

We can appreciate the challenges they face in at least two ways: first, by recalling the six things that must be done if we would really pass along the faith to our young people; and second, by thinking about the kind of support catechists both require and deserve.

The new U.S.C.C.B. National Directory for Catechesis lists six catechetical tasks:

  1. Catechesis promotes knowledge of the faith.
  2. Catechesis promotes meaningful participation in the liturgical worship and sacramental life of the Church.
  3. Catechesis integrates moral formation into a Christian way of life.
  4. Catechesis teaches Christians how to pray, with Christ, in Christ, and in communion with the Church.
  5. Catechesis initiates the Christian into the life of the local church community and fosters active participation in the mission of the Church.
  6. Catechesis promotes a missionary spirit that prepares Christians to witness to Christ in society.

Of course, catechists cannot do all this alone. You who are parents are the first teachers of your children in the ways of faith. This is the promise you made when your children were baptized, and this is at the heart of your vocation as parents.

These six tasks are principally yours to fulfill. Our Catholic schools and catechetical programs are here to assist you, but not even the very best catechetical program and the most superlative Catholic school can take your place in forming your children as disciples of Christ who are active members of His Church. At a minimum, that requires your involvement in their religious studies, bringing them to Mass each Sunday, making sure that they receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly, and giving them good example of how to be a follower of Christ in daily life.

Absent your involvement and commitment, our pastors, catechetical leaders, and Catholic school teachers are pretty much at a loss to help your children to become true followers of Christ. But when you are involved, it's a much brighter picture.

Catechists, as you have gathered, are part of a team. That team includes me, as chief catechist, but it also includes the pastor and parochial vicars. As clergy, we share three principal tasks: to teach, sanctify, and govern the Church. Teaching comes first. When we teach the faith well, we are able to fulfill our other responsibilities more effectively. So our involvement in parish and Catholic school religious education programs is a principal way we fulfill our ministry of teaching the faith.

I personally find much satisfaction in helping young people make connections in their minds and heart about truths of the faith or experiencing their idealism as a young person whose heart is opened to Christ.

Our catechists also need diocesan support. Currently that comes from the Office for Christian Formation. I am very grateful to Gloria Zapiain who, until now, directed that office. As she returns to Texas, she is accompanied by my prayerful appreciation.

On November 11, we will be welcoming a community of consecrated women to help direct this office. It is a multicultural community known as the Marian Community of Reconciliation.

They will be working closely with Betty Anne Casaretti, interim office director, and the new CLDB to develop a pastoral plan for evangelization and catechesis in the diocese. I look forward to introducing this new community to the diocese.

This is how we will proceed. In the coming months, there will be listening sessions in the five vicariates. These will include clergy, catechetical leaders and catechists, Catholic school principals and teachers, and lay leaders, especially those involved in parish councils. The idea is to ascertain challenges, opportunities, and best practices in our mission to open the hearts of those we serve to Christ and His saving truth and love. It is also to form a more cohesive team, because we have to pray and work together if we are to do the work the Lord has put before us.

When those sessions are concluded and the plan has been developed, I will then issue a pastoral letter. Please stay tuned, and keep this process in your prayers.