2017 Catechist Institutes: Catechists as ‘Missionary Disciples’By: J.B. Kelly Springfield MO
The annual Catechist Institutes held in the diocese this year focused on the theme of “Catechists as Missionary Disciples,” delving into concepts related to authentically putting into practice the theology of the New Evangelization. Religious educators in the diocese gathered for the institutes on Sat., Oct. 14, at Holy Trinity Parish in Springfield and on Sun., Oct. 22, at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Cape Girardeau.
Lynn Melendez, Director of Evangelization, Catechesis, and Youth Formation for the diocese, and Bp. Edward Rice each gave keynote addresses that expounded upon the idea of “missionary discipleship” and reminded catechists of the growing number of challenges that face the work of sharing and teaching the Faith. Oddwalk Ministries, Shannon Cerneka and Orin Johnston, provided upbeat music and witnessing surrounding the theme of embracing life as Eucharistic people.
Melendez offered insights gleaned in part from her experience at the Convocation of Catholic Leaders held earlier this year in Orlando, FL, which explored key ideas from Pope Francis’ 2013 Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”).
“We have to recognize that the ways we’ve been doing things [in catechesis and evangelization] may not be effective today,” Melendez said, adding that Pope Francis’ “missionary impulse” envisions a transformation of Church customs, schedules, and structures to be more suitable “for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for self-preservation” (EG, 27).
Melendez shared a broader view of discipleship that incorporates a greater missionary impetus and challenges catechists—and all of the faithful—to strive to more deeply engage others and bring them to an encounter with Christ.
“A ‘disciple’ prays every day, but a ‘missionary disciple’ helps others to pray,” Melendez said, offering one of several examples of what were referred to as “Habits of Discipleship.”
Bishop Rice spoke about the changes in societal developments of recent decades, for better or worse, and urged the attendees to not be content with “doing things as we’ve always done.” He suggested that modern society has essentially reverted to being similar to “pagan Rome,” but that that should be seen in a positive light, since the Church survived similar challenges nearly 2,000 years ago.
“We have the truth,” Bp. Rice said, “but it needs to be presented to today’s culture with all of the cultural context of a pagan Rome.”
“It worked back in the beginnings of the Church,” Bp. Rice said, “and can work today. Why? Because it is the work of the Holy Spirit!”