One of the most exciting thrusts in the world of catechesis in the past several decades has been the emergence of the importance of evangelization. In fact, catechesis and evangelization are so closely related that the General Directory for Catechesis tells us that “in pastoral practice, it is not always easy to define the boundaries of these activities.” (62) In other words, there is not only overlap between catechesis and evangelization, but there is also a melding of the two: our catechesis must have an evangelizing spirit and our evangelizing must have a catechetical flavor.
This reality of the intimacy between catechesis and evangelization is captured in a new book that will be coming out soon by Julianne Stanz as part of an about-to-be-launched new Effective Catechetical Leader series—a collaborative effort between Loyola Press and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership (NCCL), which brings the original Effective DRE series into the 21st century. Julianne’s contribution to the six-book series will be titled Developing Disciples of Christ: Understanding the Critical Relationship Between Catechesis and Evangelization. Here’s a small taste of what Julianne has written:
Pope Paul VI made it very clear, in his encyclical Evangelii Nuntiandi, that the Church “exists in order to evangelize.” Evangelization is the “deepest identity” of the Church. The mandate to evangelize comes from Jesus Christ himself! Jesus commanded us to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19) Jesus is the center of evangelization and the heart of catechesis. We share not just the message of Christ, but share in his very person. Jesus is the Good News. In your role as a catechetical leader, you are called to ensure that catechesis and evangelization are seen by all as inseparable partners.
Evangelization is at the heart of all of our efforts in parish renewal. It is not a strategy to grow the Church; it is simply living up to our deepest identity. I’ve been so thrilled in recent months to have opportunities to meet with pastoral staffs of parishes and diocesan personnel to explore practical ways we can and should be evangelizing, drawing from my book, A Church on the Move: 52 Ways to Get Mission and Mercy in Motion. In these experiences, we explore how a Church on the move thinks, functions, worships, forms people in faith, and engages the world.
Speaking of engaging the world, another exciting initiative I’ve been privileged to be a part of is the latest revision of the classic catechetical series, Christ Our Life: The New Evangelization Edition. This edition comprehensively presents the authentic teachings of the Catholic Church and is the only program aligned with the Church’s mission for a New Evangelization, the NCEA: IFG ACRE assessments, and the Six Tasks of Catechesis, featuring Gather and Go Forth pages that help children respond to the Church’s essential mission to evangelize and be disciples of Christ, engaging the world with the Good News of Jesus.
These are exciting times for us in catechetical ministry as we emerge from our silo of “religious instruction” and collaborate with the entire parish community in the ministry of evangelization: our deepest identity!