Will Robots Replace Catechists? Can They?


During the lifetime of some people who are reading this blog, artificial intelligence will be an everyday reality. Already, robotics are manufacturing and driving cars; the only difference is that they do not have a “face.” Technology in all forms is a daily growing force in our world.

Which poses a question: Can a robot serve as a catechist?

Without hesitation, I would say no. A catechist is first and foremost a disciple of Jesus Christ, someone who is in relationship with the Lord and capable of being “divinized”—sharing in the life of God. And yet, already today, it is not unheard of for faith formation to be delegated to someone who appears to learners solely through the medium of video while the human being in the room merely presses the play button. The issue becomes even murkier, however, when the “persona” on the video is a cartoon, a hologram, or some other virtual reality. While that cartoon persona can pass along information, is it possible to pray with a persona that is virtual? Again, I would say no.

catechist at desk

Leading prayer is more than simply conveyance. A cartoon can show the Sign of the Cross or recite traditional prayers. However, it cannot share nor teach about a relationship with God. Only a human being can invite others into an engaged relationship with God. Only a human being can answer questions, guide conversation, or articulate the experience of mystery. Only a human being can lift up his or her heart to God and invite others to do the same.

All of this is to say that leading others in prayer is one of the most significant responsibilities of a catechist and, unfortunately, is often placed on the back burner so that content can be crammed into the limited amount of time available with our apprentices.

Personally, I would say that there is no greater or more profound task for a catechist to embrace than leading others in prayer, since it is one part of your role (I would argue that there are other parts but space precludes it.) that could never be replicated by artificial intelligence. True learning is not only intellectual but is also affective, and nothing connects with young people on a significant emotional level quite like another human being. This is why we at Loyola Press have worked so hard to develop programs and resources like Finding God, Christ Our Life, God’s Gift, and Confirmed in the Spiritand all of their ancillary tools—to assist and empower you, the catechist, in sharing your discipleship with those you teach.

We think you are irreplaceable.

What are your thoughts on this?

About Joe Paprocki 2745 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.

4 Comments on Will Robots Replace Catechists? Can They?

  1. I once had someone pitch a DVD-based catechetical program to me with the line “The catechist just has to press play!”

    That was an easy “no.”

    I’m increasingly convinced that we need to do a better job imparting a Christian anthropology to the faithful. We have lost sight of the whole human person — body, mind, and spirit — resulting in the idea that virtual evangelization and fellowship is just as good as person-to-person contact.

  2. We teach doctrine, but we share faith.
    Teaching can be done with a vast variety of tools and technologies, but sharing is always person to person, in relationship. Thank you for pointing that out once again!

  3. The proclamation of the Kerygma, leading prayer, Sharing the Incarnate Word along with entering into the mystery & transcendence of the Liturgy; and accompanying others in their own individual Emmaus walk is the most important things we do as Catechists. Technology has a place in catechesis in the sharing of kniwledge, but technology does not replace accompanyment and relationship.

  4. The call God makes is people, not robots; It is a vocation.
    It is a call to love and share the joy of knowing Jesus. I imagine a robot talking about the Incarnation of the Divine Word …
    How would a robot express: … “became one like us” …?. Definitely, the catechist would not be replaced with a robot.
    A good point to share with others. Thank you!!!

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