Catechists as Missionary Disciples

Catechetical Sunday 2017 - Living as Missionary Disciples - clip art from USCCB

Catechetical Sunday, with its 2017 theme of “Living as Missionary Disciples,” is a wonderful opportunity for us to reflect on why we do the challenging work of catechesis. How do we live as missionary disciples?

Mission

When I hear the word missionary, I think of a priest sailing to some far away and foreign land to preach the Gospel, armed only with his crucifix and his conviction. We might think that the call to be a missionary is a special calling meant only for a few hardy souls; we might be tempted to think, “Oh, I could never do that! Surely God is not calling me to be a missionary!” Yet that is exactly what God is calling us to be. Our mission field is not a remote village in the Amazon rainforest, but a classroom. We share the Gospel not with people who have never heard of Jesus Christ, but with apathetic sixth graders or second graders preparing for the sacraments.

Discipleship

On the other hand, discipleship often calls to mind something comfortable and easy. We grew up hearing that a disciple is a friend of Jesus. “Oh, yes,” we might think, “I am a disciple. I love Jesus. I go to church every Sunday. I pray. I listen to Jesus’ teachings.” But when we stop and look at what Jesus actually required of his friends, discipleship takes on a whole new meaning. Have we really “dropped our nets” and left everything behind to follow Jesus, just as St. Peter did? Are we really people of hope in the face of suffering and persecution? Do we show the children in our classrooms how to love Jesus, or do we simply have them memorize facts? Are we more interested in meeting curriculum standards than helping children meet a person?

Missionary Discipleship

We simply cannot be a missionary without being a disciple. If we want to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then we must have our own intimate relationship with Jesus. Similarly, we cannot be a disciple without being a missionary. Our relationship with Jesus propels us to share his love with others. There is no such thing as a static disciple. Our joy at knowing Jesus bursts forth in service, using whatever gifts God has given us. A missionary disciple is someone who loves Jesus and just can’t contain that love.

What does this mean for catechists?

In the perfect parish, each and every catechist would be so on fire with love for Christ that they would spark a fire for him in the hearts of every child and family they serve. However, we do not live in a perfect world. We are all in different stages of our faith journey; everyone has a unique relationship with Jesus. I have seen individuals who become catechists simply because they volunteer for everything; through service they find a love for Jesus that they never imagined. I have also seen people become catechists because they are “good Catholics,” but do not have an intimate relationship with Jesus of their own. What they teach makes no difference in the lives of the children, because it makes very little difference in their own.

No matter where we are on our journey of faith, we have been called to be missionary disciples. Rooted and empowered by our loving relationship with Christ, and trusting that he will provide us all that we need, we can share his love in whatever mission field he sends us.

Reflection

How do you see yourself as a missionary disciple? When did you notice that catechesis became your vocation? When did you realize that you were in this ministry not for you or the children you serve, but for Christ?


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About Darcy Osby 33 Articles
Darcy Osby is Director of Religious Education at St. Bernard Parish in Pittsburgh, PA. She has been involved in a variety of parish catechetical programs for over 12 years and loves working in ministry professionally. Darcy holds bachelor’s degrees in elementary education and theology from Carlow University in Pittsburgh, as well as a Master of Divinity from the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. She and her husband enjoy exploring God’s creation through hiking, canoeing, and kayaking.

2 Comments on Catechists as Missionary Disciples

  1. You’ve posed an interesting question: “When did you realize that you were in this ministry not for you or the children you serve, but for Christ?” Ah, but the answer lies in the mystery of the Body of Christ Who embodies the children we serve AND their families AND ours AND the Person of Jesus AND all His saints all at once. How beautiful to know that my desire to know and love Christ is met in part by using my gifts and talents as a teacher, and is met in loving the little ones, and is met in partnering with parents, and is met when I pray through the challenging relationships in those circles or in gratitude for inspiration. Our service need not be a painful sacrifice to count as service. I’ve been a catechist since I was 16 years old and continually strive to make lessons meaningful and lively while I lead with love of Him. I love what I do and Whom I do it with and for whether that be on mission in the Dominican Republic or in an affluent parish here in the States. He “goes on ahead” of me wherever I am called and I hurry to catch up!

  2. When I volunteered to be a catechist there was a need and I thought let me see how I can help. I am not a teacher but maybe I can assist a teacher. Well I was asked to help a teacher who was ill so I did my best filling in. The following year I was asked to teach my own class and I begged the Holy Spirit to help me reach these children. I tried to follow the curriculum but found the spirit moved me in the direction I should go. I realized then that I was the hands and mouth of the Lord. That these children needed to know that they were the young disciples of Jesus and I was responsible for their knowledge of him and his church! I never thought a missionary, but I guess it makes sense.

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