I have previously discussed the “grave responsibility” a pastor has in ensuring that the catechetical ministry of the parish is well-resourced and comprehensive in its approach. This responsibility requires a consideration of those who are served by our catechetical efforts. We must also remember that our actions teach as much, if not more, about what we believe as our words do. Make no mistake about it—everything we do and don’t do in our parish says something about what we really believe.
When we think of catechesis or religious education, we might begin to think about young people. However, comprehensive catechetical ministry requires that we be attentive to how we resource, support, and nurture catechesis at all stages of life. A comprehensive approach entails attentiveness to those who are married, those who are single, those who find themselves on the fringes of our communities for whatever reason, those with children (as well as those without), those whose families have grown and moved away, and those who feel cut off from their families. Pastors, together with staff and catechetical ministers, are called to inculcate our collective responsibility to faithfully pass on that which has been handed on to us—and we are much more diverse than we usually imagine.
There are many different and layered approaches to engaging our collective responsibility to share our faith; sometimes, the simple and ordinary choices have the most profound effects.
For example, we can be more attentive to the language we use in parish life. Use inclusive language and communicate openness and hospitality in parish announcements. In addition, when you invite parishioners to an event, remain mindful of who you are inviting. Do your invitations inadvertently exclude some people? (Do you only invite one particular demographic, such as parents with children?) Or do you invite the full breadth of your community?
Attentiveness to public roles can make significant value statements about who you are as a community too. For example, when you host communal penance services, invite the youth leaders of the parish to lead the service and share a reflection on forgiveness. Likewise, developing young lectors and cantors for leadership in liturgy can be a powerful expression of inclusiveness across generations.
We must also be attentive to the kinds of opportunities we offer parishioners to deepen their relationships with Jesus. Different prayer experiences will appeal to different people. Allow parishioners to sample different prayer experiences such as meditation, Eucharistic Adoration, praying the Rosary, and more. Help people find refreshment in spiritual practices from our faith tradition with which they may not be very familiar. After a service project, bring people together to reflect on the experience in the light of a Scripture passage. This will introduce participants to the art of theological reflection and help them recognize God at work in the midst of their busy lives. Opportunities like these provide a safe space in which people can learn how to pray as they grow through the different stages of their lives.
A comprehensive approach to catechetical ministry does not need to be complex or difficult. It simply requires commitment to express, consistently and thoughtfully, what it is we really believe about ourselves as a community.