Recently, I had the honor of being invited to present on the topic of catechist formation to the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, chaired by Bishop Robert Barron. You may well know that Bishop Barron is a leading voice in the country when it comes to the topics of evangelization and catechesis—especially with regards to those who are disaffiliated from the Church. He does this primarily through his Word on Fire ministries.
I’ve known Bishop Barron for many years and was especially privileged to “sit at his feet” for several years, since he was a professor and co-director of my Doctor of Ministry program at the University of St. Mary of the Lake—Mundelein Seminary. Needless to say, I was humbled and honored to receive the invitation to share my insights on the topic of catechist formation with Bishop Barron and his committee. My presentation was focused on the need for catechist formation to be a greater priority and for such formation to focus on equipping catechists with a “language of mystery.” My main points were:
- As a Church, we have not made catechist formation the priority it should be.
- Catechists must be formed to know that they are not teachers of a subject but facilitators of an encounter.
- The key to facilitating this encounter is for catechists to create a climate of prayer—a “greenhouse” effect, so to speak.
- Such a greenhouse effect is created by employing a language of mystery.
- Catechists must be formed and equipped to utilize the following: music/singing, silence, storytelling, sign and symbol, movement and gesture, sacred space, ritual, and works of mercy.
- It is within this climate of encounter that we deliver the content of our faith tradition.
Following my presentation, we engaged in an energetic and fruitful conversation about various aspects of catechist formation. I was thrilled to see such enthusiasm from the committee for this topic to which I have dedicated most of my career! I extend a heartfelt “Thank you!” to Bishop Barron and all the members of the Bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis for this wonderful opportunity. Join me in praying for the success of their/our work!