Each year when catechists are commissioned on Catechetical Sunday, I envision Jesus’ Great Commission before he ascended into heaven:
Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:14–15)
The word commission implies both an individual and communal commitment—mission and co-mission. Through the authority of Christ and his Church, each catechist is appointed to carefully and diligently carry out the mission to evangelize and catechize. Indeed, the community places a special trust and confidence in catechists to help form disciples. Yet we don’t proceed as individuals. Jesus sent out a community of disciples to proclaim the Good News; similarly, each catechist is united with a community of disciples who share a common goal to proclaim the Gospel. “As the ‘convocation’ of all men for salvation, the Church in her very nature is missionary, sent by Christ to all the nations to make disciples of them.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #767)
In other words, catechists are united and sent by Christ to proclaim the Good News, and to proclaim it together. That is, Jesus sends catechists not on mission, but a co-mission. Catechists can embrace their co-mission by embracing a spirit of unity. They can do this in a number of ways:
- Encourage unity within and among families. Teach children and their parents how to pray together and bless one another. Establish a “parking-lot ministry” by reaching out to parents with a smile and friendly greeting as they drop off their kids for faith formation. This attitude will create a sense of welcome to all, especially the “stop, drop, and roll-ers,” that is, parents who briefly stop the car, drop off their child, and then drive away.
- Encourage unity with and among other ministries. As a catechist I always took the time to meet and get to know the teacher whose classroom I used on evenings and weekends. We’d occasionally meet over coffee, and I would regularly write a quick note of thanks, especially on those occasions when the desks and chairs were moved around a bit. We would focus on the Spirit of God that animates the space and unites both groups of students. When we work with other ministries, we create an atmosphere of unity and guard against an “us versus them” mentality.
- Connect with clergy and liturgists. Catechists are particularly encouraged to connect with their pastors and form relationships with the ministers of the liturgy. Whether those conversations help us better understand the Mass or reinforce proper postures during the liturgy, unity among catechists and liturgists promotes full, conscious, and active participation.
Being a catechist is not just a job or weekly voluntary commitment. We don’t “do” catechesis and then go back to our usual lives. We are catechists, and our whole being is immersed in this mission. Even though we turn off the lights in our classrooms at the end of our sessions, our mission continues: to adopt a worldview illuminated by the light of Christ, a worldview that allows us to see through his eyes and carry the Truth to the whole world with love and compassion. As Pope Francis explains, it is a splendid mission:
A Christian’s mission in the world is splendid, it is a mission intended for everyone, it is a mission of service, excluding no one; it requires a great deal of generosity and above all setting one’s gaze and heart facing on High, to invoke the Lord’s help. There is a great need for Christians who joyfully witness to the Gospel in everyday life. The disciples, sent out by Jesus, “returned with joy” (v. 17). (Pope Francis, Angelus, July 3, 2016)
May we always renew our passion for the Great Commission as disciples united and sent by Christ.
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