Pope Francis has announced that the role of catechist will now be recognized as a formal instituted ministry in the Church! While many, if not most Catholics, already considered the role of catechist to be a ministry, the Pope’s announcement in the apostolic letter Antiquum Ministerium raises it to a level of official recognition by the Church as an instituted ministry.
The Pope’s letter making the role of catechist an official ministry in the Church is not a “legalization” of the ministry for lay catechists, nor is it a pat on the head for lay catechists. It is a long-overdue recognition and affirmation of the vocation shared by countless numbers of lay people and is intended to advance the Church’s mission, contribute to the transformation of society, make the Church more present and fruitful in the world, renew the pastoral activity of the Church, heighten the need for quality catechist formation, and emphasize the missionary commitment of all the baptized.
In the not-too-distant future, the Congregation of Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments will publish a Rite of Institution, which is more than a commissioning of catechists as is often done on Catechetical Sunday as a recognition by the parish. The Rite of Institution will be a recognition by the bishop or diocese. Likewise, episcopal conferences will determine formation processes and criteria for the ministry of catechist.
In upcoming posts here at Catechist’s Journey, we will talk more about the implications of this major announcement and how we here at Loyola Press will be ready to assist catechists, parishes, and dioceses in implementing and responding to these new processes and criteria.
Thank you, Holy Father, for this wonderful recognition of this most splendid and “ancient ministry” that is so dear to so many of us!