Have you ever noticed that when an attorney gives a press conference, he or she is almost always positioned in front of a bookcase full of law books? The message is a not-so-subtle reminder that the attorney is backed by the law that is contained in those books. The placement of those bookcases represents the law stating unequivocally, “I’ve got his/her back!” Attorneys, of course, must be familiar with the contents of these books if they hope to practice law effectively.
As catechists and catechetical leaders, we sometimes may wonder, “Who’s got my back?” The truth is, everything in our ministry, if we are doing it properly, can and should be backed up by Church documents. The Church, in essence, “has our back” when it comes to us searching for the most effective way to articulate Church teachings, laws, and policies. I personally make it a habit to identify the sources of much of what I share so that people know I’m not just talking off the top of my head but am transmitting what I have encountered in Church documents.
In preparation for the Holy Year of 2025, Pope Francis has asked Catholics around the world to devote time in 2023 to studying the documents of the Second Vatican Council, in particular, the four major constitutions. In addition to those documents, I would also suggest that anyone in catechetical ministry should be familiar with the following Church documents, which can provide us with the vision we need for our ministry and the words with which we articulate that vision. Consider this your virtual bookshelf!
- The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)
- The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church
- The Directory for Catechesis (DC)
- The National Directory for Catechesis (NDC)
- Catechesi Tradendae (On Catechesis in Our Time) (CT)
- Evangelii Nuntiandi (On Evangelization in the Modern World) (EN)
- Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) EG
- Compendium on the New Evangelization
- Go and Make Disciples: A National Plan and Strategy for Catholic Evangelization in the United States (GMD)
- Disciples Called to Witness: The New Evangelization
- Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us: A Pastoral Plan for Adult Faith Formation in the United States (OHWB)
- Guidelines for Doctrinally Sound Catechetical Materials (GDSCM)
- Sons and Daughters of the Light: A Pastoral Plan for Ministry with Young Adults (SLD)
- Doctrinal Elements of a Curriculum Framework for the Development of Catechetical Materials for Young People of High School Age
- Adaptation of Doctrinal Elements of a Curriculum Framework for the Development of Catechetical Materials for Young People of High School Age
- To Teach as Jesus Did
- The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA)—soon to have a new English translation: The Order of Christian Initiation of Adults (OCIA)
For a concise summary of these documents, check out Developing Disciples of Christ: Understanding the Critical Relationship between Catechesis and Evangelization by Julianne Stanz (part of The Effective Catechetical Leader series from Loyola Press and NCCL).
The bottom line is, it’s nice to know someone’s “got your back,” and it’s good to let those you serve know that you are backed by Church teaching!