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From CCD to Catechesis (9/14/17)

Who is qualified to pass on the story of God? If we look at the Gospels, we would see Jesus chose the “unqualified” ones to establish his church, cultivate it and hold it together.

Dr. Kathie Amidei
Pastoral Associate
St. Anthony on the Lake Parish


“CCD is a religion class. Catechesis? It’s hard to spell and hard to know what it means. I think a catechist is a religion teacher. I don’t know why we don’t just say, ‘a religion teacher.’ Sometimes the Catholic Church has its own terminologies.” (Catholic Friend)

That may be true, and sometimes it is helpful to have background to appreciate the meaning behind the terms. Two examples might be CCD and Catechesis.

Some are familiar with the term CCD as religious education. Less familiar might be that CCD refers to Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, which began as a movement in the 1920s to teach catechism to the minority of Catholic children, at that time, not attending Catholic schools.

The curriculum was a rigorous program of memorization based on the Baltimore Catechism, a resource for children of succinct questions and answers. Many of us who learned our faith from that methodology can testify we remember its content decades later. That was a strength of the approach. However, that model had its limitations, and the acronym CCD doesn’t capture what the word catechesis does so well.

Catechesis comes from a root word meaning, “to echo.” We echo to the next generation the faith that was given to us. Its primary goal is to help people grow in faith to follow Jesus Christ. It invites us to be attuned to God’s presence in our life.

“Catechesis is nothing other than transmitting the Gospel as the Christian community has received it, understands it, celebrates it, lives it and communicates it in many ways.” (General Directory For Catechesis) Through catechesis, we come to recognize and understand God’s revelation. It is a lifelong process of faith development, a gradual unfolding of a relationship with God.

Some catechists have credentials and are well qualifi ed. We need these catechists. They are bishops, priests, theologians, biblical scholars, Catholic school teachers and catechetical leaders. But, the role of catechist sometimes is given to us, qualifi ed or not, like the parent who brings a newborn home and suddenly realizes, “I am responsible for this little precious soul, and who thought I was qualified for that?”

Who is qualified to pass on the story of God? If we look at the Gospels, we would see Jesus chose the “unqualified” ones to establish his church, cultivate it and hold it together. I have come to believe what makes a great catechist is how much your heart is set on God.

The gift of faith is grace from God. It is sometimes through limited, faithful, good-hearted people that we learn words to hold it and share it. Some catechists are parents, parish volunteers, retreat leaders, companions in faith-sharing groups, grandparents, and folks we witness caring for the poor.

Sometimes even an insightful poet catechizes. Bishop Bob Morneau’s poem describes to me the essence of catechesis:

Things Divine
(“Don’t let people become strangers to
things divine.” cf. Ad Gentes)
I was a stranger
but God took me in
and showed me things divine:
the Light behind a human smile;
the Love beneath a tender touch;
the Life beyond the pain of death.
Now, I’m a stranger no more
and I go forth — sent —
to prevent others
from being aliens to things divine.

Dr. Kathie Amidei is Pastoral Associate at St. Anthony on the Lake Parish and leads the Faith Formation ministry. She also writes regularly for the Milwaukee Catholic Herald. She was formerly the Associate Director for Catechesis and Child Ministry in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. She has served in a number of parishes as a Catholic schoolteacher and a director of religious education.

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