DORCHESTER -- Teachers of children and adults came from around the Archdiocese of Boston to pray, listen, and share ideas for teaching the Gospel at the Annual Archdiocesan Catechetical Congress at Boston College High School, March 24.
Organizers said roughly 1,000 people participated -- including more than 800 registered guests joined by priests, religious, and presenters -- as the archdiocese presented keynote speakers, workshops, and displays from religious, faith-based, and Catholic educational groups and individuals at the event.
"Catechesis comes from the Greek word which means to echo. What we are echoing is the good news, the Gospel message, the message of Jesus Christ," the director of the Office of Religious Education Susan Abbott said.
"Those who catechize echo; it is a systematic instruction in the faith," she said.
Organizers themed the catechetical congress "Do This in Memory of Me," in keeping with the theme set by the USCCB on Catechetical Sunday this past September.
The Saturday event began with a multi-lingual Mass celebrated in Spanish and English, followed by the presentation of the 2012 Catechist Recognition Award. Bishop Richard Malone of Portland, Maine celebrated Mass with Father J. Bryan Hehir, who gave the homily. The Archdiocesan Black Catholic Choir sang hymns in English and Spanish.
After Mass, the attendees split into two groups. A little more than half of the participants -- about 425 people -- attended the Spanish workshops as the day began.
"I think it is a wonderful experience to be with the different communities, not only the different Spanish communities," assistant director for Catechesis for Hispanics Pilar Latorre said.
Susan Kay, assistant director of catechetical leadership, then presented the Sister Marion O'Connor, RC, Award to Robin Muise of Saint Joseph the Worker Parish in Hanson and Sister Christiana Onyewuche, EHJ, of Saint Katherine Drexel Parish in Dorchester.
Bishop Malone gave the English keynote address "Eucharist: Source and Summit of The New Evangelization" to the almost 400 English speaking participants who remained in the BC High gymnasium, McNeice Pavilion.
Ordained in 1972, the 11th bishop of Maine graduated from St. John's Prep in Danvers and St. John's Seminary in Boston. A former theology professor at the seminary and chaplain at Harvard University, Bishop Malone also brought catechetical expertise as a prior director of the religious education office in the Archdiocese of Boston.
He discussed the central role of the Eucharist in the life of Catholics historically and in efforts of evangelization.
He urged the crowd to not only think about the importance of the Eucharist, but to truly live out its promise in their actions regarding The New Evangelization.
"Transmitting Christ is of course the mission that brings you and me here this morning. It is the essence really of evangelizing catechesis, helping people to come to know the Lord Jesus in a personal way, not just a conceptual way," the bishop said.
He addressed the idea that the pursuit of teaching the faith is advanced by the pursuit of learning the faith.
"You people know the faith. We all have to know it better and better, don't we, every day? We are never completely there. That is the purpose of things like today for all of us. I know how much I need to know more about my faith. If you have confidence in your faith on some topic, speak out. The Eucharist will strengthen you for that," he said.
In an interview afterward the bishop expanded on this point for The Pilot.
"Pope John Paul II, who wrote a whole lot about catechesis, said that the most important form of catechesis is the ongoing religious education of Catholic adults. He did not mean let go of the children or the teens, but he said the most important group to be working with in terms of faith formation are the grown-ups. The reason why is a no-brainer. If we can get to the adults, especially parents, we have a lot better shot at getting to the children," he said.
After the keynote, the English group began workshops to learn not just more about the Catholic faith, but how to teach that faith.
Workshops addressed a variety of subjects including how to teach students who have autism, developing parish resources to promote RCIA, dispelling misconceptions about Church teachings, teaching teens the Gospel, using media as a tool for teaching, and other subjects related to the work of catechesis.
Organizers found it important to include workshops geared toward adults focusing on topics including the New Evangelization, the fight against physician assisted suicide, and parenting as a Catholic.
Abbott said she knew one particular speaker would draw a large crowd, even with the range of options provided.
Pastor of Saint Joseph Parish in Boston Father Dan O'Connell hosts a television show on Catholic TV called "We've Got to Talk."
He ran out of the 50 packets he printed for his presentation "The Mass is Boring?? No Way! We've Got to Talk!" in the opening minutes of the workshop.
"I just think it is very important that we realize that catechetical life is about getting our people to full, active participation in the sacramental life of the Church," Father O'Connell said.
Attendee Natacha Thomas, who teaches second-grade students, found the workshop "really helpful" and said she looked forward to returning to her parish and sharing her thoughts "on how we can increase attendance at Mass" among the youth.
The Daughters of Saint Paul had an exhibit in the common area of the high school to show the works of their ministry to guests and catechists.
Sister Christina Wegendt, FSP, and Sister Hosea Rupprecht, FSP, gave a workshop called "Faith Formation for a Media Generation" in a classroom at the school.