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Catechists come together at annual congress

Catechists gather for lunch. More than 600 catechists gathered for the annual congress held at The Lantana in Randolph. Pilot photo/ Neil W. McCabe

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RANDOLPH -- Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley delivered the keynote address Oct. 25 to more than 600 religious educators from both Spanish and English communities of the archdiocese at the 2008 Catechetical Congress.

In his keynote address to the English speaking catechists, the cardinal said if Catholics truly believed that Christ was the key to salvation, teaching the faith to our youth would be an imperative, not a choice.

“Evangelization is the mission of the Church, which is itself an extension of Christ, who is the ‘magister,’ the teacher,” he said.

“The mission of the Church is about making disciples and helping people respond to the call of holiness by being part of a faith-filled, worshiping community struggling to be faithful to the Gospel,” he said.

The cardinal called on the catechists to reach out to both committed Catholics and the un-churched to help them grow and develop their faith. But, he made a special plea for catechists to reach out to fallen-away Catholics on those occasions that they find themselves in church, such as Christmas, Easter, weddings and funerals.

The cardinal said catechists need to welcome home inactive Catholics who have stormed off, dozed off or fallen through the cracks.

“There are 17 million people in the witness protection program of the Catholic Church,” he said.

The cardinal’s address incorporated not just the “sit-down-and-learn,” but also the beauty of what we learn, said Susan J. Kay, the archdiocese’s assistant director for catechetical leadership, who helped plan this year’s congress.

“It was a very well attended and grace filled gathering, said Sister Clare Bertero, OSF, special assistant to the cardinal, who has been active in religious education for many years.

“This year’s congress was enriching spiritually and professionally as well for the catechists who attended.”

The English language workshops included: “Six Steps to Cultivate the Creative Catechist,” by Nancy Bird Northeast Regional Manager RCL-Benziger; “In the Beginning...is the Teacher’s Manual,” by John Collins, the principal of the Kane School in Marlborough and a catechist trainer; “Bilingual Liturgies,” by Daisy Gómez and Héctor Ho and “Faith Formation for a Media Generation,” by Sister Christina Miriam Wegendt, FSP, the children’s editor for Pauline Books & Media.

Speaking before her talk, Sister Christina said, “We will be going over the principles of media literacy and talk about how we can introduce these principles to our students from a faith perspective.”

Sister Christina said she first taught the workshop at St. Denis Church in Westwood for novices of her order. The parish’s religious education director there suggested it would be appropriate for the congress.

The workshop is also consistent with the work of her order, The Daughters of St. Paul, she said. “Our mission is to help people grow in their faith and their relationship with God through all kinds of media.”

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