Witness to Christ
What a whirlwind of a week! It feels good to get to the end of it and…RELAX… For the past week, we have been blessed to have Sherry Weddell with us. I admit it, I have been pretty starstruck 😉 (Don’t worry, I didn’t embarrass myself…) I still remember the first time I read Forming Intentional Disciples. I remember reading it on a train thinking – “here’s someone who thinks everything I’ve ever thought…and more!” Little did I know we would have her with us for a whole week. Sherry led a Called & Gifted Workshop last weekend and previous to that, she trained around 30 interviewers. After the Workshop she trained 14 Called & Gifted teachers. So a pretty gruelling but immensely graced week. More about Called and Gifted later…
For now, I’ve been dying to tell you about something exciting we’ve been doing here in Portsmouth. You probably remember that when I was in Balham, we had an amazing team of around 40 catechists. It was a very blessed situation to be in – many of them had degrees in theology, or certificates in catechesis from Maryvale. Whenever you needed a new sponsor, or someone new to train as a catechist, there seemed to be an ever-ready pool of people. I’m aware this was highly unusual. Here in Portsmouth it is a bit more “normal”… A few months ago, our priest asked me to lead a formation programme for catechists before the summer, so that we could “grow” the pool of catechists. So, “Witness to Christ” came into being…
We have just one session left, and it is amazing to look back to see what’s happened. At the start, I set about personally inviting around 20 people who had attended adult formation over the past two terms. I remember thinking how delighted we’d be if 20 people came to train as catechists. But God is so good… We started with 30 people, and have in fact grown to 40!
Without going into much detail, here are a few facts about what we’ve done:
- We’ve presented the six weeks of formation as a time of discernment. We’re asking everyone to open their hearts to God during this time, to ask him to show them his personal mission for them within our parish – whether or not that be catechesis. To facilitate this, we have had 15 minutes of silent Adoration at the end of each session. I am 100% certain that any effectiveness is down to this alone!
- We have taught the five foundational truths throughout the six weeks – one per week. We have two priests at the cathedral, and they have alternated in teaching a foundational truth each week. Do you know what?! People love to be taught by their priests! Wouldn’t you agree it is a novelty for Catholics to be taught by their priests, outside the homily? And the homily doesn’t allow for a systematic catechesis on a particular doctrine. So this has gone down well 🙂
- As well as teaching content, we have also taught methodology. In the first week, I introduced what “evangelisation” is, how catechesis fits into this, and the role of a catechist as a witness. We have come back, again and again, to the goal of conversion. We have also explored in depth the pedagogy of God, and the catechist’s role in assisting God’s pedagogy.
- This week, we asked everyone to write their name on a large piece of paper to indicate whether they are interested in being a catechist of children, young people, or adults. How exciting to see everyone’s enthusiasm… The idea is that the priests will discern themselves, and will invite people individually to join a team.
- In the final week, the participants are going to share a short catechetical session they have prepared based on everything we have covered.
It has been a real privilege to teach this course. It is very different from being in Balham (which was exceptional). There, you could presume a lot of knowledge already. Here, I have learned not to take anything for granted. A different approach has been needed.
One of the great blessings has been the conversations I’ve had with people over the last six weeks. Here I’ve captured just a few ‘testimonies’ from people who have shared with me…
“Thank you for introducing us to the Catechism! In decades of teaching Catholic RE, my colleagues and I never turned to the Catechism. Why?! We were teaching our own opinions. I can see that now.
“I used to think the Old Testament was superseded, that we should pay no attention to it as Catholics. For this reason I deliberately missed the Bible Study earlier this year. Now I am realising we need the whole Bible! I will be at the next Bible Study.”
“I am realising I’ve been giving myself to others constantly, but without paying attention to my own relationship with Christ. This is going to change!”