Catechists come together at annual congress

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 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.”

For the English program, the closing session was “Paul and the Foolishness of God,” by Celia Sirois, of CHRISM, an examination of the comedic inversion of how St. Paul names Christ the wisdom of God, which the world sees as foolishness.

The Spanish language workshops included “The letters of Paul and the early Christians,” by Father Terence J. Moran, pastor of Chelsea’s St. Rose of Lima Parish; “Walking with the poor, walk with Christ,” by Father Alejandro Lopez-Cardinale, a priest from the Archdiocese of Caracas, who is working in Newark and “Sharing Youth Ministry Experiences and Initiatives: A Hispanic Perspective,” by Maria Pilar Latorre, the archdiocesan director for Hispanic catechesis with Ospino Guadalupe from Lawrence’s St. Patrick Church Parish and Diana Soto from Roslindale’s Sacred Heart Parish.

Latorre said she there were very large crowds for the talk on the Charismatic movement by Father Francisco Paco Anzoategui, a priest at St. Stephen Church in Framingham called “Biblical roots of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.”

Another standing room-only talk was “Eschatology: Present and Future of our Salvation in Christ,” by Father Ricardo Gonzalez. Father Gonzalez, is a professor of theology at the Seminary of Zamora, Mexico who is currently in residence at Somerville’s St. Ann Church, she said.

Latorre said she was impressed by the turnout by members of the Hispanic community. Nearly half of the congress’s attendees were drawn from 24 different Hispanic communities.

Speaking in Spanish, Cardinal O’Malley delivered a powerful keynote address to the Spanish-language catechists, she said.

“When the cardinal was with us, he gave us a very clear message: To evangelize is not an option. It is an obligation,” she said. “But, we have to be sure God is the one doing the final job.”