Structure of catechesis needs to change: Focus on evangelisation and not sacramentalisation

There is a need for change at the way our local Church gives religious instruction to young people. The Church’s current focus is for our young people to receive the Sacraments such as Holy Communion and Confirmation.

Feb 07, 2020

By Jared Ng
There is a need for change at the way our local Church gives religious instruction to young people. The Church’s current focus is for our young people to receive the Sacraments such as Holy Communion and Confirmation.

However, this approach assumes that their faith would grow as they age. But, is this the case?

“The same applies for the RCIA catechumens in their journey,” said Archbishop William Goh. In his address to about 250 catechists, youth and RCIA coordinators at the Launch of the Catechetical Year, His Grace outlined the issues and challenges facing catechesis in the Church.

“One big frustration in the Church is that our catechists have not made our young people truly fervent Catholics. Our youth are being sacramentalised, not evangelised, and we think because of this, we have done our part,” said Archbishop Goh during the January 4 event at the Catholic Archdiocesan Education Centre.

But, it is not possible to form people who are not interested in God because they haven’t encountered Him. Why teenagers are always so bored during catechism is not because the sessions are not planned well. It’s simply because they are not interested, he said.

To illustrate, he drew parallels between this and parishioners who attend Mass every weekend. Those who are forced to go would want a short homily and for Mass to end quickly. Those who have truly encountered God would  yearn for a fruitful and insightful homily.

“If you don’t cooperate with God and get to know Him, nothing is going to change when you receive the Sacraments. When you try and form people who don’t know God, it’s going to be a challenge,” he said.

Christianity is all about relationship, about belonging. “Unless you have a relationship with Him, there can be no catechesis ... there will just be head knowledge.”

This can be seen clearly by the paucity of young people who return to serve in their parishes after Confirmation or the number of catechumens who serve in the ministries.

Although there are no quick-fix solutions, Archbishop Goh suggested having more re treats for young people and for catechists to re-think their curriculum to focus on how their teens can first be evangelised.

Another suggestion was to make the catechism classroom environment a more community-centred one.

“A community is where there is love, sharing and fellowship ... peers are often the best witnesses of Christ because through their actions, their friends will be inspired to want to know God more.” Archbishop Goh added that classes should be held in smaller groups of 15 to make it easier to build community and promote sharing, where doctrines can then be introduced.

He also reminded everyone that “catechesis  is the work of the whole community, not just catechists. Parents and even schools have a part to play.”

Young people today are very smart, they have many questions and need to talk about them in order to understand what they are searching for in life, he said.

Fr Terence Kesavan, Catechetical Director of the Office for Catechesis (OFC), said catechesis “cannot just be head knowledge but more towards making disciples” and the most important people for this are catechists themselves.

“Catechists are first called to be discipled, then be a disciple to others,” he said.

He said to be a disciple, catechists must be part of a community, evangelising, have a strong prayer life and know Scripture. “We need to have these in our lives before teaching others to do the same.”

Fr Terence emphasised that catechesis should be for everyone and not just young people and that parents should set the example for their children in this area.

“When your children see you praying, going for Bible courses and growing in your faith ... they take the example and will not see their faith as a chore,” he said.

He urged all Catholics to pray for “a Church that is growing in its catechesis, a Church where the people are growing in their faith and knowledge.” --Catholic News Singapore

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Alice Tanactan355@gmail.com
Dear Editor, the need for the young, parents and adults to grow in faith in community inspires the need for vibrant BECs. For that, everyone must make a commitment to participate in BECs God bless