By Fr. Limukani Ndlovu
It was all joy and gratitude when two hundred and five delegates of voluntary catechists converged at Emthonjeni Pastoral Centre Saturday 29 April 2023. This time, not for a retreat or congress or a pilgrimage, but for a Catechists’ Renewal Seminar which was facilitated by the ‘Chief Catechist,’ Archbishop Alex Thomas.
St. John Paul II, in his apostolic exhortation Catechesi Tradendae “Catechesis in our Time” said; “The Church has always considered catechesis one of her primary tasks, for, before Christ ascended to His Father, after His resurrection, He gave the apostles a final command – to make disciples of all nations and to teach them to observe all that He had commanded” (#1).
Catechists are entrusted with the mission and power to proclaim to humanity what they have heard, what they have seen with their eyes, what they have looked upon and touched with their hands, concerning the Word of Life (Catechesi Tradendae #1). According to the General Directory for Catechesis, Vatican Council II gave much importance to the proclamation and transmission of the Gospel in the episcopal ministry. Therefore catechesis is one of the principal duties of Bishops. Catechesis is as one of the most fundamental tasks of the ministry (#222). Bishops are beyond all others, the ones primarily responsible for catechesis, the catechists par excellence and priests have a field in which they are the immediate assistants of their Bishops. The Church always considers catechesis one of her primary tasks and this is evidenced by that the most recent Popes gave catechesis a place of eminence in their pastoral solicitude.
Motivated by the spirit of synodality (cf. Archdiocese of Bulawayo Synodal Synthesis #2.10; cf. National Synthesis Document #42) and in line with the archdiocesan pastoral theme; Church Revival and Renewal through Synodality. Archbishop Alex Thomas started his presentation by asking participants to identify catechists in the Bible. Jesus was identified as the model catechist and characters such as the Samaritan woman (cf. Jn 4:39-42) as well as Mary Magdalene (cf. Jn 20:18). He expounded on the identity of a catechist as a model of faith, a servant of God, a servant of the Church who echoes the Word of God and the Catholic faith, as a pilgrim to heaven and as the sharer of faith with others.
Catechists were urged by the archbishop to “be authentic, to observe the ecclesiastical laws and precepts, to keep and practise Church traditions and devotions as well as to teach with passion”.
Furthermore, the archbishop encouraged catechists to be hospitable and to be good listeners who are impartial and fair in their ministry.
“You should be patient, mature and above all prayerful”, said the archbishop.
It is the catechist’s task to promote knowledge of faith (cf. Rom10:14-15), contribute in human and moral education, to play an active part in liturgical, and spiritual formation thereby forming true disciples who actively and courageously partake in the work of evangelization.
Archbishop Alex also acknowledged and applauded parishes that respect and support the work of catechists by facilitating for their training at Emthonjeni Pastoral Centre for purposes of equipping them with new knowledge and effective tools of imparting faith. He appealed to parishes to provide sufficient teaching resource materials to their catechists.
With regards to family catechesis, the archbishop urged catechists to work closely with parish family and marriage teams in coming up with family-centred programs right across all levels of the parish structures. Family catechesis, as the archbishop expounded, helps families to pray well, to learn and reflect on the Word of God, celebrate sacraments and life together. While addressing the role of men, Archbishop Alex said, “Men are in charge of their families, their properties, their livestock, their children, but more so, they are also of the family’s faith”. He envisaged a family where “Parents are teaching children. Children teaching parents. And parents teaching each other.”
Both young and old catechists went back to their homes with renewed awareness and resolved to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…” (Mt 28:18-20).
When asked to comment about the workshop, Esther Petronella Ndlovu a parishioner of Our Lady of Lourdes’ said: “A day never to forget… and the presentation was easy to follow”.
“It was indeed a huge renewal process and I realized that the work of a catechist does not begin and end in the catechism class”, said Antonia Ndopi from Gwanda.