Institute on the Catechism seeks to revive catechesis for 21st-century American society.
A lot has changed in the 30 years since the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. When that hefty volume was published, people read it as a printed book. Online publication was barely heard of, and sharing the faith on social media was an unknown concept.
Now, the bishops of the United States are launching a new way of passing the faith down to younger generations – at a time when decreasing percentages of young people take interest in any religion.
The initiative, called the Institute on the Catechism, “recognizes that the passing on of the faith is no longer in a Catholic culture but in a secular and hostile culture toward Christian faith,” according to Bishop Frank Caggiano, chairman of the subcommittee on catechesis of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
In an interview with Catholic News Service, Bishop Caggiano said the institute’s mandate is to “create multiple opportunities where a young person can encounter Christ in an ongoing way” and have the “leadership of the Church and their parents accompany them.”
That entails a “more concentrated effort to engage young people with the Church and provide role models for them with diocesan and parish resources to facilitate this,” CNS explained. “One of the hopes is that these youths will in turn reinvigorate the Church.”
In addition, publishers of catechetical materials and the developers of catechetical content will work with the Subcommittee on Catechesis to address modern challenges to teaching the faith.
The Institute on the Catechism also will hold a yearly in-person training conference and retreat for diocesan catechetical leaders.
In an interview with EWTN, Bishop Caggiano called the Institute a “national collaboration that will provide ongoing support and formation and an annual gathering in person of bishops, catechetical leadership in their own dioceses, Catholic publishers and those who produce the resources, so we could together operationalize and make real the new vision. The new vision is evangelizing catechesis, or as the Directory for Catechesis [published in 2020] speaks of, charismatic catechesis. It’s recognizing that in order to pass on the faith we first have to evangelize hearts so that they encounter Christ many times each day, and then have the fire of their hearts burn, like the road to Emmaus, to learn more about him, to love him and serve him.”
“The vision we are trying to bring to life will explore truth, beauty and goodness in the ways that we could unlock those potentials for anyone to encounter Christ, whether it’s in a classroom, whether it’s in recreation, whether it is in a moment of prayer, certainly at the celebration of the holy sacrifice of the Mass, which is the pinnacle of when we really experience the presence of Christ, where He touches us with the power of the Holy Spirit. To unlock all those vistas, so that a person can begin to sense Jesus is not a historic figure (only); Jesus is my savior; Jesus is alive; He’s with me right now. And then begin that process of discipleship, accompaniment into discipleship.”
He said that parents, catechists, and the parish community are the “primary leaders that bring the accompaniment of faith and make it effective, make it real, make it personalized.” Sometimes, passing on the faith happens, he said, “by taking an interest and being a good sports coach to a young person and show them a model of faith. That could be at times more persuasive than what a parent may try to teach their son or daughter.”