The Vatican’s liturgy office on December 13 issued a rite and guidelines for the institution of lay catechists in the dioceses of the Catholic Church.
Pope Francis created the lay ministry of catechist in May with the release of the motu proprio Antiquum ministerium (“Ancient ministry”), which emphasized the importance of the role of the catechist in history and today for transmitting the Catholic faith.
The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments published the rite of institution to the ministry of catechist on December 13. The rite is a liturgical ritual by which the role of catechist is conferred.
In a letter to bishops published with the new rite, the Vatican’s liturgy prefect, Archbishop Arthur Roche, explained that catechist is a lay ministry distinct from the ordained priesthood, but that catechists, “by virtue of their Baptism, are called to be co-responsible in the local Church for the proclamation and transmission of the faith, carrying out this role in collaboration with the ordained ministers and under their guidance.”
“The definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ: only He can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity,” Archbishop Roche said, quoting from St. Pope John Paul II’s 1979 apostolic exhortation Catechesi tradendae.
The two main categories of tasks for catechists, he said, are catechizing, or teaching the faith, and participating in apostolates.
Baptized adult Catholics who have received the sacraments of confirmation and first Holy Communion and would like to be instituted in the ministry of catechist can present a written and signed petition to their diocesan bishop, who decides who may be admitted as a candidate.
The ministry is conferred by the bishop or by a priest delegated by him, according to the liturgical rite promulgated by the Holy See on December 13. The institution should take place during a Mass or celebration of the Liturgy of the Word.
The structure of the rite proposes an exhortation about the role of the catechist, an invitation to prayer, a blessing, and the handing over of a crucifix.
In Antiquum ministerium, Pope Francis said that recent decades had seen “a significant renewal of catechesis,” and “catechists are called first to be expert in the pastoral service of transmitting the faith as it develops through its different stages from the initial proclamation of the kerygma [Gospel proclamation] to the instruction that presents our new life in Christ and prepares for the sacraments of Christian initiation, and then to the ongoing formation that can allow each person to give an accounting of the hope within them.”
By Hannah Brockhaus
Photo Credit: AB/CNA