Dr. Edward Sri of FOCUS, signs a book during an intermission at Catechetical Day.

Catechists pass on the faith to future generations

Fort Myers | Catechists, catechetical leaders, youth ministers, and Catholic school teachers took part in the Diocese of Venice Catechetical Day 2020.
Hundreds gathered Jan. 25, at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers for a day designed to inspire and refocus religious educators across the Diocese.

Sponsored by the Diocesan Departments of Education and Religious Education, the speakers included Dr. Edward Sri, co-founder and vice president of formation of FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students); Dr. Petroc Willey, director of the Catechetical Institute and the Office of Catechesis of Franciscan University of Steubenville; and Jose Gonzalez, senior director of professional development of the Sophia Institute for Teachers.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the Mass and offered words of encouragement to the catechists. The Bishop told the group how they are each called to bring forth the Church teachings to the world. This calling from the Lord is hard work and does not go unnoticed, the Bishop added.

The role of the catechists is to compliment and supplement the work of the parents who are the first and best educators of their children, the Bishop continued. The primary responsibility is to focus on the students, but catechists are also responsible for drawing the parents into the process and to reintroduce them to the truths of Scripture.

During his two talks, Sri explained the job of religious educators is about passing on the faith to the next generation of Catholics. The challenge religious educators have is how they can be more mindful of the outside influences that their students encounter daily. Essentially, they need to know the basic truths of the faith before they can share that knowledge. This can only be accomplished if the teachers themselves know and teach the basic truths of Church teaching as a building block on which the faith can grow in their students.

Sri also spoke about the keys for engaging moral relativism, which is evident in how when some people are challenged on the teachings of their faith there is an inclination to hedge a response so as not to offend someone. This ultimately forces a person to add the phrase “to me” when stating a belief. This undermines the strength of the argument and erodes one’s own beliefs in small increments. Countering this is crucial to ensuring that students leave religious education prepared to answer hard questions about their faith.

Willey spoke on the “Eucharistic Catechesis” and the “Spirituality of Teaching.” Gonzalez spoke on how to use sacred art in the faith, and how to teach morality.

At the start of the day, Anne Chrzan, from the Archdiocese of Chicago, was introduced as the new Diocese of Venice Director of Education, effective Feb. 3.