By PAUL SCHROEDER
The theme for this year’s Catechetical Sunday, “Love Beyond All Telling,” opens up the imagination to images, mysteries, experiences and questions. How can anyone understand the mystery of love much less put into words what it means? However, we know the experience of love in people, words, celebrations and so much more. As believing people, we especially know this total and indescribable love when we meet Jesus in life, in Word and in Eucharist. As catechists we have a special call to find ways in words, in prayer, and through experiences to share what this means with the young people who come to us. The General Directory for Catechesis expresses it well when it says, “Catechesis is nothing other than the process of transmitting the Gospel, as the Christian community has received it, understands it, celebrates it, lives it and communicates it in many ways.”
In reflecting on the theme for this year one of the questions that came to mind was, “What might our young people say about their experience of catechesis? A small random group of young people from St. Patrick Church in Charleston were asked the following questions: 1) What do you remember from/about your religion class? 2) What is the most important thing you learned in religion class? 3) What was your favorite time in religion class? 4) Who was your favorite catechist and why?
For Ericka Boston, now 22 and a senior in college, what she remembers best is “gathering in an intimate circle of close church brothers and sisters and discussing how we can live a more Christlike life.” Tamisha Holmes, 17 and a senior in high school, remembers “stories from the Bible, the meaning of Catholic traditions and relating stories from the testaments to contemporary times. Elgin Harrison, 12 and in the seventh grade, remembers “that Jesus rose from the dead and was in the desert 40 days and 40 nights.” Juliet Brown, age 10 and in fifth grade, remembers, “that I learned about Jesus and Mary.”
Aneesah Toliver, 18, and a freshman in college, says the most important thing she learned in religion class was “the sacraments, the point in your life that you experience them, and their spiritual value.” Gorden Cromer, 17 and in 12th grade, says the most important thing “was how to mix life with religion. Dwight Heyward, 16 and also in 12th grade, echoes that, saying the most important thing is “learning how to use my faith in everyday life.” William McFarland, 15 and in grade 10, also says the most important thing is “how to compare religion to your everyday life.” Amber Tolliver, 15 and in the 11th grade, says “the prayers were most important.” Gloria Harrison, 14 and in the eighth grade, says the most important thing she learned was “the order of the seven sacraments and what they are.” Brittany Washington, 11 and in the sixth grade, says the most important thing was “to love God and Jesus.”
In reference to their favorite catechists, the following attributes were expressed: great, inspiring, extremely helpful, good leader, role model in the church, can teach and have fun at the same time, taught us to be grateful for the things we have, and taught me a lot.
These responses are but a small sampling of young people participating in catechetical programs around the diocese. It is not too great a leap to suggest that if other young people were asked the same or similar questions, the responses would be encouraging. There are clear signs that the Gospel is being proclaimed and heard, faith is being shared, and Christian life patterns are being formed. In light of this one asks, “Is love beyond all telling?” Our young people’s words indicate that some of it has been told and shared and they are engaged in the retelling and sharing as well as the learning. Catechetical Sunday is a reminder to all of us that each of us is challenged to find ways to witness to God’s unconditional love. It is not beyond us, it is in a face very near.
Written by Paul Schroeder, director of Evangelization, Initiation, and Catechesis for the Diocese of Charleston.