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Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

CHARLOTTE — More than 500 catechists and ministry leaders from throughout western North Carolina attended the Diocese of Charlotte’s second annual Catechetical Conference, held Nov. 4 at the Charlotte Convention Center.

The conference, organized by the diocese’s Education Vicariate and partly funded by the Diocesan Support Appeal, was designed to provide teachers and faith formation leaders with resources, information and inspiration to help their students – youth and adults alike – become strong disciples of Christ.

The conference opened with a bilingual Mass celebrated by Bishop Peter Jugis. Father Julio Dominguez concelebrated.

In his homily, Bishop Jugis spoke of St. Charles Borromeo, whose feast was commemorated that day. The archbishop of Milan’s devotion to education in response to the widespread confusion of the Reformation – when clarity about the Catholic faith was needed – serves as a model for Catholic teachers in today’s confusing times, he said.

St. Charles Borromeo edited the catechism that sprung from the Council of Trent, founded some of the Church’s first modern seminaries to train priests, and was the first to establish the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) throughout his diocese. CCD has been a religious education program for Catholic children since 1562.

All of St. Charles Borromeo’s accomplishments, though, are not the reason why he’s recognized as a saint, Bishop Jugis said. He’s a saint because of “his personal holiness and his union with Jesus.”

That is “an important message we can draw from,” the bishop said, and he encouraged those present to focus on strengthening their personal relationship with Jesus before then teaching others: “First to know Jesus oneself, to be growing in an intimate friendship with Jesus, and then to be able to help our young people themselves to know Jesus and for them to grow in their intimate friendship with Jesus.”

“It’s all, of course, about Jesus,” he said, “knowing Him and forming strong disciples who are capable of following Him – not only just knowing what He teaches, but with their heart and their whole being following Jesus as disciples.”

Spend time in Eucharistic Adoration, he encouraged participants, to deepen that relationship with Jesus. Their “strong witness” and devotion to personal prayer, he said, will inspire others to follow Christ.

Catechists attending the conference said they were excited to spend time learning from each other and finding ways to improve or enliven their ministry, whether it’s teaching children in faith formation classes or adults in the RCIA program.

Nicole Waer, director of religious education for Holy Spirit Church in Denver, said she was particularly interested in applying the conference’s theme, “Living as Missionary Disciples,” in her parish’s growing youth programs.

Keynote addresses were given by Sister Mary Johanna Paluch, professed with the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George and an associate theology professor at Franciscan University, and Esther Terry, director of the Camino program at the University of Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life.

Both keynote speakers talked about the Catechism of the Catholic Church, encouraging everyone to read it and pray with it, not just use it as an occasional reference tool.

This is the 25th anniversary of the Catechism, which was promulgated by St. John Paul II in 1992. It sums up, in book form, the beliefs of the Catholic Church, but Sister Johanna noted with a smile, “Nobody reads it. People think it’s only for bishops.”

But, she emphasized, “The catechism is for everybody.”

It is the definitive resource for teaching the Catholic faith, second only to Sacred Scripture, she said. And the current Catechism is not a random invention, but instead a compilation designed for today’s audiences that is built on catechisms dating all the way back to St. Irenaeus and St. Augustine.

More than simply “words printed on a page,” the Catechism presents the truths of the Catholic faith in a concise, understandable way so that Catholics can better know Jesus and become His disciples – and that’s really what teaching the faith is all about, Sister Johanna said.

“Please, please read the Catechism! Find Jesus in the Catechism! Find your faith in the Catechism!” she urged. “I promise you that you’ll love it and that your life will change.”

— Patricia L. Guilfoyle, Editor