“Fidelity to the past and responsibility for the present are necessary conditions for the Church to carry out her mission in the world,” writes Pope Francis in the Apostolic Letter Antiquum ministerium, with which the Holy Father institutes the lay ministry of catechist.
In the context of evangelization in the contemporary world and in the face of “the rise of a globalized culture,” it is necessary to recognize “those laymen and women who feel called by virtue of their baptism to cooperate in the work of catechesis.” (Read: 5 Tips to Setting up Your Prayer Space at Home)
At the same time, Pope Francis emphasizes the importance of “genuine interaction with young people,” as well as “the need for creative methodologies and resources capable of adapting the proclamation of the Gospel to the missionary transformation that the Church has undertaken.”
New Ministry, Ancient Origins
The new ministry has ancient origins, going back to the New Testament. But “the history of evangelization over the past two millennia,” writes Pope Francis, “clearly shows the effectiveness of the mission of catechists.”
Since the Second Vatican Council, there has been a growing awareness of the fact that “the role of catechists is of the highest importance” (Ad gentes, 17) for “the development of the Christian community.” (Read: Mama Mary Helped Save My Niece, Now I Pray the Rosary Daily)
“In our own day too, many competent and dedicated catechists… carry out a mission invaluable for the transmission and growth of the faith,” Pope Francis writes.
This “represents a rich resource not only for catechesis but also for the entire history of Christian spirituality.”
The Pope recognizes the importance of laymen and women who collaborate in the service of catechesis, going out to “encounter all those who are waiting to discover the beauty, goodness, and truth of the Christian faith.” (Read: What Types of Music Are on the Pope’s Playlist?)
He emphasizes that it is “the task of pastors to support them in this process and to enrich the life of the Christian community through the recognition of lay ministries capable of contributing to the transformation of society through the ‘penetration of Christian values into the social, political and economic sectors’.”
Every catechist, says Pope Francis, “must be a witness to the faith, a teacher and mystagogue, a companion and pedagogue, who teaches for the Church.” (Read: Pope Calls for More Women Participation in Church Affairs)
Catechists, he continues, “are called first to be expert in the pastoral service of transmitting the faith,” from the first proclamation of the kerygma to preparation for the sacraments of Christian initiation, and throughout the process of ongoing formation.
All this is possible, he says, “only through prayer, study, and direct participation in the life of the community,” so that catechists can grow in their identity and in “the integrity and responsibility” that identity entails.
Receiving the lay ministry of the catechist, in fact, “will emphasize even more the missionary commitment proper to every baptized person,” writes Pope Francis.