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Catechists are witnesses of the faith

By Paula Fournier


PRINCE ALBERT — Director of Catechetics Christine Taylor and Rev. Doug Jeffrey, OMI, hosted a workshop on Sept. 24 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Prince Albert. The day focused on the theme of mercy while celebrating the special upcoming day, Sept. 25, to commemorate catechists.

The presentation by Jeffrey was entitled God of Compassion, God of Mercy. An Oblate of Mary Immaculate for over 40 years, and priest for 33 years, he has served in leadership in his province and as a parish priest. As part of the charism of the Oblates, he has been involved in retreat ministry.

“Our image of God, how we see him and our relationship with him, shapes the way we structure our family, our life and the way we interact with the people God has created,” he said. “If our God is a demanding God, we pass that on to others. If he is compassionate, we pass that on too.”

St. Teresa of Calcutta, declared a saint on Sept. 4, challenged people to make mercy and compassion essential in our day-to-day lives, Jeffrey said. He said her words are those of a mother, which can be difficult to put into practice.

Various biblical images were used as part of the workshop. In one reference, Bartameus wants to be healed from blindness. Jeffrey explained in the time of Jesus, if something bad happened to a person it was because they were a sinner and deserved whatever deformity they had. However, Bartameus stands up asking to be healed as Jesus walks by. The crowd acts as though they want him to accept he is a sinner. Jesus said he didn’t deserve to be punished, he would heal him.

“Because you are willing to surrender yourself to me there is something good there, because of your faith, Jesus said, I will make you well,” said Jeffrey.

Jeffrey explained that Jesus reminds the crowd that sin never has the last word; God does.

“People don’t have to accept their sinful state and the future that sin brings; they can be forgiven. Jesus becomes an instrument of peace, reconciliation and of mercy. In the process of Jesus calling Bartameus, the attitude of the crowds is also changed. God has an influence on the sinner, sick or broken person, but God’s action has an impact on us, too. When we see God calling forth the sinner, we also become God-like. We, too, are invited to exercise mercy and compassion by helping those among us who are sick, to connect with Jesus. It includes even those people we think deserve what’s happened to them, those people who annoy us. God forgives them and loves them and says it doesn’t matter if it’s fair or not, I’m God and I can do that. The compassion of Jesus is for everyone and not the people we judge to be worthy of it. We are not the judges, God is. He decides where and how his mercy is going to land.”

Participants were given time to share ways in which they showed mercy and compassion. One attendee shared that when their class was interrupted or not going as well as expected with the children, she thought what might Jesus do for the kids in their group that don’t behave? The lesson might not continue as planned, and she that was ok with her. She expressed that everyone is different and at different places in their lives and as a teacher and person of faith, we can’t judge. We can just try to nourish the relationship they have with Christ.

Another attendee expressed it would be nice to have Jesus there to see what he would do with the children, while another said God constantly gives her surprises in her work. People come to visit her, each with their own faith journey, expressing their sorrows. She counts on the Holy Spirit to say what she should say in those moments.

Taylor spoke on helping the children, adults and community in its faith, touching on the Jubilee for Catechists, a special day recognizing them Sept. 25.

“A lot is possible in your classroom, but it always depends on parents. We, as catechists and clergy, are partnering with the parents, who are the primary catechists of their children. We need to be activating parents. Using our knowledge and expertise, we are supporting the parents in what they do. If we are talking about the mercy of God, we need to understand where those we are serving are coming from. How do we invite parents to teach the faith?

Taylor said in talking about the mercy of God, one needs to understand who they are serving and where they are coming from. When asked, the participants said some of the things they see the parents struggling with are busyness, children’s electronics and distractions, fear of being judged, lack of understanding and feeling inadequate or insecure about asking questions.

The group then watched a video created by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops to celebrate the Jubilee for Catechists entitled “I am a Catechist.” Taylor explained the focus of the video as recognizing there is a multitude of types of people who teach the faith, such as bishops, priests, religious sisters and lay people.

“We all have a role as a catechist. Catechism teachers are thought of as only working with children, when in fact it is those in all walks of life. Why did Pope Francis have a special occasion for catechists in the world? Because it’s they who are the first witnesses and teachers of the faith. We are the face of mercy to the children, teens and adults that we teach. All of us are called to be a part of the sacramental celebration in the parish.”

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