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Catechists as agents of a Synodal Church

In a heartfelt video message, Bishop John Persaud of Mandeville, Jamaica, Vice-President of the Antilles Episcopal Conference of bishops (AEC) and Chair of the AEC’s Commission for Doctrine and Faith Formation, highlighted the challenges and opportunities facing catechists in today’s world during Catechetical Month celebrated every September.

Bishop Persaud acknowledged that the past year was marked by challenges as efforts were made to reintroduce face-to-face catechesis in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said congregations dwindled, prompting the blending of in-person teaching with online methods and encouraging kerygmatic catechesis within families. These changes align with the new Directory for Catechesis, emphasising adaptation and innovation in faith formation.

The central theme of Bishop Persaud’s message was the call for catechists to be agents of a Synodal Church. But what is a Synodal Church? He described it as a vision of the Church that Pope Francis is calling for—a Church that embodies the authentic body of Christ in the world.

In this vision, Church members work harmoniously together, ministering to all people and creation, fostering harmonious relationships among themselves, and achieving inner harmony.

Bishop Persaud encouraged catechists to envision a Church where authentic peace and love flourish, and creation praises God eternally. It’s a Church actively working to make real the prayer “may your kingdom come to the earth as it is in heaven.” This vision underscores why the role of catechists as agents of a Synodal Church is an honour—it involves partnering with the Holy Spirit in forming the cells of the body of Christ.

Recognising that they can only give what they have, Bishop Persaud emphasised the importance of continuous formation and personal growth. He stressed the need for an intimate relationship with Jesus through prayer, enabling catechists to listen with the heart, promote inclusivity, and foster a spirit of communion.

“I wish to suggest that we do not see this task or ministry as a challenge but as an honour to form God’s people to be more of who we are called to be.”

To be agents of a Synodal Church, catechists must be people of communion and prayer, both individually and collectively. Bishop Persaud urged them to explore new methodologies that nurture intimacy with Christ, each other, themselves, and creation.

“Let us allow our creative juices to flow so that we can deliver in a more pastoral way what is integral to the life of our parish communities. This will allow for healing, for companionship, for relationship development, for teamwork, leadership development, for missionary discipleship, and for being a sacrament to our local communities and wider society.”

Bishop Persaud reminded catechists of their mission: to help people experience the love of God, leading them to embrace God as a loving Father and Creator. This embrace, he said, would inspire individuals to share love, thereby contributing to a better world. However, the journey begins with the catechists themselves, who have answered the call to be agents of a Synodal Church.

“Catechists, agents of the Synodal Church, let us begin to walk this journey where each person feels at home in our church, where they can be healed, bloom and grow, and together minister to our entire world of people and the natural environment.”

Bishop Persaud ended, “We, the bishops of the AEC, thank you for your selfless, dedicated work in your various dioceses, and look forward to this exciting and adventurous journey with you.”