I was as taken a back as those in front of me on Tuesday evening as we came to the appreciation that twelve months has come and gone. The ten session of the Diocesan Catechists’ Formation Course was finally upon us and this wonderful group of people coming each session from different parts of the local deanery as well as further afield would return to their parishes to either embark upon or continued, somewhat refreshed (I’d hope) in what they were being called to be. In the final session I tried to recap on what that ten session journey had entailed but I wanted them to go away with a sense of mission, that they weren’t so much on a mission, but they were the mission – everything about them and not just the moments when they ‘functioned’ as catechists in their parishes and communities. I wanted them also to see themselves as needing to be evangelised, to hear the Good News spoken to them, to listen afresh to the call of the Lord, to the word of love that God wants us to hear. Its that encounter, that personal encounter with the person of Jesus that sends us out. Its the word of love, Jesus, spoken to us that we hear that brings us to life and brings us to joy… a joy that compels us, that energizes us to go out to bring that life and that joy to those around us. I used the narrative of Jesus’ encounter with those around him to spark off an understanding in us of the way we ‘go out’ to others… constantly called to move away as we are from our comfort zones and move to the outskirts, to the fringes and to the edge – that’s where Good news needs to be announced and proclaimed and lived. And, of course, our constant reference point is Christ. We seek to bring people to Christ, not to us; its about him and what he has to offer them as gift.
Pope Francis has been a constant guide for us in this catechetical journey, but we ended this Course with this reflection: The catechist is called to be the memory of God… remembering God’s goodness… keeping that memory alive; Pope Francis calls us to BE a catechist (not simply to work as a catechist) attracting others because there is something attractive in us; it is vocation, it is mission… it is not just ‘work’; we were being called to be close to Jesus… abiding in him; gazing at him and allowing ourselves to be gazed at by him; to constantly go out with a gift, and to go out to the outskirts… leaving our own comfort zone.
In 2013 Pope Francis thanked the catechists that had gathered with him for reflection. I want to thank those who work in our diocese as catechists for the tremendous dedication they show in handing on faith to others and walking with others as they journey into deeper friendship with the Lord. Being a catechist is a noble ministry and a real service to the church and to the world. I want to thank those who journeyed through these last twelve months in Trowbridge and pray that what they take away (and, please God, they feel as if they have taken something valuable away with them) will simply enable them to be the attraction that some need to draw them to Jesus.
At the heart of everything we do is the desire to draw folk into friendship with the Jesus who loves us, who died for us, who walks with us each and ever day and leads us to life with him.
Lets keep all our catechists in our prayers asking God to reveal himself, his truth, his beauty and his love to us through their ministry.
Enough from me… listen to one or two of the Trowbridge participants speak of their own experience.’
Fr Christopher Whitehead
Phil Gibbons was there at the last session and spoke with some of the people who had been on this course: