Years of service total close to a millennium during present era of 'widespread religious illiteracy'
By Alistair Burns
The B.C. Catholic
Caption: Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, (centre, top row) welcomes catechists for Mass at Holy Rosary Cathedral Oct. 12. "Your task is sacred, and a serious one. I thank the Lord that you are fulfilling it with such zeal, care, and dedication," he said. Jason Dimaculangan / Special to The B.C. Catholic
Over 40 catechists were honoured for their long-time dedication to teaching Lower Mainland youth and adult converts Oct. 12 during a Mass at Holy Rosary Cathedral. Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, said the Mass, with Father Glenn Dion, the rector of the cathedral; and Father Eduardo Quintero Mejia, CS, an assistant pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, concelebrating.
"It really is a pleasure to be here with you, the catechists, including the Liturgy of the Word for children, and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) co-ordinators, especially those honoured tonight," the archbishop said as he began his homily.
"I truly wish to express to each one of you my gratitude for your dedication to proclaiming and teaching the power and beauty of our Catholicism."
Archbishop Miller reminded those in attendance that the Year of Faith had begun. He emphasized that catechists, as witnesses to the Church's teachings, open the door of faith to young children.
"Your vocation was established during the origins of the Church at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles and they publicly proclaimed the mighty works of God," he said.
The archbishop pointed out that this is a time of widespread religious illiteracy. Many do not know that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, or that marriage is a sacrament, or even that Jesus is truly God. He warned that without the basics of the faith down pat, Catholics cannot truly embrace the fullness of the Gospel.
"Your task is sacred, and a serious one. I thank the Lord that you are fulfilling it with such zeal, care, and dedication," the archbishop concluded.
Patrick Gillespie, Catechetics Director for the archdiocese, used his math skills to announce the impressive total of service years given by the catechists present at Holy Rosary Cathedral: slightly under a millennium.
Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed in 2008, "Catechists unite the transmission of right doctrine with personal testimony. This is necessary so that instructions do not stay in a mere transmission of theoretical knowledge about the mysteries of God."
"I've been a catechist for 23 years," stated Bert Remedios, an RCIA instructor from Holy Trinity Parish in North Vancouver. He recalled his first days on the job with a hearty laugh.
When he originally answered the call to volunteer, he assumed his duties would include "licking stamps and stuffing envelopes" and helping out around the office.
Then he was told he was going to teach. "Teach what?" he chuckled.
Remedios became serious, though, as he remembered his own faith journey. He went through Catholic elementary and high school but found when he was in university that he couldn't defend the Church.
"Now I was in the adult world. I had to retrain myself, and to explain my religion in an adult fashion, using reason and logic."
The happiest part of his RCIA teaching, he said, occurs when his adult students' eyes "brighten and they understand what you're talking about. It's challenging, but it's very rewarding, too."