Catechesis emphasized during annual RCIA day
BEDFORD — It’s been a long two years, Diocese of Fort Worth Director of Evangelization and Catechesis Jason Whitehead said as the January 29 Annual RCIA Day opened at St. Michael Church in Bedford, the first in-person meeting since 2020.
“It was nice to see so many of you via Zoom last year,” Whitehead said. “But this is much better.”
The event gathers RCIA instructors and directors from various parishes within the diocese.
“Because so much information goes into RCIA, it requires a lot of initial formation but also continuing formation,” Whitehead said. “This annual event is situated in the middle of the academic year, so we like to catch them midway, share information, and get them talking with others from other parishes.”
Previous years focused on different periods of those going through the RCIA process. Presenters switched gears this year to focus on the aspects, mainly the catechetical aspect, something Whitehead described as a “back-to-the-basics” revisit of the contents of the faith.
The reasoning is twofold, Whitehead said.
“One, for your own personal edification,” Whitehead said. “To help your own understanding of the faith and grow in the Lord so you will be better purified by Him and therefore a better catechist. The second is to discuss practical aspects of RCIA training.”
Throughout the day, Whitehead and others tackled topics related to both in talks held in English and Spanish.
Dr. Scott Sollom, a Franciscan University theology professor, delivered the keynote: “Catechesis: Echoing What God Has Revealed,” and also spoke on “Sacred Scripture: The Big Picture.”
Catechesis, Sollom explained, derives from the word “echo,” as in to echo down through God’s word resounding in those catechized and those catechizing as both grow and continue to be formed through the RCIA journey. Sollom detailed how the virtues of faith, hope, and charity relate to what God has revealed and the role God’s freely given grace plays in each.
“Grace penetrates, transforms, and elevates our nature,” Sollom said. “To that end, God gives us the gift of faith.”
Sollom spoke of the importance of imagination, the “seaport of the soul,” and of doctrine which, while essential, should never be taught by rote.
“Doctrine would be boring without the gift of faith,” Sollom said. “Like staring at logs without a campfire.”
Sollom cited Mary’s Assumption as just one helpful instance to bring to life, better illustrate, and inspire growth in the virtues of faith, hope, and charity.
During his second talk, Sollom emphasized the relationship of salvation history from biblical times to 2022.
“Salvation history is so important to catechize because it shows the unity of the faith,” Sollom said. “It reminds us of where we’ve been and where we’re going. The story of salvation history is the overarching context in which each doctrine can be understood.”
Tackling “Revelation, Grace, and the Response of Faith: God’s Methodology,” Whitehead delved into grace.
“It’s one of the two things you need to get to heaven,” Whitehead said.
Catholics, Whitehead joked, should be a little weird in that they should focus more on the supernatural rather than natural/secular world. With that in mind, Whitehead explained the necessity of grace without which none of us would be able to know, understand, and — one hopes — accept God.
St. Joseph Church in Arlington parishioner Michelle Ebambi, an RCIA instructor for 18 years, said the day’s talks went a long way toward explaining the connections and “big picture” of catechesis and how “everything ties together.”
Melanie Gonzalez, of the same parish, agreed.
“This is my first year here,” Gonzalez said. “I came from Puerto Rico. Today helped me better understand the structure of how everything ties together, which will help with my teaching.”
Catechists work miracles, said Father Balaji Boyalla, SAC, pastor of St. Michael Parish, in opening the day.
“Sometimes you never realize the work you do, the contributions and difference you make to the people,” Fr. Boyalla said. “How your ministry and enthusiasm touch many lives and bring more people closer to Jesus.”