Put catechesis on hold, rethink Christian formation

It is important for the Church to rethink catechesis and Christian formation, says Quebec Cardinal Gerald Lacroix.

He has asked parishes in the Archdiocese of Quebec to “pause” their catechetical programs and use the time to think of the future.

Lacroix says the last few months have given the Quebec church an “unhoped-for opportunity” to “begin anew.”

“Fewer and fewer of our brothers and sisters in Quebec are Christians. This cannot leave us indifferent. It is urgent that we evangelize and form (people) to Christian life. We must realize that our methods and ways of doing things do not bear the fruits we expect.”

He went on to tell parishes that if they haven’t begun catechesis with children and young people to prepare them for the sacraments of Christian initiation, to take a break.

“Let’s at least give ourselves the autumn to reflect together,” he told them.

“Time and space” is necessary to discern the next steps to implement “the priority of formation to Christian life for adults,” Lacroix told parishes.

“I know that this request is going to create a certain stir.”

“But without this pause, we know that it will not be possible to make in-depth changes, changes that are necessary.”

Although Lacroix would like parishes to take up his suggestion, he has not imposed a “moratorium” on catechesis.

He hopes the pause will facilitate a “transformation” in favour of focusing on “the Christian initiation of adults.”

“We’re going to give ourselves time to ask ourselves how we’re going to work directly with adults, and by ricochet, with families,” a spokesperson for the Archdiocese says.

This pause would not affect baptisms or marriages even if, one day, pastoral approaches to these sacraments is reviewed.

The director of Quebec’s Catechesis Office calls Lacroix’s request “daring.”

Bishops don’t usually ask to put catechesis on hold, she says.

The attention given to adults is important.

Catechesis is to be conceived beyond its stereotype of sacramental preparation, so it can be “for all ages” and become “an opportunity to listen to what resonates in oneself and in one’s experience,” she says.

A theologian who has worked many times on the sacraments of Christian initiation says he has hoped for such a move for many years.

“To put it bluntly, if, after the pause required by the archbishop,” catechesis “does not start again having assumed these two changes — offering faith rather than just the sacraments, and deploying a solid catechesis for adults — then the pause will have been useless,” Daniel Laliberte says.

He thinks the Church hasn’t been able to initiate change mainly because few people are able to propose a plan that clearly indicates the objective and the steps to do it.

“Whether we like it or not, times have changed so much that the church, confined to its practices, has seen its credibility seriously eroded, so much so that it is at odds with today’s world,” he says.

A “missionary church” committed to fraternal love and dignity is made visible, he says.


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