Monday, February 7, 2022

Brazilians installed as catechists by Pope Francis say recognition strengthens their work Feb 7, 2022 by Lise Alves, Associated Press

By formally installing catechists as lay leaders in an official, public ritual, Pope Francis , in this surprising move, is beginning a process of dismantling clerical control over sacramental celebrations, and empowering lay-leadership in sacramental ministries.  This formal recognition of their call to pastoral service  in their communities is a really a big deal, not only for the catechists, but for their faith communities who have called them forth.

Even though the catechists are technically under the authority of local bishops and priests, the reality is -in their ecclesial communities- they will function in ministries previously reserved to  deacons and priests. And even though they are not  ordained to "officially" preside at Masses or hear confessions, they will preach and conduct Communion Services and Reconciliation Rituals that will be sacred encounters.  These newly- minted pastoral lay ministers -chosen by their communities- and officially installed by the Pope- are pioneering a new path to a more  vibrant, participatory community-empowered Roman Catholic Church and to a renewed sacramental theology in which the people- not the clergy alone- celebrate sacraments. 
Bridget Mary Meehan

Catechists attend Pope Francis' celebration of Mass marking Sunday of the Word of God in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Jan. 23, 2022. (CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters)
Catechists attend Pope Francis' celebration of Mass marking Sunday of the Word of God in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Jan. 23, 2022. (CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters)

SÃO PAULO — Formally installing catechists and lectors into their roles as lay leaders in the church is especially important as a recognition for women and men in places like the Amazon region, where many are de facto religious leaders in remote communities that suffer from a severe shortage of priests, said a Brazilian recently installed as a catechist by Pope Francis.

"The (2019 pan-Amazon) synod and now this designation will help us even further to 'go after those who left the church and to listen to them.' This is what the pope wanted — to show, through laypeople, that the church is welcoming, that it can hear its followers," Regina de Sousa Silva told Catholic News Service.

She and Wanderson Saavedra Correia, both catechists for the past 11 years in the Luziânia Diocese, were among those Pope Francis formally installed in their roles during a Mass at the Vatican Jan. 23, marking Sunday of the Word of God.

In Brazil, women and men have long served as lectors and catechists, but now those formally installed in the ministries are recognized as having a specific vocation to leadership in their communities and will serve in what the church defines as a "stable" manner.

For Silva, being a catechist is "an essential service for the life of the church," but she said the ceremony at the Vatican gave her a boost.

She said one of the highlights of meeting Pope Francis was when he told the new catechists, "I need all of you."

"I was a little unmotivated last year, I struggled to take the word of God to the communities. With this recognition and the affection shown by the pope, I gained greater strength, a greater motivation. This achievement wasn't just mine; it was everyone's," said Silva.

"This designation shows the importance of laypeople in the Catholic community," Correia told Catholic News Service. "The pope showed with this decision that laypeople have power to teach faith to the community."

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