Denver catechists needing a recharge? Look no further.

Therese Bussen

Catechists have a unique call to communicate the beauty of Christ and his Church to students, and in order to do so, must have encountered God in their own relationship with him. This fall, they’ll have an opportunity to cultivate their relationship with God in retreats and an eight-part formation series.

Organized by the Office of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries at the Archdiocese of Denver, the retreat, with four dates at four various locations, will be based on the joyful mysteries. Two of the retreats will be bi-lingual in partnership with Centro San Juan Diego.

According to Jared Staudt, catechetical formation specialist at the archdiocese, the retreat, “Catechizing with Joy: A Retreat for Catechesis,” and the eight-part series, “The Art of Catechesis,” were born out the recognition that “we need more ongoing formation.”

“Put simply, you cannot give what you do not have. The catechist has a unique vocation of sharing the faith and this vocation has to be fostered,” he said. “Catechists must develop a deeper life of prayer, continue learning about the faith, and live out the faith in their daily lives.”

The retreat and course aim to offer an environment of encountering God, Staudt said, along with practical teaching.

“The retreat uses the joyful mysteries to present catechesis as an encounter with God. It visualizes catechesis with the help of Our Lady, reflecting on how we receive God’s message and grace and hand them on to our children,” Staudt said.

“The course focuses on how to teach catechesis, drawing upon the Catechism and the General Directory for Catechesis,” he added. “Both the retreat and course provide formation for our catechists to grow in their relationship with God and to learn to teach more effectively.”

As an aid to the retreat and course, Staudt developed a booklet, “Responding to God’s Invitation: A Guide for Parents and Catechists in Religious Education,” which is broken into three main parts: God’s invitation to us, living out that response and sharing our faith with children.

“The booklet helps parents and catechists to reflect on their relationship with God and how they can help children to develop a stronger relationship with Him,” he said. “It includes Scripture readings, reflection questions and prayers to lead the reader to respond to God’s invitation to share in His divine life. The fundamental premise of the book is that we must have a strong relationship with God in order to make the faith come alive for our children. It looks at issues such as how to pray, how to teach like God, and how to live out what we learn in catechesis.”

The reward of having a personal encounter with God is that the students see the witness of the catechist and the happiness and joy that comes from that experience.

“Catechesis requires a living witness,” Staudt concluded. “The catechist who has accepted God’s truth and grace shows children what it means to meet God and be changed by Him. Catechists witness the happiness and joy that come from a life lived with and through God.”

For information on the dates for the retreat and course, or to register, visit archden.org/eflm/training.

COMING UP: Pilgrimage: A journey through Church history

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“Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” Paul proclaims these words the end of the book of Acts, capping off the biblical narrative of the work of the Apostles. The story of salvation history doesn’t end with the death of the Apostles, however, but continues in the life of the Church, fulfilling the words of Paul. The Gentiles have accepted the Gospel and have built up the Kingdom of God on earth. This is our story and we continue it.

If you want to know how the story continues after Acts, I’ll be teaching a class through the Denver Catholic Catechetical School this year, called “Pilgrimage: A Journey through Church History.” It begins with the early Church and follows the story to today. The class explores the Church Fathers, the fall of Rome, the building of Christendom, the High Middles ages, the Reformation (perfect for the 500th anniversary this year), the expansion of the missions around the globe, the modern revolutions, and the Second Vatican Council. We’ll be looking at and discussing the most important historical sources and exploring the art of the various time periods. We’ll be entering into the Church’s story by allowing the key figures and events to guide us.

We see one turning point in the story in the year 430. St. Augustine lay dying in Hippo as the Vandals prepared to sack and conquer the city. Augustine lived at the end of an age as the Roman Empire slowly crumbled, but also at the beginning of a new Christian one, an age he helped forge. The great doctor of the Church thought through the implications of the rise of Christianity in an age of political decline and saw right into the heart of history. History, unlike the focus of our textbooks, finds its true course not in politics or economics, but through love.

Augustine posited that all mankind belonged to one of two cities: the City of God and the City of Man. One city took its shape by loving God before all else and the other in a love turned inward on oneself. Augustine taught us that we live as citizens of our true homeland above even within the midst of this passing world: “The glorious city of God is my theme in this work. . . . I have undertaken its defense against those who prefer their own gods to the Founder of this city—a city surpassingly glorious.” Augustine’s teaching laid the foundation for a new Christian civilization, Christendom, which sprang up amidst the ruins of Rome in Europe.

One young man unexpectedly began building the foundations for this new civilization. He was studying within the ruins of the decadent city of Rome in about the year 500 and fled the temptations of town to live as a hermit in the wilderness. Eventually, others flocked to him and he laid the foundations for monasticism throughout Western Europe. The monasteries provided the foundation upon which a new society was built. St. Benedict, for this work, has been recognized as a patron of Europe and a true father of Christendom. His Rule does not seek to build up the earthly city, but looking to the City of God to “hasten to do now what will profit us for eternity.” And this is the key to Catholic culture and history: seeking the lasting the city helps us to live better in this life, with wisdom, courage, and hope.

We are all pilgrims, living in exile in the city of this world, and journeying toward the heavenly Jerusalem: “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come” (Heb 13:14). And yet we have to build a city on earth and looking to the past provides inspiration for this great project. This is why we should study Church history, especially as our culture goes through a period of upheaval, not unlike St. Augustine’s time. We need the witness and the legacy of the saints and doctors to guide our pilgrimage as we continue the story of the Church. Looking to the past helps us to plot out our own path on our journey to eternal life.

Class details

“Pilgrimage: A Journey Through Church History,” John Paul II Center, Denver. Tuesdays, 9:00 AM. Information Sessions: Aug 1 and Sept 5, 9:00 AM. Classes begin Tuesday, September 12, 2017. Register at: https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1968327