WORD Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).
CATECHESIS/ FAITH FORMATION
The Syro-Malabar Church fulfils Christ’s command through systematic proclamation and catechesis of faith. ‘Catechesis’ is derived from the Greek word, ‘Katekein,’ which literally means to ‘resound from above,’ and ‘instruction by word of mouth.’ Catechesis therefore means to re-sound Christ the teacher and instruct Christ’s teaching. Broadly, we understand Catechesis as “an ecclesial act or ministry of education or instruction in the Christian faith or faith doctrine imparted to the baptised or catechumens, generally in an organic and systematic way, with a view to initiate and lead them to the maturity of faith and fullness of Christian life” (Syro-Malabar Catechetical Directory #45). The Syro-Malabar Catechesis believes in an integral faith formation i.e., (i) Catechesis through Celebration; (ii) Catechesis through Instruction and (iii) Catechesis through Apprenticeship.
CATECHESIS IN OUR EPARCHY
In Australia, we are blessed that many lay leaders and priests have taken initiative to set up Catechesis in most of the Syro-Malabar Communities even before the establishment of the Eparchy on 25 March 2014. We value our children to be formed properly in our faith and tradition. The Church desires that her children should learn the basic faith-lesson from the bosom of their Mother Church. Bishop Bosco Puthur, our Eparch, and Fr Francis Kolenchery, the Vicar General and the whole Syro-Malabar Eparchy wish that the faith formation of our children be systematic and fruitful.
Currently we have 32 Catechetical centres with 3000 children and 290 volunteer Catechists (teachers). It is promising that these many children go through faith-formation classes every week or month. Still we have got many challenges against the faith formation such as peer pressure, media influence, lack of training for teachers and working styles of parents. Towards a better faith formation in our Syro-Malabar Diocese, the Eparchial Department of Catechesis (EDC) has prioritised the following.
- Working with Children/vulnerable People (WWC/ WWVP): Australian law demands that anyone, volunteer or employed must acquire this checking. The cards (depending on the state) must be carried at all times when dealing with children; otherwise, he/she can be fined in certain cases.
- Catechists Training Course (CTC): Fr George Danavelil led the Teachers’ training last year which was attended by 287 teachers from all over Australia. The Diocese will host such a programme and follow up in every alternative year. The next one will be in October 2016. Every Catechist must attend this course as mandatory for teaching.
- Theology Courses: In order to equip the teachers in Bible, Liturgy and teaching of the church the EDC organize online and multi-mode theological formation for the Catechists.
- Sunday Catechesis: In order to achieve a proper and systematic Catechesis, every community should have regular classes and annual and semester exams. It would be ideal to have the Catechesis before or after the Sunday Holy Mass which is the heart of Catechesis.
- Text book: All communities and parishes must use the text book of the Syro-Malabar Catechetical Commission called “On the Path of Salvation” series for classes 1 – 12. The Communities may get the books directly from the Syro-Malabar Catechetical Centre, Mount St.Thomas Kakkanad, P.B No 3110, Kochi 682 030, Ph. 9447851470, 9544663149 Web. syromalabarcatechesis.org. Alternatively, communities can get them from our Catechetical Department in Melbourne if you book in advance.
- Retreats for Children: Being aware of the challenges our teens and young ones in this western environment, the Catechetical Department organize Christeen Retreats and other Intensive Programmes for the Children every year. This year Marykkutty Teacher and two efficient teams are leading Christeen Retreats in 15 centres from September 19 to October 23, 2015.
- Children’s Organizations: Catechesis through apprenticeship is a significant area where the Diocesan Department involves. We have begun little and bigger units of Cherupushpa Mission League (CML), Holy Childhood (Thirubalasakyam), Altar Servers Association (ATA)… in a few centres of our Eparchy.
Our Syro-Malabar Eparchy of St Thomas the Apostle of Melbourne, Australia, aims through Catechesis, the faith formation of every child through encountering Christ his/her Master and Saviour, thus to become His witnesses in Australia and beyond. It is a collective responsibility of the parents, teachers, students, priests and the Bishop.