Gathering with catechetical leaders from around the Archdiocese of Louisville May 26, Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre expressed his “deep appreciation” for their dedication to catechetical ministry.
He also spoke to them at length about his vision for catechesis and some of the stumbling blocks it faces today.
“I know you go out of your way to proclaim the Gospel,” Archbishop Fabre told his listeners.
Noting the challenges they face, he said, “With young adults and adults, we are trying to teach objective truth in a context that more and more only realizes and respects subjective truth. So we are trying to teach the benefit and objectivity of the deposit of faith, the revelation that Jesus Christ made to us. And very, very often that is met with subjective truth.
“It is very, very difficult to try and teach the objectivity of truth when you are going up against feelings, because very often subjective truth is rooted in what ‘I feel.’ And very often that is the standard: What I feel, that is the truth,” he explained. “I think we’ve all had the experience of trying to speak rationally to feelings.”
The archbishop noted, “I’m not knocking feelings; I’m not knocking anything that I say is a challenge. But it can be very difficult.”
Among other challenges he named is the influence of media that often misrepresent the church’s teaching and society’s attachment to devices such as smartphones that can hinder relationships.
An anecdote to these challenges, he said, can come from relationships.
“It’s not only God and me; it’s also God and we, God and us,” the archbishop told the catechists. “We are all called to journey together. We must help young children, youth, adults, young adults understand that we are on this journey together.
“Catechesis today must be grounded in relationship. John Paul II famously said … people listen now more to witnesses than to teachers and if they listen to teachers it is because they are witnesses.
“It’s Pope Francis’ wonderful, wonderful notion of accompaniment,” he said. “It’s the story of Emmaus. Jesus walks with them, he witnesses to them. It’s an accompaniment model, it’s a relational model.”
The archbishop spoke to the catechists for about 45 minutes and then took their questions. Parish catechetical leaders normally gather in person with the Office of Faith Formation quarterly, though the pandemic disrupted that schedule.