When I worked in a parish, one of my responsibilities was to conduct baptismal catechesis for parents of infants. Occasionally a parent would say to me: “I’ve been to a baptismal class before, do I have to come to this one?” My invariable rejoinder was, “Is it the same child?” We laughed, but they got the point.
Catechesis poses the question: How do you meet the person of Christ at this new moment of your life? How do you respond in faith, and within a community? Catechesis is not about information, though information is shared. It is about forming the Christian for the task of faithful living.
Catholic pastoral leaders have long lamented the fact that most Catholics end their formal religious education in eighth grade or at Confirmation. This concern has nothing to do with remedying defects—real or imagined—in the upbringing of a particular generation or person. It derives simply from the fact that new faith questions and challenges emerge in adulthood. No one who thinks about the question for even a minute could imagine that with the passing of adolescence the Christian has no more to learn, and the community has no more to teach. Discipleship is always a work in progress.
Catechesis, rightly understood, aids this process. Yet despite admirable documents that state adult catechesis is central to the church’s mission, such as the General Directory for...