A Joyful Witness

Illuminating the world with the reality of a living, loving God

By Sr. Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH

In his homily for the “Day for Catechists,” Pope Francis said: “The catechist, then, is a Christian who is mindful of God, who is guided by the memory of God in his or her entire life and who is able to awaken that memory in the hearts of others.” (September 29, 2013)

His words continue to inspire me. My vocation is rooted in an overwhelming experience and encounter with Jesus that fills me with faith, courage, and enthusiasm for proclaiming the Good News.

How stimulated I am when I travel around the world and encounter catechists who are on fire with a sense of their vocation. It simply radiates through their entire being every moment of the day. They illuminate the world around them with the reality of a living and loving God. Their ministry is not limited to one hour or one program a week. It seeps into the fiber of who they really are!

They know that to sustain the breadth, depth, and commitment of their catechetical vocation, they need continual prayer, study, and reflection to stay thoroughly primed for proclaiming the Good News. They do not grumble that they have to take additional courses or workshops or spend extra time in contemplation. They cannot imagine fulfilling their vocation for animating greater awareness of the presence of a living God in those they encounter in their ministry without being engaged with continual, lifelong faith formation and communion with God.

I remember encountering several American Samoan catechists who participated in a conference held at the University of Dayton. When these resilient men stood up to introduce themselves, they proudly proclaimed, “I am a catechist! This is my vocation in the Church!”

Their conviction captured the religious imagination of every conference participant. Their very presence radiated the gaze and fragrance of Christ into the room. They had brought something special into our midst.

Today more than ever the Church needs dedicated women and men who are authentically passionate about their vocation as catechists.

The only way a catechist can awaken the memory of a living God in the minds and hearts of others is if we ourselves are on fire with a daily living awareness of God.

I participated in a catechetical conference in the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia (Muscat, Oman). The morning of the conference, 20-plus catechists had ridden a bus for more than 15 hours through the night to come to the conference. I expected them to be exhausted from their journey. Instead, they bounced into the conference room full of enthusiasm for the day. “We are catechists!” they proclaimed. “We are here to be enriched and inspired to enhance our vocation. We yearn to delve deeper into preparing ourselves for our high calling. How else can we awaken in others a sense of the living presence of God if we are not passionate and prepared?”

Even though the morning Oman heat was beginning to weigh upon me, I found myself rekindled with enthusiasm to offer my best to these catechists. They motivated me to forget the heat and its irritation. Together we explored ways to animate minds and hearts that are immersed in a culture of distraction to embrace the living God.

Sr. Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH, DMin, is the director of the Institute for Pastoral Initiatives and professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Dayton.

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