STEUBENVILLE, OH—Initiated 14 years ago at the prompting of Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the "Amicitia Catechetica" held its fourth gathering July 18-20 at Franciscan University of Steubenville.
The "catechetical friendship" between the Maryvale Institute in Birmingham, England; Notre Dame de Vie in Venasque, France; and Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio brought together 84 catechists and educators from around the world for academic presentations, prayer, and fellowship.
"The reason God gives us the power to communicate with others is so that we can tell them about God," said Barbara Morgan, foundress of the Catechetics Program at Franciscan University.
"'Amicitia catechetica' means friendship in this work of handing on the faith," explained Morgan, whom Cardinal Schönborn had asked to start the "catechetical friendship" between the three schools.
That friendship developed over meals, in between the academic presentations, and in the liturgies celebrated. "The prayer part is very important," said Franciscan University professor of catechetics Sister Johanna Paruch, FSGM. "You'll see that a large part of our day is just in adoration and in praying the Divine Office, morning and evening prayer together, time before the blessed sacrament, meditative prayer, contemplative prayer."
Sister Paruch has taken part in past gatherings in Gaming, Austria (2003), Birmingham, England (2007), and Rome, Italy (2009). Each conference has had a different theme. This year, the presentations explored "Liturgy and Catechesis."
Inspired by Catechesi Tradendae 23, the speakers unpacked the statement, "Catechesis is intrinsically linked with the whole of liturgical and sacramental activity....Sacramental life is impoverished and very soon turns into hollow ritualism if it is not based on serious knowledge of the meaning of the sacraments, and catechesis becomes intellectualized if it fails to come alive in the sacramental practice."
Each school presented in turn. Maryvale's delegation discussed the essential relationship between the liturgy and catechesis as indicated by the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Lead presenter Dr. Petroc Willey, one of the foremost experts on the Catechism in the world, explained, "If an organic presentation of the faith is not achieved in our catechesis, then the faith is not being presented as the Church would have it."
Franciscan University of Steubenville's presentation, delivered by Professor James Pauley, catechetics, built on Maryvale's, with insights from the kerygmatic school of catechetical thought on the relationship between the liturgy and catechesis.
Father Douglas Martis of the Liturgical Institute at Mundelein Seminary in Chicago delivered a presentation on the new translation of the Mass.
"I think one of the misunderstandings that people in general have is that this is a mean thing the Vatican is doing to us poor Americans. And that's not at all the case," said Father Martis, cocreator of the Mystical Body, Mystical Voice program to prepare the faithful for the implementation of the third typical edition of the Roman Missal. "There is a new edition of the missal in Latin. Whenever there's a new edition of the missal in Latin, every time, it's translated into all the different languages, so the Spanish-speaking world is doing it, the French-speaking world is doing it, and so on for all the different languages."
Notre Dame de Vie finished out the gathering with a presentation on the role of the Holy Spirit in the mysteries of the Christian faith. Father Pierre de Cointet and Father Benoit Caulle explored how to move beyond a mere presentation of signs to a real encounter with the transformative reality behind them, which is the living God.
One participant, Father Michael Bibi, director of the Maryvale Institute in Bamenda, Cameroon, said, "The input I've been given about the relationship between the liturgy and catechesis is going to help me not only in my own spiritual life as a priest, but it's also going to help me meet the formation needs of the parish catechists of the Archdiocese of Bamenda."
He'd attended the conference in Rome in 2009, and was delighted to see familiar faces. "It shows that our friendship is growing. It is good for us to come together often in order to share our catechetical skills so that we can continue as one Church to see how we can help the people of God to deepen their knowledge of the faith.
"Even though they are three different institutions, we have a particular goal. We are one body. It reminds me about CCC 873, which says in the Church, there is diversity of ministry but one mission. So I see the three institutions as having one particular mission, that of helping the people to deepen their knowledge of the faith so they are acting like one body, which is very important for the Church."
In addition to participants from the three institutions, two bishops attended the conference: Bishop John LeVoir of New Ulm, Minnesota, and Bishop R. Daniel Conlon of Joliet, until recently the ordinary for Steubenville. The Amicitia conference was organized by the Franciscan University of Steubenville Catechetics Office.
Video clips from the Amicitia Catechetica Conference can be found under News and Events at www.franciscan.edu. The proceedings from the Rome conference have been published as The Pedagogy of God: Its Centrality in Catechesis and Catechist Formation, available in English through Emmaus Road Publishing at www.emmausroad.org, and in French through www.paroleetsilence.com.