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Column: ALWAYS (September 14-20, 2008 issue)

Catechesis and Theology


by
Erwin Joey E. Cabilan

Before I left for Belgium last mid September of 2004, Miss Felciemarie Razo of
Salesiana Publishers, Inc. (Davao Office) invited me to have a dinner with Fr. Renato de
Guzman, SDB. Fr. Degs, as he is popularly known, is one of the gurus of Catechetics here in the
Philippines. When I told him that I would be attending the One-Year Joint Program of Lumen
Vitae and Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, he told me one thing which, I think, was very
important in our conversation: to remain a catechist when I come back.

Catechesis has been the “spirit” that I breathe since my formal study on this field way
back 1995. Even if I have been in this ministry for almost 10 years, but I still feel the need to
learn many things. I am humbled by those rich experiences of my students, my colleagues at
JCC, fellow JCCians, fellow catechists (volunteer and professional), Church workers and even
people from other Christian denominations and religions. Most of all, I am humbled as I stand in
awe and wonder to a profound reality as to who a catechist is before God and His People: a
minister of the Word.

One time, a fellow catechist who is studying Theology shared to me about how some of
her professors gave a comment on Catechesis. She felt that they underestimated this ministry to
the extent that they “belittled” it when they compared Theology as a science that is higher
compared to Catechetics. I don’t want to give further comments on what I heard from a
colleague. But personally, anybody who wants to say something either for or against must have
a clear, substantial and exact knowledge about the things that he/she wants to comment. Just be
humble to learn and even to unlearn, if necessary.

I don’t want to use this column as if I am reprimanding those who are “anti” Catechesis.
It’s good to know that there are people “in the Church” who still need to understand the
relationship between Theology and Catechesis. Let me highlight some salient points as
expressed by the New National Catechetical Directory for the Philippines (NNCDP).

1. NATURE. Catechesis and Theology are at the service of the Word of God. Since
catechesis habitually acts through the “light of instruction”, one can see how closely it
relates to the theological form which is concerned with “the systematic treatment and
scientific investigation of the truths of the faith”.(NNCDP 110) This means that a good
catechesis is dependent on a good theology and vice-versa.
2. AIM. If the aim of Theology is to present a scientific, critical understanding of the
Gospel in the world today, Catechesis, while using many of the same sacred and human
sciences, aims for an effective proclamation and instruction in the faith, leading the
Christian community toward a fuller, more mature and proper commitment to and life in
Jesus Christ. (NNCDP 111) What does this mean? If a theologian is concerned with the
latest theories and hypotheses that touch all aspects of the Word of God, the catechist has
to focus on handing on the essentials of the Christian message and effectively
communicating it to those being catechized today.
3. CRITERIA FOR EVALUATION. In terms of the criteria used for evaluation,
Theology has to respond to the test of rigorous scientific study of the Word of God while
Catechesis is evaluated based on the triple fidelity: to God’s Word, to the Christian
community and concrete experience of the catechized. (NNCDP 112) This implies that in
Catechesis, the triple fidelity must be integrated in order to allow the faith of the person
and the community to mature as shown in the life of integrity day by day (Head-Heart-
Hands).

With these insights, there are some areas that these two sacred sciences differ. But those
points in which they are unique do not highlight each other’s limitations. However, they
complement in order to enrich one another. No one is greater to the other. If there is the
greatest, it is and always be the Word by which both Theology and Catechesis serve. No
competition, we always do things in the spirit of communion. A catechist needs good Theology
to make catechesis clear for them to understand, substantial to answer the longings of one’s heart
and effective that can motivate them to respond in faith. He/She is a facilitator, a mediator and
a witness. A theologian needs Catechetics so that he/she can be creative in presenting faithfully
God’s message to the present milieu. In this way, he/she does not only talk about God but
above all, talks with God.

Both should walk hand in hand and side by side, in proclaiming the Word of God that
keeps our faith afresh, afired and alive.

Announcement:
1. The Archdiocesan Catechists Day is set on September 27, 2008. This whole day
activity will take place at the University of the Immaculate Conception Gymnasium-
Bajada Campus. All catechists (professional, volunteer, student) are invited to attend
this gathering. Please coordinate with your Parish Head Catechist.
2. The theme of our National Catechetical Month is THAT CHRIST BE FORMED IN
US!

Ej