Year of St. Paul is also ‘Year of the Catechist’: Sr. Johanna

By: By Jared Olar

The church will begin a yearlong celebration and remembrance of St. Paul on June 29, but Sister Johanna Paruch, FSGM, thinks the Pauline Year of 2008-2009 should have a second name.

“It’s not just the Pauline Year, it’s the Year of the Catechist,” she said during her address at the 2008 Diocesan Summer Institute last Saturday morning.

“Paul is the master catechist. What we see in the life and works of St. Paul is a master of catechesis,” said Sister Johanna, a former teacher at Alleman High School in Rock Island who has been professor of catechetics at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, for about 10 years.

Sister Johanna delivered her address, “Be Imitators of Me as I am of Christ: Paul as the Model for Catechetics,” to a group of religious educators and Catholic school teachers gathered in the St. Vincent de Paul Parish Hall. An expert catechist with a doctorate from Maryvale Institute in Birmingham, England, Sister Johanna has 20 years of experience in religious education.

Sister Johanna began with a look at the state of Catholic religious textbooks from a decade ago.

In 1997 the U.S. bishops examined those texts to see if they were in conformity with the new Catechism of the Catholic Church. According to Sister Johanna, almost all catechetical texts were found to be seriously lacking in 10 crucial areas, including the identity of Jesus, the Trinity, the church, the sacraments, sin and grace, the moral life, and death and the afterlife.

Admirably, the textbook publishers brought their books into line with the new catechism, said Sister Johanna. But they would not have gone so far astray in the first place if they had kept their eye on St. Paul as their model of catechesis, she said.

“He was handing on to us that which he had received. That’s catechesis,” said Sister Johanna.

“The key to everything that we look at about Jesus is revelation,” she said. “Catechesis could be called ‘applied revelation.'”

Post-Vatican II textbook writers lost sight of the fact that Jesus is the fullness of divine revelation, said Sister Johanna. The most important things Jesus said are, “Repent, believe, go and teach,” she said.

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