Spirituality of catechists key to passing on faith: speakers

By: By Jennifer Willems

They used different images and invoked different spiritual influences, but the three men who talked to the catechists about spirituality at the 2010 Diocesan Summer Institute agreed on the basics: those involved in faith formation must know that they are children of God and allow themselves to be filled with God’s love and joy or they will never be able to share the faith with anyone else.

The words of inspiration and encouragement came from Father Tim Nolan, pastor of St. Joseph’s Parish in Pekin; John Michael Talbot, a nationally known musician and recording artist who is the minister general of the Brothers and Sisters of Charity at Little Portion Hermitage in Arkansas; and Father Andrew Apostoli, CFR, vice postulator for the cause for canonization of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.

The special track was added to the institute programming at the request of the catechists, according to Dr. Vincent McClean, director of the diocesan Office of Catechetics.

When he started his discussion with the catechists, Father Nolan asked them to take a few moments to write down five things that described them. “Child of God should be at the top of your list,” he told them when they had finished.

“Because of original sin and because of the world we live in, we tend to define ourselves by how other people see us . . . by what we do,” he explained. “God is calling us to understand the great dignity that has been given to us as a child of God.”

He does so with loving knowledge all of our failings, all of our shortcomings and all of the sins we will ever commit, Father Nolan said. “If we knew this, nothing could stand in our way.”

It is only this knowledge and love that will allow them to do what God asks, he told them, which is to spread the Word of God.

“You and I, when we stand before those bright young men and women, must do it because we want to share the love that has been passed on to us,” he said. “That’s the only thing that will get their attention, that we love the Person we’re telling them about.”

As sacramental people, they must never lose their hunger for the Eucharist, Father Nolan said. He also encouraged them to feast on Scripture, which he called “a love letter from God,” and prayer, reflection and just listening to the Lord.

Nobody expected the “troubadour for the Lord” to give a talk devoid of song or musical meditation and those who attended John Michael Talbot’s talk at the 2010 Diocesan Summer Institute weren’t disappointed.

He noted that in his travels around the country he has seen how discontented people are because of the recession, politics that tend to polarize people rather than bring them together around the issues, and the sex abuse scandal in the church.

“There is a bubbling of people who are ready to hear some good news,” Talbot told them. “They are ready to be excited.”

Putting up walls may help to keep the pain from reaching us, but he cautioned them that they may find they’ve become so different from the people God calls them to be.

“We have to learn to forgive when the world says ‘judge.’ We have to learn to be kind when the world says ‘be tough,'” Talbot said.

As people who have Good News to tell, “we have to be able to share those ideas with great enthusiasm, great joy and great hope.”

“It is only when the Spirit of God is flowing that we can be truly happy,” Talbot said. “If Jesus is really in our hearts, we will have joy.”

Father Apostoli left the catechists with thoughts about the power of the Holy Spirit and Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, who ordained him and suggested he take another look at the Spirit of God .

“For priests and for all of us, really, to not know the Holy Spirit is to miss the guide of our life,” Father Apostoli said, noting that catechists must be actively engaged in the ministry of witnessing to the work of the Holy Spirit.

“Sheen said these are times when nothing can be taken for granted. We must stand up,” he told them. “You as catechists need courage — it takes courage to proclaim Christ.”

The Holy Spirit is the one who can strengthen us, overcome our fears, and make us more aware of the presence of Jesus Christ, Father Apostoli explained.

He called the Holy Spirit the defender of truth, who stands against ignorance, error and falsehood and “gives us an attraction for the things of God.”

“Sheen said you have to live what you believe or you’ll believe what you live,” Father Apostoli recalled. “When you teach what you believe, it will come out of you with power. Why? Because you believe it.”

He urged them to allow their beliefs to make a difference in the way they lives their lives and to let their students see it: “A good example is a very powerful thing.”

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