By Cecilia Zammit, Catholic Outlook
At each of the weekend Masses we are dismissed with the command to ‘share the good news of Jesus Christ’. Armed with the necessary authorisation cards, their teaching manuals, music, craft and a smile some 900 women and men from our 47 parishes have returned to their local state primary and secondary schools to do just that!
Priests, religious and laypeople throughout the world have been going into parishes and schools as catechists for centuries. In 1896, the Australian bishops expressed their concern for families in remote areas in Western Australia: “children in our country are growing up a godless race”.
By 1923, a team of three religious sisters set up the Catholic Bush Mission and as they received the names and location of Catholic families, these sisters wrote monthly, personal letters to the children on the faith- doctrine and sacraments.
This religion by post program grew from 270 children in 1923 to 1093 children in 1926. It was found that these pastoral letters helped not only the children but the parents who were living distant from towns. Summer school camps were successful in bringing these children into parishes for ‘faith and fun’.
By 1935, the Bush Mission program had spread to the eastern states as they worked with volunteers from Church sodalities such as the Legion of Mary, the Theresians and St Vincent de Paul Society to teach ‘sound doctrine in simple language’.
With post-World War II migration into Australia, it became evident that Catholic schools could not accommodate all the Catholic children. The Motor Mission reached hundreds of families in the Archdiocese of Sydney, which included Western Sydney.
Eventually, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine Offices were established in Sydney and the dioceses of Parramatta, Broken Bay and Wollongong as well as other dioceses to meet the growing need for training and resourcing of catechists who are Special Religious Educators in state schools.
This brief history gives an indication of the dedication of the many men and women who with very little training or resources went out to catechise about Jesus Christ.
These are the shoulders the current catechists stand on today and we give thanks for their pioneering spirit and for setting down the path we now follow.
In the Diocese of Parramatta we continue to have the support of our Bishop as well as our Parish Priests in this important ministry, and with your help we look forward to reaching students in more state schools in 2017.
Regional Masses are under way in the Diocese and training courses commenced on 20 February 2017. Caritas lessons that relate to the season of Lent have been distributed and support for combined end-of-term seminars is available.
Senior students from 20 Catholic high schools are also preparing lessons to go into local state primary schools as part of our diocesan SRE team.
It is not too late for you to join the CCD family of catechists.
Catechists often comment how much they receive from being in the special religious classroom as they share their faith and pray with the children. Your faith will grow by becoming an SRE teacher. Training and resources are provided and you will start by being a helper with an experienced SRE.
If you can see yourself taking part in this great ministry as an SRE/catechist, contact your parish office or Maree Collis in the Parramatta CCD Office tel (02) 9890 4731 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org We look forward to hearing from you soon.
Cecilia Zammit is Director of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine in the Diocese of Parramatta.
The Diocese of Parramatta is developing an app to help you keep in touch with what is happening in the Catholic Church in Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains. You will be able to find the latest news, events and Mass times for parishes and migrant communities. To sign up to be the first to know when the app is released, click here.
Updated on 13 March 2017.