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December 2, 2019

Catechists Encouraged to Make Disciples at Annual Conference

“Our job is to take Christ out and reach all those who have fallen away.” These opening words from Peter J. Murphy, PhD, opened his keynote address to the more than 300 men and women who gathered for the annual Diocesan Catechetical Conference on Nov. 9. The event, hosted by the Diocesan Office for Evangelization and Catechesis, was at the Diocesan Center in Harrisburg.

Murphy, the Director for Families and Schools of Discipleship Mission Team for the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin, and the former Executive Director of Evangelization and Catechesis for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the catechists gathered that there are really only two things they need to do to evangelize – listen to the Holy Spirit and go do it.

“We are all agents of evangelization,” said Murphy. “We’re all called to go out and make disciples. Every Christian is challenged, we’re challenged, to go out and share the Gospel.”

So what keeps stopping us?

“Fear,” said Murphy. “Fear was number one on my list. We’re afraid.”

Murphy explained that this fear is normal and that the Lord has reassured that He will always be there, guiding us on this mission to make disciples.

“We are the disciples. We are in the same boat as them. They walked with the Lord for three years, they were right there, and yet the fear was so strong,” said Murphy. “It’s normal and to be expected in some ways, but Christ assures us time and again that, I am with you always. I am with you when you are under attack, I’m with you when you are doubting, I’m with you when you are losing control, I’m with you when you’re stepping out and it’s uncomfortable.”

“If you’re talking to someone and it starts moving in an evangelizing direction, how do you draw that out? The evangelization process is having a dialogue where we’re not talking so much at first. We ask questions and get to the point where we can share our story,” added Murphy.

Murphy challenged the catechists attending the conference to keep in mind that experience, more than knowledge and facts, are what our Millennial brothers and sisters are looking for, and that when evangelizing, we need to personalize God’s love.

“This is our challenge as Catholics. Have we personalized that encounter? If your second grader asks if Christ is really in the Eucharist, you can say yes, cite the Catechism and then give your personal encounter. Does Christ really forgive our sins? Yes, let me tell me how he helped me. As disciples who are going out and making disciples, we have to be willing to offer that. God is love because here’s how he loved me,” said Murphy. “When you overcome that fear…the Lord’s going to use it. And you’re going to discover gifts and talents and charisms that you didn’t realize you had. That’s the Holy Spirit working through you.”

Prior to Murphy’s keynote, Bishop Ronald Gainer opened the conference with Mass and the presentation of the 2019 Catechetical Awards.

During his homily, Bishop Gainer thanked those gathered for answering the call from Christ to, “be His teachers, to let your lips be His in imparting the truths of our faith to children, to teens, to young adults, to adults; in Catholic schools, parish religious education programs, in the RCIA programs welcoming back our brothers and sisters who have been away and in sacramental preparation in the many, many diverse forms of catechesis. Thank you for giving your talents, your knowledge and living in the faith, to be shared with those coming to the Church to grow in that faith.”

Recipients of the Catechetical Awards are congratulated by Bishop Ronald Gainer. Front row from left, Mary Pentz, Theresa Nardis and Diane Dalgaard. Back row from left are Armando Torres, Sister Rita Smith, SSJ, Bishop Gainer, Jean Marie Fischer and Joseph Ceserano.
Recipients of the Catechetical Awards are congratulated by Bishop Ronald Gainer. Front row from left, Mary Pentz, Theresa Nardis and Diane Dalgaard. Back row from left are Armando Torres, Sister Rita Smith, SSJ, Bishop Gainer, Jean Marie Fischer and Joseph Ceserano.
Dorothy Hilton, recipient of the Catechetical Award is congratulated by Bishop Ronald Gainer.
Dorothy Hilton, recipient of the Catechetical Award is congratulated by Bishop Ronald Gainer.
Keynote speaker Peter J. Murphy, PhD, makes a point about overcoming the fear of evangelizing.
Keynote speaker Peter J. Murphy, PhD, makes a point about overcoming the fear of evangelizing.

Bishop Gainer added to the catechists that, “as you continue to grow in your own personal holiness, as you embrace more fully these transformative truths of our faith and come into greater intimacy and communion with the living person of Jesus Christ, may you have every gift of the Holy Spirit to be able to share that mystery that we enjoy with those who come to us, hungering for the truth, which is Jesus Christ.”

At the conclusion of Mass, Bishop Gainer presented the annual Catechetical Awards, which were given to eight catechists in recognition of their outstanding service. The award recipients were Joseph Ceserano, St. Katharine Drexel in Mechanicsburg; Diane Dalgaard, St. Catherine of Siena in Quarryville; Jean Marie Fischer, St. Joan of Arc in Hershey; Dorothy Hilton, Good Shepherd in Camp Hill; Theresa Nardis, St. Joseph in Mechanicsburg; Mary Pentz, Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Ephrata; Sister Rita Smith, SSJ, Holy Name of Jesus in Harrisburg; and Armando Torres, San Juan Bautista in Lancaster.

To learn more about the catechetical work in the Diocese, please visit www.hbgdiocese.org/religious-education.

By Rachel Bryson, M.S., The Catholic Witness

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