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A message from the bishop

Handing on the treasures of the faith (September 2016)
My dear friends,
WHO MADE US? God made us. Who is God? God is the supreme being, infinitely perfect, who made all things and keeps us in existence. Why did God make us? God made us to show forth his goodness and to share with us his everlasting happiness in heaven.
So begins the venerable Baltimore Catechism ordered by the Third Council of Baltimore in 1884 and issued the following year. Nearly every U.S. bishop gave this
catechism official approval; soon Catholic schools across the country adopted the Baltimore Catechism as their religious textbook. I myself remember using this catechism while attending St. Bernadette Elementary
School in Westlake, Ohio, back in the 1960s. Since that time, most Catholic schools have moved away
from Baltimore Catechism-based instruction. Yet catechesis remains vitally important for Catholics of all
ages today. Why?
Catechesis is essentially an effort to teach the fundamentals of the Catholic faith. It does not present
current theological opinions or delve into contradictions in the doctrines it teaches. Catechists strive to transmit the Catholic faith as clearly and accurately as possible. Its audience is largely made up of those for whom Catholic teaching is still new or not abundantly known. In other words, catechesis helps individuals learn how to “walk” in the Catholic faith before they run, skip or leap into the realm of theology (faith seeking understanding) by critically examining the teachings of the faith in order to grasp them on a more profound intellectual level.
Our diocese celebrates Catechetical Sunday on Sept. 18. The theme for this year, as proposed by the U.S. bishops, is “Prayer: The Faith Prayed.” This theme leads us to reflect on the role that each baptized person plays in handing on the faith and being a witness to the Gospel. In order to do this, we need to realize that, as disciples of the Lord, we must be centered by our faith, and our faith be centered by our prayer.
Catechetical Sunday provides the impetus for our diocesan Parish Ministry and Catechetical Conference,
which will be held the following Saturday, Sept. 24, at West Catholic High School in Grand Rapids. The conference’s presentations and workshops provide an opportunity for us to revisit and strengthen our foundations in the Catholic faith we treasure.
I encourage you to take time for yourself and learn more about your faith through attending the conference. You may even discover that being a catechist is something you are able to do for your parish
and its young Catholic members, or catechumens.
Catechesis has been a part of our faith from the very beginning, when Christ made his final command to his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations and to teach them to observe all that he had commanded. (Mt 28:19-20) But even before this command, Christ taught his disciples to pray, “… when you pray, say ‘Our Father who art in heaven…’” He knew that his disciples would need a close, faithful relationship with the Father if they were to be bearers of his word to others.
This command by Christ to his disciples has become our call. Jesus urges us to make disciples of all nations. St. John Paul II and his successors have championed a “New Evangelization” that reaches out not only to those who have never accepted the Catholic faith, but also to those who had once been Catholic, but no longer identify themselves as such. Our testimony of our love for Jesus can cause them to be “reignited” and burn brightly with the fire of Christ’s love; to come back to the faith community and its sacraments and once again walk as disciples of Christ.
I invite you to join me in this revitalization of our faith through prayer and the preaching of the Gospel through the way we live our lives! Once again, we are reminded of the old Baltimore Catechism, which taught: “God made us to know him, love him and serve him in this world and to be happy with him forever in heaven.” Notice the order – first to know (catechesis) and to love (prayer) and, after that,
to serve. May our hearts be filled with knowledge and love of the Lord so that we may serve him well!
Sincerely yours in the Lord,
Most Reverend David J. Walkowiak