Changing with the times: Culture and catechism

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Sr. Marie Kolbe Zamora smiles on Friday October 26 at the Autumn Conference of the Diocese of the Superior. Theologian, she did her thesis on Saint Bonaventure. She spoke about adult catechesis in an afternoon small group session. (photo of the Catholic herald)

Anita Draper
Catholic Herald staff

When Sr. Marie Kolbe Zamora was growing up, there was a certain way of catechizing. It was about teaching rules, definitions, concepts, “the soul rules the body” and a structured way of leading a moral life.

But the 54-year-old Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity, with a doctorate in sacred theology and chair of the theology and ministry department at Silver Lake College in Manitowoc, knows times have changed.

Students today don’t care about rules, she said on Friday, Oct. 26, in a breakout session at the fall conference in St. Joseph’s, Rice Lake. In this new age, students don’t live by definitions, and they don’t care about definitions. “Life as they live it is their starting point,” she said.
She sees this as the reason why some Catholics find it difficult to understand Pope Francis. He talks about the current cultural context – with storytelling, creatively, basing his teachings on experience, without emphasizing rules and definitions – and she thinks Catholics who are not brought up in that state mind find his style confusing.

When Sr. Marie was in the seventh year, she was supposed to be confirmed. Although her mother is the director of religious education and the future nun is “hyper interested in God”, she chooses not to be confirmed with her class.

“I ask every adult I can think of why I need confirmation, and I can’t get good answers,” she recalls.

Although she eventually changed her mind and was confirmed with the help of her mother, Sister Marie used the story to illustrate a point: Current research indicates that children decide to leave the Church at 13. . years was the starting point of his vocation in theology.

“I am a theologian,” she added. “I am not a catechist, but I have a deeply catechistic heart… I do theology to nourish faith.

Before opening her presentation, Sr Marie asked everyone in the room to identify their ministries, which ranged from RCIA and ministry in prison to catechesis for children, animation of men’s groups, Catholic education. and more.

Sr. Marie observed that the catechists of the Diocese of Superiors had not used the Catechism of the Catholic Church for their formation. The Diocese of Green Bay has such a program, she said, but it was easier to facilitate because the area is not that large.

“It would be beneficial if all the catechists could in some way be guided together through the catechism,” she added.

Sr. Marie remembers well the time before the publication of the Catechism. She obtained her undergraduate degree in theology in 1989; although she could guess what the Catholic truth was, someone else would deny it.
“It was a free-for-all,” she said. “Now, we are not living in this age of confusion. “

When she teaches the Catechism, Sr Marie considers herself a tour guide or a cook – she presents the work in digestible pieces, and it is up to the receiver to “chew” and “digest” it – to interpret it. as individuals.

“If I trained you in using this text, I would treat it not as an end, but as a gateway into a 2,000-year-old tradition,” she said. “I’ll take you behind the book. The only way for catechesis to work is for the people we catechise to do their own chewing.

As a theologian, she also emphasizes the need for the Catechism to be in dialogue – studied alongside other catechisms – the Didache, the catechism of Cyril of Jerusalem, the Baltimore Catechism, the papal declarations, the Roman Missal and other works.

The fundamental fact, as Sr. Marie pointed out, is that “Catechesis is not the communication of information. On the contrary, catechesis is and must be the communication of life.

His example: Grey’s Anatomy. The show is popular with her students, so Sr. Marie watches it to understand them.

“It’s not a moral show at all, but the reason I watch it is because my students are Grey’s Anatomy,” she said. “It teaches me how to teach the spirit of Grey’s Anatomy.”

In the show, she sees “sexual promiscuity, right, left and center”. She also sees “a good story” and a world where “everyone is looking for life and everyone is looking for love”.

“If I am an attentive catechist, I learn this story, and not the information, that’s what I have to pass on,” she added. “So what am I going to do?” Will I walk into Grey’s Anatomy office with the Ten Commandments and the John Paul II encyclical?

She teaches “the experience of humanity with God in such a way… that my experience of my life accords with the experience of humanity”.

His suggestion for a first teaching method: start with experience. Catechists should write a secular history of themselves, with a chronology of important events. Then, in prayer, they should turn this secular story into a sacred story – add meaningful moments in their life of faith.

“We need the help of others to read our centuries-old stories in God’s key,” she added. The exercise also shows people where they need to grow – if it’s accomplishments or studies and not relationships, they realize they need to go back and think, and maybe make some changes. in their life.

In religious education, catechists must lead those who are catechized in the same exercise.

She suggested as a second teaching method that catechists should lead with the scriptures, “because the scriptures change lives.”

God “does all kinds of open-hearted operations with the scriptures,” she added, and they have a similar impact on the mind.

Leading with the Scriptures is only possible if catechists contemplate their own life in the key to the Gospel, said Sr. Marie. To catechize others, create situations and opportunities for those who are catechized to identify the Lord’s mercy at work in them.

Then, she said, lead the liturgy. She advocates the recovery of the liturgy as a source of catechesis, and she advises catechists to buy the Roman Missal and pray at home, then bring the book to catechesis to help people enter more fully into the liturgy. .

People learn by asking questions, not by answering them, so she suggests that catechists teach their students to ask good questions.

“We are so brainwashed into thinking that asking questions makes us stupid,” she added. “Faith is a mystery. If I approach it with my mind, some things won’t add up.


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