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CURRENT ISSUE:  May 24, 2010
VOL. 48, NO. 10   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
Children at great risk under Governor’s budget proposal, say aid agencies
Pope says sex abuse ‘terrifying’ sin within Church
Revised guidelines set
for catechist formation

Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone has promulgated revised catechist formation guidelines for the Diocese of Oakland and has invited those who teach the Catholic faith to receive the proper formation for the important work of religious education.

“I call upon all catechists to be well prepared to carry out the great mission which Christ entrusted to his Church when he said, ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,’” Bishop Cordileone said in a letter announcing the revised diocesan guidelines last month.

“More than ever,” he wrote, “we need catechists who can transmit the Deposit of Faith with confidence and joy.”

The revised diocesan guidelines are adapted from revised statewide guidelines adopted last May by the California Catholic Conference.

The state guidelines were the fruit of a two-year consultative process involving the state’s bishops, diocesan superintendents of schools, and diocesan directors of catechetical ministry, youth ministry and adult faith formation.

That consultation, which actually began during the tenure of former Oakland Bishop Allen Vigneron, updated statewide requirements by which catechists can earn or renew the California Catechist Certificate, the basic certification recognized by every diocese in the state.

The revised state guidelines set standards for the course of studies and areas of catechist formation that must be covered in order for a diocese to award the California Catechist Certificate. The specific design of catechist formation programs and processes may vary from diocese to diocese according to local needs and resources, but all should reflect the statewide standards.

Mary Ann Wiesinger, coordinator of catechesis for the Oakland Diocese, said the changes in both the state and local guidelines primarily entail an expansion and development of the methodology requirement and a greater emphasis on the catechists’ spiritual development.

Both sets of guidelines require the successful candidate to be taught such elements as the doctrines, liturgical life, communal character and moral teachings of the Church as well as the nature and purpose of catechesis.

They also call for training in appropriate catechetical content and methods for various specializations, including youth ministry, adult catechesis, family formation or special-needs catechesis.

“We hope that people will be encouraged by these guidelines and seek certification to enhance the gifts which they already have and be more equipped to serve in their apostolic work,” Wiesinger told The Catholic Voice.

Once catechists obtain the California Catechist Certificate, they must continue to renew their certification by completing at least 10 hours of formation each year. A grace period through April 2011 will allow those whose certificates have expired in the past seven years to renew them by having had 30 hours of ongoing formation. The Oakland guidelines also stipulate certain other alternate means for attaining certification and recertification.

The Serra Catechetical Institute is the diocesan formation program for obtaining basic certification, and its courses are offered at various locations in the diocese. Wiesinger emphasized, however, that the institute is not just for catechists.

“The formation programs offered throughout the diocese are for everyone — catechists, parents, teachers, grandparents,” she said. “They are a tremendous opportunity for growing in the faith.”

Some scholarship assistance is available for those with financial need. The diocese plans to develop certification courses through online distance learning, she added, “but that is still a work in progress.”

Wiesinger said she welcomes the revised guidelines and is grateful to Bishop Cordileone “for his support and for his leadership as the head catechist of the diocese.”

In his letter, Bishop Cordileone expressed his own “deep gratitude and prayerful support” to those involved in catechetical ministry and offered his prayers “as we advance the mission to know Christ better and to make him better known.”

Quoting from Pope John Paul II’s 1979 apostolic exhortation “Catechesi Tradendae,” the bishop said that “the most valuable gift that the Church can offer to the bewildered and restless world of our time is to form within it Christians who are confirmed in what is essential and who are humbly joyful in their faith.”

For more information, contact mwiesinger@oakdiocese.org.

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