'Systematic instruction in the faith' program to be launched in July

'Systematic instruction in the faith' program to be launched in July

Bishop Luc Matthys

Bishop Matthys' letter to the Armidale Diocese

The following letter from Bishop Luc Matthys of Armidale (NSW) has been addressed to all the faithful of his diocese, especially priests and teachers. In it he outlines a bold initiative to re-evangelise through the schools and parish churches, using the 'Catechism of the Catholic Church' as the point of reference. The program will run for four years, using each of the four sections of the Catechism each year.

After almost two years in your midst as Bishop, it occurs to me that a systematic instruction in the Faith is called for, so that confusion in the minds of many Catholics can be resolved. A second outcome would be the affirmation of Catholics in their current good practices. And thirdly, there is benefit in the presentation of the whole of the Catholic beliefs and morality. Not everything in a changing world changes; the basic message of Catholicism remains. (Lumen Gentium, 10).

In his Apostolic Letter, Novo Millennium Ineunte (At the Beginning of the New Millennium) of 6 January 2001, our Holy Father strongly urges the whole Church to build upon the fruits of the Great Jubilee.

"From the Great Jubilee we must gain new impetus in Christian living. It is not a matter of inventing a 'new program'. The program already exists: it is the plan found in the Gospel and in the living Tradition, it is the same as ever.

Third Millennium

"Ultimately it has its centre in Christ himself, who is to be known, loved and imitated, so that in him we may live the life of the Trinity, and with him transform history to its fulfilment in the heavenly Jerusalem. This is a program which does not change with shifts of time and cultures, even though it takes account of time and culture for the sake of true dialogue and effective communication. This program for all times is our program for the Third Millennium" (29).

Correct Faith is therefore important. Above all, "training in holiness" is required. This calls for a "Christian life distinguished in the art of prayer. 'Lord, teach us to pray' (Lk 11:1)."

Is it not one of the "signs of the times" that in today's world, despite widespread secularisation, there is widespread demand for spirituality, prayer? (33).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) published a few years ago gives us a plan or system on which to base instruction in the Faith. Since the Catechism bases itself on Scripture and Tradition, on Conciliar Teachings (especially Vatican II) and the Magisterium, as well as on the Fathers and doctors of the Church, lives of the Saints, on Catholic theologians and scholars, we could not be better resourced.

It is my wish and I direct that over a period of four years (each year on 14 Ordinary Sundays of the Year), the whole of the Catholic faith and practice be presented in Sunday homilies, in religious instruction in Catholic schools, in parish CCD programs, to children, youth, parents, RCIA, and prayer groups.

* In 2001 - Christian Prayer (Part IV of CCC).

* In 2002 - Faith (the Creed) (Part I of CCC).

* In 2003 - The Sacraments (including Liturgy) (Part II of CCC).

* In 2004 - Life in Christ (the Commandments) (Part III of CCC).

A concerted and common effort by all priests, catechists, teachers, and parents is called for - a concerted effort, at all Masses on 14 Ordinary Sundays of Year, commencing on 29 July; a common effort by all those involved in religious education to present the same subject/theme as given at the Sunday Mass that week.

Materials and resources for the weekly subject will be provided well beforehand. I will authorise the use of particular Scripture readings for the Sundays. The readings can form the basis for the homily and for religious education of that week.


Aware that on certain Sundays there will be parish celebrations such as First Communion, or Confirmation, or the Patronal Feast, only thirteen articles will be provided for each of the fourteen weeks of the four years.

To the question how can we possibly fit into four 13-week periods the content of almost 700 pages of the Catechism, I reply, yes, it is impossible. All the same, each week the teaching for the week is to be presented in a manner appropriate to the audience before you, ending with the suggestion for further reading, study and prayer. Handouts on the parish bulletin could also be used.

I wish to assure you, in asking you to give this project your every support and enthusiasm, that I too will participate, whenever I give the homily at Mass.

Further details on this program will be published in 'AD2000' as they become available.

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