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To Form Filipino Christians Mature in their Faith

A Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Bishops'
Conference of the Philippines

Announcing 1990 as National Catechetical Year

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At the beginning of this final decade of the 20th century, we your Bishops wish to address you on a fundamental issue of our Christian life and a chief priority of the Catholic Church in the Philippines namely catechesis.  By catechesis we refer to all "the efforts within the Church to help people believe that Jesus is the Son of God, so that believing they might have life in His name and to educate and instruct them in this life and thus build up the Body of Christ."  (Catechesi Tradendae, 1)


There are many reasons for this focus on catechesis.  First, there is the national economic and political situation wherein so many Filipinos continue to suffer in dire poverty, unsupported by the Gospel's social thrust.  The growing modernization and industrializatioxe "Catholic beliefs:Constitutional provision:National Catechetical Year"xe "Catholic beliefs:Constitutional provision:National Catechetical Year"n are too  often accompanied by a loss of traditional Filipino Christian spiritual values and family rootedness.  So many of our youth who comprise almost half of the Philippine population, grow up in ignorance of even the essentials of our Catholic faith.  In many of the 56 different ethnic linguistic groups throughout the Philippines, basis catechetical materials are often still lacking.

Our present religious situation also highlights the urgency of catechesis.  Individually, when challenged today to defend their Catholic beliefs and practices, many Filipino Catholics find they are poorly prepared "to give an explanation for their hope."  (1 Pt. 3:15)  Communalxe "authentically Filipino:active agent"ly, the Church activities of the Marian Year of 1987, followed by the 3rd National Eucharistic Year (1988) and the just completed National Bible Year (1989) have, each in its own unique way brought to clearer light the urgency of a more effective, more comprehensive, and more continuous catechesis in our Catholic communities.  Such catechesis, moreover, is a most effective way to prepare all Filipino Catholics for the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines scheduled for January-February 1991.

This catechetical urgency is confirmed by  civic actions such as the new Constitutional provision for religious education in public schools, and the Department of Education's new Values Education Program.  Finally, within the catechetical area itself, 1990 will see the publication of the long-awaited Universal Catechism from Rome, as well as the first draft of our own National Catholic Catechism for the Philippines.

1990:  National Catechetical Year

Therefore, we wish to designate 1990 as "National Catechetical Year"  (NCY) in order to focus the attention of all Filipino Catholics on the urgent and perduring task of educating toward maturity in Christian faith.  "Catechesis is not just a matter of transmitting ideas.  It involves above all communicating Christ and his life-giving message, and helping people to give their response of faith and love."  (John Paul II, Address to Filipino Catechists)

We view this year as a privileged opportunity for promoting a deeper "conscientization" within our Catholic communities of the primary importance of this catechetical mission.  The mission is an on-going, never-ending, permanent part of our faith-response of Christ's apostolic mandate:  "go, make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you."  (Mt. 28:19-20)  What is new is this:  each and every one of us, Filipino Catholics, are responsible for this renewed catechizing mission.  We cannot leave it to someone else; we cannot say:  "let others do it."  We have the responsibility:  the challenge is ours.  But what precisely is this new challenge?

The new catechetical challenge can be described in terms of three basic aspects:

      A.  its message and source (what?),
      B.  its method and means of communication (how?), and
      C.  its agents and audience (by whom and for whom?)

The message of this new catechesis must be unmistakably Christ-centered.  "The  definitive  aim  of  catechesis  is to put people not only in touch, but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ:  only He can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit, and make us share in the life of the  Holy  Trinity"  (Catechesi Tradendae, 5).   This means a catechesis rooted in the living  Word  of  God in Sacred Scripture, as proclaimed in the Filipino Catholic  community,  under  the teaching authority of the Church.

The  method  and  means  of  this  new  catechesis must be "authentically Filipino", that is, it must be "expressed through images, symbols, and rites that are indigenous to Philippine culture."   Catechesis then  becomes "a  process  by which Filipino values can be purified, permeated and strengthened by Gospel values, and Gospel values in turn are concretized and  actualized  in  Filipino  values  and  patterns  of  action."  (National Catechetical Directory of the Philippines, 426, 428).

The active agent of this new catechesis must in  some way include each and every member of the Christian community. Each one of us is challenged to share personal responsibility, according to our position in the Christian community, in recruiting,  forming,  and  supporting competent   catechesis, religion teachers, liturgists, and  all  those  who  are  actually engaged in  direct  catechesis.  Moreover,  the audience of the new  catechesis  has  been  radically  changed  by the almost incalculable  numbers  of  public  school  children  and  their parents.

"Aiming at Fruit That Will Last"  (Jn. 15:16)

Numerous activities of the National Catechetical Year are planned for the regional, diocesan and parish levels.  Beyond celebrating present achievements, these activities should be explicitly aimed at achieving, lasting, structural changes -- however modest -- in the new catechesis' message and source, method and means, agents and audience.

This means activities that make the message of the new catechesis more explicitly "Christ-centered" and better "rooted in the Word of God,"  according to the guidelines of our National Catechetical Directory.  It means actively creating a new catechetical methodology that is manifestly more "authentically Filipino, through collaboration with experts in Philippine culture, family life, and thrust for social justice.  Finally, it means a concerted campaign for the growth of catechetical agents both in number and quality, through the revitalization of the formation programs of the Catechetical Centers and seminaries, and the Religious Education programs of our Catholic colleges and universities throughout the nation.  Such is the new challenge for fruitful action, presented to all Filipino Catholics by the National Catechetical Year.


In conclusion, this proclamation of 1990 as the National Catechetical Year, we your Bishops wish to echo the words of our Holy Father, John Paul II, to those who have devoted their time to catechesis, our catechists:

    "The world needs you because it needs catechesis.  For the most precious gift that the Church can offer the modern world--confused  and restless as it is --  is to form Christians sure about their faith.  Catechesis does this, and it does this through you."

We, however, wish to point out that catechesis is a task for all, the responsibility of every member of the Christian community:  EVERY CHRISTIAN A CATECHIST.  For as Pope Paul VI emphatically affirmed:  "It is unthinkable that a person should accept the Word and give himself to the Kingdom without becoming a person who bears witness to it and proclaims it in his turn."  (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 24).

For the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines:

Archbishop of Caceres
President, CBCP

31 January 1990
Tagaytay City

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