Pope John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation on catechesis “is as relevant now as it was 35 years ago,” said Charlie McKinney, president of Sophia Institute Press. McKinney spoke to The Cardinal Newman Society about Sophia’s reprinting of the exhortation, Catechesi Tradendae, its importance in Catholic education, and the vital role of the witness of teachers.
Catechesi Tradendae was one of the first works authored by Pope John Paul II during his lengthy 27-year papacy and is now the first work published under the new Sophia Institute for Teachers program. The new program for teachers, launched by the Press in 2013, is a response to a lack of catechetical training programs and materials produced specifically for Catholic teachers.
“A significant percentage of Catholic school teachers never received a Catholic education, and too many Catholic school textbooks treat the Catholic Faith as just another religion,” McKinney told the Society. “If we can’t give the rising generation a firm grounding in the doctrine and practices of Catholicism, we can’t expect them to be joyful, committed Catholics.”
“St. John Paul II gives us a solid vision and roadmap for effective catechesis,” McKinney noted. The key to John Paul II’s wisdom though lies not in the information conveyed or the method by which the teacher conveys it, but in the teacher personally.
McKinney explained further:
Key to the wisdom in its pages is the importance of the catechist entering personally into the mystery of Christ, and surrendering himself totally to Him. Teachers must give their students information, yes, but more important than that is to give students their witness. Having Christ the Teacher as their model will help them in their essential work.
“Our edition of Catechesi Tradendae includes study questions for each chapter to help Catholic educators apply St. John Paul II’s teaching to modern challenges,” he shared, as he continued to emphasize the need for the teacher’s personal witness and growth in the faith.
Expounding on the need for catechesis, McKinney said, “If we don’t understand these teachings, then Mass becomes routine, confession seems pointless, and Catholics inevitably drift away from the Faith. You can’t put into practice what you don’t know, and so any failure to catechize has a ripple effect throughout the Church, whether it be in Church attendance or volunteers at the food pantry.”
When asked about importance of catechesis for children, high school students, and college youth, McKinney offered a favorable outlook. “I think Catholics are re-learning the importance of catechesis, and as a result we see schools and colleges coming back to the Church. I think it’s a good time to be Catholic. There are so many exciting projects under way, and we’ll soon see the ripple effects of their activities rejuvenating the Church.”
Part of the Press’s current project for Catholic teachers also includes hosting training programs that give teachers the catechetical formation, teaching strategies, and materials they need to develop their students into informed and active Catholics, noted McKinney.
According to McKinney, the Press has “so many projects underway” and they will soon announce the Sophia SketchPad, a series of animated videos that explain the faith. The Press is also currently working on a second guide for teachers that will explore moral theology and the Beatitudes. They are expanding teacher workshops in New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, New Hampshire, and other cities.
You can read more about the Sophia Institute for Teachers on their website, here.