June 2, 2023

‘Evangelizing catechesis’ helps people build a relationship with Christ

Father Daniel Mahan, priest in solidum in the four parishes in Dearborn County, distributes Communion during an April 27 Mass at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Aurora. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Father Daniel Mahan, priest in solidum in the four parishes in Dearborn County, distributes Communion during an April 27 Mass at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Aurora. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

AURORA—Beginning in July, Father Daniel Mahan will lead the Institute on the Catechism, started last fall by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

It builds on the work the USCCB began in the 1990s of ensuring that religion textbooks submitted to its Subcommittee on the Catechism are in conformity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Only now, the institute will work with bishops, diocesan catechetical leaders and the staff members of publishers of catechetical resources to develop and promote an “evangelizing catechesis.” (Related story: Parish ministry leads archdiocesan priest to head national Institute on the Catechism)

Father Mahan described it as a time-tested approach to passing on the faith “through which saints have been formed.”

“While it is important that the contents of the faith be presented in an accurate and compelling manner so that they might know about Jesus,” he said, “the great saints have been formed by catechists who help them get to know Jesus himself. We’re calling that an evangelizing catechesis.”

Father Mahan said bringing together aspects of evangelization and catechesis is critical today. While the USCCB’s efforts since the late 1990s to improve the quality of catechetical texts have been successful, “we still have young people leaving the Church and opting out of the faith at an alarmingly young age.”

The priest has seen this up close in more than 30 years of leading parishes in central and southern Indiana. Some of the most difficult moments in Father Mahan’s priestly ministry have been in meeting with parents heartbroken over their children walking away from the faith.

“So often, it’s not that the parents did something wrong,” he said. “The parents influenced those children. But sadly, there are so many other influences in our world that seem to wrap themselves around young people like tentacles and pull them away from those things that truly give life, those things that are truly healthy for body, mind and soul.”

While contemporary culture poses new challenges to the Church’s proclamation of the Gospel in the pervasive influence of the Internet, social media and digital devices, Father Mahan said they are still rooted in the work of the Evil One.

“The devil doesn’t change much,” Father Mahan said. “What I experienced when I was growing up and what I experienced as a young priest has simply metastasized into something much more deadly.”

Despite these challenges, Father Mahan holds on to hope.

“Into the darkness comes the risen Christ and the paschal light, the light that shatters the darkness, the darkness that can never overcome it,” he said. “We have an opportunity in our day and age to be the light of Christ, to be hope where there is despair, to be light where there is darkness, to be love and goodness where there is only hatred and meanness.”

That hope, light, love and goodness can enter people’s hearts in an evangelizing catechesis when people, in learning about Jesus and his teachings, also nurture a relationship with him.

“When we truly know Jesus, how

can we leave him?” Father Mahan asked. “ ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of everlasting life’ ”

(Jn 6:68).

“That’s the heart of a true disciple, to be able to say that. The more that that can be developed from the earliest years of a child’s formation all the way through, the more impactful the catechesis will be.”

Father Mahan saw it as “providential” that the institute was founded to foster an evangelizing catechesis during the midst of the three-year National Eucharistic Revival and in the lead up to the National Eucharistic Congress, slated to take place in Indianapolis on

July 17-21, 2024.

He said he expects it to “be a prime example of an evangelizing catechesis.”

“We come together [at the congress] not just to be together,” Father Mahan said. “We come together so that we might then go forth and take to the four corners all that we’ve learned, all that we’ve seen and heard.” †


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