Sunday, June 26, 2011

Catechist training in El Zapote

Friday I headed to El Zapote de Santa Rosa for a three day visit.

Friday and Saturday I led a workshop for catechists in one area of the parish of Dulce Nombre de María. The topic was the catechumenate, the process for the entry of adults into the church through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist.

The requirements for baptism here are fairly strict. The parents of infants and children up to 7 years of age have to be active in a base community. Children from 7 up can request baptism and there is a process to prepare them for baptism. There is a process for those 14 or older that is called the catechumenate, assuming that becoming an active member of the church is an adult decision.

The process is very like the catechumenate in the US, also called RCIA, but it will have to be adapted here, since most of the people do not live close to the main church in the parish and don’t have Mass every day.

The workshop began with a playing out of the sacrament of baptism of children. I did this not only to provide a comparison with the RCIA but also because a few weeks ago there was major confusion in one aldea when at a baptism the godparents didn’t know the name of the child, when asked during the rite.

Afterwards the five new catechists went apart to work with the parish coordinator on what it means to be a catechist, baptism in general, and various other details.

I worked with a group of about 27 catechists.

We went over the stages of the process, we walked through the rite of acceptance, and we treated several of the themes in the booklet that had been prepared.

The workshop was amazing. As we talked about the pre-catechumenate period, when people are inquiring about the faith, I decided to do a role play with Estela, a middle aged woman involved for many years in catechesis. Her response to my inquiries and my doubts and concerns were what one would expect from an experienced pastoral worker with training in pastoral counseling!

Marco Tulio leading a song - with Estela
As we talked about the importance of catechumens participating in the Sunday Celebrations of the Word in the community, Ramón, a 22 year old catechist, asked if the catechumens should be members of the base communities in their villages. He had grasped the significance of the catechumenate process, the importance of incorporating those who want to be baptized into the community. He knows what it means to be part of the People of God and the importance of having a small community to support one’s faith journey.

But the most amazing account that gave me goose bumps was the story shared by the catechist Martín, who can neither read nor write. He and others had sought out and then welcomed an unbaptized (and this unmarried) couple into their community. The couple invited one of their mothers to the community. The couple is now seeking to be baptized. As we reflected together in the group on this, I shared with them that this was a real example of the early stages of the catechumenate, which the community has been doing on its own, knowing nothing of the catechumenate processes. The rites can only help to confirm what is already in process.
Jerman and Martín participating in a "dinámica" - an active song
I left the workshop amazed – again – at the wisdom of these people and their faith.

I also am amazed at their commitment. One catechist had walked two hours to get to the meeting. Two women catechists walked three and a half hours – and they were not young women.

That’s the faith of the people here – a faith I will write more about very soon, sharing the experience of Corpus Christi, the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, in El Zapote.

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