Catechesis to resume when schools reopen

Marco Carvalho

Local churches resumed public religious services last weekend, but catechesis will only be an option once again when schools and universities reopen their classrooms. The suspension may force children and catechists to make an extra effort to make amends for the meetings that were cancelled. At the Cathedral parish, pre-catechesis attracted eight children. Enrolment in catechumenate classes fell short of expectations.

Catechesis and the preparation procedures for both the sacraments of the First Holy Communion and Confirmation will only be resumed in the local parishes when on-site classes return to Macau schools and universities, O Clarim learned from Father Daniel Ribeiro.

The parish Vicar of the Cathedral of the Nativity of Our Lady assures, however, that the suspension of the catechesis meetings does not jeopardize the original plans of the parish to celebrate the sacraments of Confirmation and First Communion in late May and early June of 2022. The current intermission may, nevertheless, force children and catechists to make an additional effort in order to make amends for the meetings that were cancelled: “The First Eucharist normally takes place in the feast of Corpus Christi and Confirmation on the feast of Pentecost. These dates will remain untouched, they won’t change. In case the suspension of the meetings goes on for a few more weeks, what we intend to do is to promote extraordinary meetings so we can compensate children for those meetings that were not organized,” Father Daniel Ribeiro says. “Young people who are going to attend Confirmation, currently on the 9th grade of Catechesis and the children who are going to receive their First Communion, who attend the 3rd year of Catechesis, usually already have to take part on extra catechesis classes, which provide them an opportunity to deepen their faith and their beliefs. If this intermission  goes on, if it takes a long time for catechesis to be resumed, the other children will also  benefit from additional meetings. These meetings will be arranged directly with the catechist,” the missionary of the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart told O Clarim.

Faith and family

The discovery in late September and early October of more than a dozen new local COVID-19 cases led the Macau authorities to quarantine more than a thousand people and order another round of testing, the third in just over two months. The Government also ordered the public services to shut down for a period of two days. On-site classroom classes were suspended in schools, kindergarten and universities. Well-aware of its social responsibilities, the Diocese of Macau ordered all churches to close for a similar period of two days, in line with the orientations of the Government. Parishes resumed public Masses on Friday last week, albeit under reinforced measures, but catechesis and “all other large meetings in the Diocese” will remain suspended until further notice. 

Father Daniel Ribeiro regrets the impact that the interruption has had on the spiritual nurturing of children and youth alike, but he is fully convinced that parents will be able to fulfill their responsibilities as “primary catechists”: “The resumption of on-site catechesis will follow the resumption of on-site classes in the local schools. We are going to follow the same orientations and the same calendar that the local schools are advised to follow. As soon as on-site classes return, we will also resume catechesis the following Sunday. I don’t have any doubts on the impact this intermission is having on our children’s spiritual life. In July, August and September – practically during the entire month of September – we didn’t have catechesis and now, in October, we are still faced with uncertainty. It has been a long period without catechesis and this makes it difficult to continue to nurture the children’s faith,” the Brazilian priest claims. “However, the primary catechists are the parents and we believe that, once they send their children to catechesis, they are also interested in being a part of their children’s spiritual formation. That’s what they will do at home, through prayer or study,” the parish-vicar of the Cathedral of the Nativity of Our Lady asserts.

The twig bent, the tree inclined

In the interlude between the summer break and the suspension of the catechesis meetings due to the aggravation of the epidemic panorama in Macau, the children who attend catechesis in the Cathedral parish hardly had the opportunity to reconnect with their friends and colleagues. Although brief, the first contact that the kids that enrolled in pre-catechesis had with the mysteries of faith turned out to be quite intense: “Pre-catechesis, thanks be to God, is well underway. We have three catechists, a young woman from the parish and two girls who made their Confirmation last year. Eight children, aged four and five, took part in the first meeting of pre-catechesis, which took place before this new pandemic bout,” Father Daniel Ribeiro told O Clarim. “Pre-catechesis is aimed at children who are not yet old enough to start formal catechesis, which begins when children turn six years old. There was a great demand in the first meeting. It was very dynamic, very pleasant and it was a great surprise for all of us,”  the Brazilian priest says.

If adherence to pre-catechesis left those in charge in awe, adherence to the catechumenate was less than expected. The Cathedral Parish made, in mid-September, a public call to those willing to enrol in the so called “adult catechesis,” but only two people came forward.  The diminutive number, Father Daniel Ribeiro claims, is not as surprising as it seems: “As for adult catechesis, demand has been small. Two people signed up until now. Why is this happening? Adult catechesis is aimed at those who have not yet received the sacraments of Christian initiation: Baptism, First Communion and Confirmation. As this is the fourth or fifth consecutive year in which we offer adult catechesis meetings, most people who had not  received these sacraments in the past have already received them in the last few years,” the Dehonian missionary explains. “There are fewer and fewer people enrolling in the catechumenate. The people who came to us are people who have the desire to have a religious marriage. When a Catholic wants to marry according to the Church, the Diocese of Macau demands that the person has to be confirmed. In order for someone to be confirmed, he or she has to submit to adult catechesis. Normally, the majority of people who seek adult catechesis do it with this aim in their mind,” Father Daniel Ribeiro explains.