Bishop Burbidge offers response to Pope Francis' new motu proprio instituting Ministry of Catechist

As Bishop of the Diocese of Arlington, I happily welcome the Holy Father's institution of the Ministry of Catechist in his motu proprio titled “Antiquum Ministerium,” which translates to “Ancient Ministry.” We have benefited from the generous service of so many who have worked in our religious education programs to help form children and adults in the faith and prepare them to receive the sacraments.  

In this motu proprio, the Holy Father recognizes and restores this wonderful ministry that was part of the early Church. As St. Paul reflected on the different gifts bestowed upon the faithful, he noted specifically the role of teacher, or catechist. The catechist is one who is especially trained and commissioned to form others in the faith. As the Holy Father said, here was an indispensable “diakonia,” or service, for the community and for the evangelization of others.

The Holy Father released this motu proprio on the feast of St. Damien of Molokai, who was a missionary to the Hawaiian Islands and brought the faith to the native peoples. During his ministry on Molokai, he considered of greatest importance the training of catechists, who in turn would catechize others, especially children, in the faith.

Therefore, in our present day and age, and with ever-changing modern tools, we need faithful individuals to step forward and receiving the training necessary to be catechists. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, they will bear witness to the faith by both word and deed, handing on the fullness of faith to the next generation. I sincerely hope that this new ministry will inspire many to become catechists and serve in their parishes.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will work to see how best to implement this ministry in our country. As I work with our Office of Faith Formation this summer to see how to chart a course for implementing it in our diocese, I pray that this reinstituted ministry will bear great fruit here in our local church.