Every September, the Philippine Catholic Church celebrates National Catechetical Month. This is about the feast of St. Lorenzo Ruiz, a catechist and the first martyr-saint in the Philippines.
The theme of the National Catechetical Month 2022 is "The Catechists, Walking Together as Witnesses of the New Life in Christ."
RVA News talked with Mary Catherine Alajor, a former catechist at San Isidro Labrador Parish and Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, Project 8, Catholic Diocese of Cubao, Philippines.
She has been a catechist for three years. She resigned last year to pursue her Law degree. Excerpts:
Why and how did you become a catechist?
I have been a scholar of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (ACI), since grade four. With their help, I was able to finish my studies at Stella Maris College, Quezon City, with the degree of Bachelor of Science Major in Religious Education.
After college, I started my Catechetical Ministry in the church under the Catholic Diocese of Cubao.
What has been your experience as a catechist?
As a catechist, teaching faith is challenging. First, because students look up to me as their role model; it is about doing what I teach them. Second, some students belong to other sects and religions, and they would ask questions about their faith, and of course, I have to be knowledgeable enough to answer them with the right words without offending others' beliefs.
Lastly, when I face difficulties, I always have to remind myself of the love of God because it is what I teach and it is the truth. But above all, teaching faith brings joy that no words can explain.
What is the role of the catechist in teaching and nurturing the faith of others in the church?
A catechist's role is to be a friend to all people from all walks of life. This is important in nurturing the faith of others because it is a way of letting others know the first truth—love. Jesus became a friend and proclaimed the love of God.
We, as catechists, continue that. Love might be a simple word, but it means a lot. Our first duty, not just as a teacher but also as a friend, is to share that God is love.
What are the challenges you face as a catechist?
The two primary challenges I faced were dealing with students who have different beliefs. I had to choose words that would not offend them but also defend my faith.
The second is financial matters, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, God moves in mysterious ways. Looking back, I do not know where I got the money to support myself and my family. I think even at this time, catechists are still having difficulties with this matter.
If you were not a catechist, what would you be?
If I was not a catechist, I would be a teacher in a school and not know about the faith. I would not have experienced the beauty of serving in a church.
Your reflections on the theme: "The Catechists, Walking Together as Witnesses of the New Life in Christ."
Once a person becomes a catechist, he or she is always a catechist. I am pursuing another course right now, but the heart of a catechist was never and will never be taken away from me. Even though I am kilometers away from my co-catechists, one thing still binds us together. It is faith and prayer. Wherever I go, whoever I meet, I am a witness of hope and the love of Christ.
Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.” Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.