Catechesis in China Print
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 09 August 2009 21:38
There are many Catholic worlds within the great Catholic world. For instance, this word of a ground-breaking initiative in China via NZ Catholic.

The Diocese of Beijing offered the first formal catechist's training to 120 participants last month. The course was taught by a German sister, Helene Reichl, who has worked in Taiwan for nearly 40 years.

The trainees were introduced to the universal catechism and to parts of the RCIA process for reasons that may startle us.

Reichl observed "Participating catechists had no idea about the stage of inquiry" prior to the catechumenate process, she said. "They used to admit someone as a catechumen merely by asking a question -- if he or she is interested in knowing Jesus and the Catholic faith."

Catechism classes in Beijing parishes usually last for three months, and catechumens need not undergo a series of preparatory rites before baptism, she said. Baptisms are often administered once the three-month cycle of catechism classes ends, and the catechists had no idea of the significance of matching the catechumenate process with the seasons in the church's liturgical year, she said.


Bishop Joseph Li Shan of Beijing told participants at the start of the course that the diocese normally baptizes about 2,000 people annually and has plans to build six churches in 2010 to meet increasing pastoral needs.

"The duty of evangelization is upon each of us, especially parish priests and catechists," he stressed.

A priest who serves at a parish in downtown Beijing said parishes generally do not set any requirements for parishioners willing to teach catechism, although they will provide some formation. This training course was a new undertaking at the diocesan level, he said.

Since the 1980s, when China's Catholic Church began emerging from decades of communist suppression, its leaders have worked to facilitate education and spiritual formation for its young priests and nuns, many of whom have gone abroad to study. At least one former seminary official has said that an increased role for the laity could help Chinese priests, who often are isolated socially and spiritually and face a variety of pressures.

So a western woman who has spent 40 years in a state that Beijing refuses to recognize has gone to Beijing to publicly train Catholic catechists. As difficult as times still are in China, how far things have come . . .

I loved this description of Sr. Helen in a related article in the China Post in 2007 about 80 Catholic leaders in Taiwan who were honored for their long service.

"German-born Helene Reichl was one of the honored nuns. She came to Taiwan in 1970. Reichl works at “Bible camps” for children and teenagers, visits prisons and hospitals to help people and teach them about religion.

“The world is so big that I didn’t know what Taiwan was like before I came here. Now I am a part of Taiwan, I dedicate myself to Jesus and to the Taiwanese people,” said Reichl.

“I’ll stay in Taiwan for the rest of my life. I came here with a Catholic mission. It’s a lifetime contribution. I wish I could help more people and let them know Jesus,” she added."