The Four Pillars of Stewardship: ‘Formation’
Bishop Gilmore encourages catechists to be witnesses
By CHARLENE SCOTT MYERS
Special to the Register
Editor’s Note: This week the Register begins coverage leading to the November 17 “Stewardship Renewal Commitment Sunday” (see Page 3). This issue is highlighting one of the Four Pillars of Stewardship, “Formation”. Here, Bishop Ronald M. Gilmore speaks to catechists about their (and, in effect, all of our) role in faith formation.
Catechists need not only teach, but should be witnesses to their faith in order to be effective as teachers of others, according to Bishop Emeritus Ronald M. Gilmore.
The bishop spoke Sept. 4 and Sept. 7 through the Interactive Television Network, connecting to several towns where catechists tuned in to hear and respond to what he and Coleen Stein, Coordinator of Catechist Formation, had to say. (See the next issue of the Register for Stein’s story). Bishop John Brungardt greeted them and remained for the session.
“You will not be a good teacher unless you are first a good witness,” said Bishop Gilmore. “The connection is just that simple and just that strict.”
“To ‘witness’ is to hand on something to someone, without adding anything of your own. You see something happening, and you describe it to someone in the best words you can find. Then you are a witness.” Witnessing happens at an automobile accident, at a baseball game, in a courtroom, among friends in a bar, even to a meteorologist in a TV station, Bishop Gilmore pointed out.
“In the end, witnessing is best learned from a witness. We call such persons a father or a mother, a teacher or a coach, a mentor or a friend. These are persons who have learned enough of the game or of the subject to pass it on to others.”
The first step in learning how to be a witness is to grasp “just how we are not doing it,” Bishop Gilmore added.
“The great German writer, Goethe, who lived in the last half of the 18th century and the first third of the 19th, put it this way: ‘If you would learn to be just, you must first learn to be unjust.’ We have to learn what we are doing wrong, if we hope to learn how to do right. Unless we recognize the bad habits we have picked up, we shall never replace them with the good habits of a real witness.”
Most people are chained by the “common sense of our time,” Bishop Gilmore said.
“There is a ‘spirit of the times’ at work in each era, and it inclines us to unreflective thinking about God, about the world, about man, and about right and wrong. We breathe this in unconsciously, without even being aware of it. And it tends to bind us, and it tends to blind us. Hence, we parrot what we hear without thinking it through.”
Most people are “chained by our own upbringing,” said Bishop Gilmore.
For example, an individual can claim to be a staunch Catholic, yet if that person were reared in a home burdened by racial intolerance, that same individual could adopt racist tendencies, even while adhering themselves to the Catholic Church.
That racism, the bishop said, “is a serious sin against the Creator, who made and loves [all people of all races], and against his commandment ‘to love neighbor as self.’”
That person, the bishop said, will “have to recognize what he is doing wrong before he can hope to do right.”
Bishop Gilmore called on catechists — and all Catholics -- to pray more and read the Scriptures and Catechism of the Catholic Church.
“Most of us are chained by our own ignorance of the faith,” he said. “The Scriptures? We never knew them very well to begin with, and have certainly not kept up with developing research, and have certainly not spent time with them.
“The Church? We have very little familiarity with our Catholic Traditions, and we have a natural suspicion of the Magisterium, the Teaching Office of the Church.
“We are bound by old images of God picked up as a child, by old images of heaven and hell, by old images of Jesus Christ, by old images of the Church, the Mass, the Ten Commandments. We never really understand that the Church existed before the Bible, that it is her book, and in the end only she knows what it means. The same Spirit who inspired the Bible guides the Church in her authentic interpretation of it.”