Dominican Sisters in the Parish

Dominican Sisters in the Parish

Sr Carino Hodder OP describes the catechetical and pastoral work that she and Sr Lucy Cahill OP are undertaking at the friars’ parish in north London.

Dominicans and catechists have something very important in common: joy. Joyfulness is meant to be a defining characteristic of Dominican life and preaching, and St Augustine exhorts catechists to similarly speak with ‘joy… in the matter of saving doctrine’ (St Augustine, De Catechizandis Rudibus, 12.17) when they teach. So it shouldn’t take too much of a leap for a joyful Dominican to become a joyful catechist!

From September, Sr Lucy and I have been parish sisters at the Rosary Shrine, taking responsibility for catechesis in the parish – both sacramental preparation and ongoing faith formation – and also being a welcoming pastoral presence both to parishioners and the many visitors who pass through the Shrine. We are happy to begin this work in what is an auspicious year both for the Dominican order and for catechesis. Not only does 2021 mark the 800th anniversary of the Order arriving in England, but it is also the year in which the Holy Father has elevated the role of catechist to an ecclesial ministry in his motu proprio Antiquum Ministerium. Catechesis, it seems, is a particularly timely way to be made useful for the salvation of souls as we enter our ninth century.

Our community, the Dominican Sisters of St Joseph, works in catechesis on a diocesan level as members of Portsmouth Diocese’s Formation For Mission team. Through Formation For Mission, the sisters have extensive experience of forming parish catechists and liturgical readers, delivering sacramental preparation courses, and offering courses for ongoing adult formation, as well as writing and translating catechetical programmes. At the Rosary Shrine, Sr Lucy and I will be running the First Holy Communion and Confirmation courses, assisting with Baptism preparation, and offering Children’s Liturgy of the Word as well as ongoing faith formation for both children and adults. We will also be forming parishioners to take active roles in catechesis and other forms of evangelisation in the parish.

Our apostolic work in parishes has demonstrated to us the great importance of providing catechesis that enables young people to make a freely-willed, mature response to the grace of the sacraments. But this catechesis, if it is to be truly effective, must go far beyond brief, transient bursts of sacramental preparation. Instead, catechesis should be a lifelong process of Christian formation, providing Catholics from a young age with a strong, deep-rooted communion with Jesus Christ – which after all is its ‘definitive aim’ (Pope St John Paul II, Catechesi Tradendae 5). For us Dominican sisters, offering thorough, Christocentric catechesis is an opportunity to use our charism of preaching the truth of the Gospel to help integrate fellow Catholics deeper into parish life and the practice of their Faith, and in particular their participation in the Eucharist. Our hope is that our work at the Rosary Shrine will serve as a fruitful cooperation with the Holy Spirit’s work of conversion which is faithful to the Church’s vision for the ministry of catechist.

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