St. Bernard Catholic School Principal Crystal Blahnik visits the Vatican in Rome.

The Catechist, Witness of the New Life in Christ

St. Bernard School principal, Crystal Blahnik, recently embarked on a three day trip to Vatican City. She reflects on the trip in her own words below:

In 2013 the First International Congress on Catechesis met in Vatican City. The intention of the first congress was to set a course for an intensive, international focus catechesis by way of the Catechism. The Catechism is broken into four distinguishable parts, each of which becomes the foundational point of discussion at each of the four International Congress meetings. The order of meetings has been laid out like this:

  • 2013 – First International Congress on Catechesis: Knowing and Loving God
  • 2018 – Second International Congress on Catechesis: Witness to the Mystery; Sacramental Life
  • 2022 – Third International Congress on Catechesis: Life in Christ; Living the Word
  • 2028 – Fourth International Congress on Catechesis: Prayer

A small group of us had the opportunity of a lifetime this September when we were invited to represent the Diocese of Green Bay at the Third International Congress in Rome. This three day gathering was held at Paul VI Hall in Vatican City. Roughly 1,000 people attended the three day experience and participants traveled, in true pilgrim fashion, from all corners of the globe. 

With the main emphasis of the conference being Life in Christ, and Living the Word, which comes directly from the third section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the conference was entirely relatable and accessible to everyone in attendance, regardless of their specific title or vocation. The other foundational document that this congress series is based on is the Apostolic Letter Issued “Motu Proprio” by the Supreme Pontiff, Francis, Antiquum Ministerium instituting the Ministry of Catechist. 

Speakers on all three days were from around the world and presented in their native language while participants listened in on headsets with home-language translations. While all presentations were noteworthy, one that stands out is the talk given by H.E. Most Rev. Mark O’Toole, Archbishop of Cardiff and Bishop of Menevia (Wales). Three important points that the Archbishop made were focused on Vision, Discernment and Formation. 


The Archbishop referred to Corinthians 12:1 when speaking of the gift of the Holy Spirit.  “Vocation is initiated in the heart of God. And it is for the person to respond.” He stated that it is through living and a personal encounter with the Lord that we are propelled as Missionary Disciples. 


Archbishop O’Toole noted that as we discern who is called to be a catechist we need to remember that “catechist” can mean something different in different circumstances, and that when it comes to catechising, this can come in as many forms as the gifts that we each possess. Either way, it is important to “set the bar high” in our expectations for quality catechetical teachers and experiences. 


It is imperative for each regional conference of bishops to determine the formation expectations for their catechists. Archbishop O’Toole asks us to reflect on our personal encounter with the Lord, and to remember that the work of Catechesis is hard work because we are going against the mainstream current. However, Christ desires us personally and it is time for us to put our faith in action. 

In addition to the words of Archbishop O’Toole, there was a steady echo from almost all of the speakers on the Kerygma. The Kerygma is considered the initial proclamation of the Gospel. We must first know and believe the kerygmatic message before we are able to share that message, teach or catechize others. Beyond this, there are many ways to share the kerygma. 

Three pastoral presentations were shared from across the globe to demonstrate the variety of ways that the kerygma is being shared through catechesis. 

Sr. Carolina Blazquez Casado, OSA came from Palencia, Spain to share her order’s involvement in The Way of St. James and the Conversion Journey. People from around the world know of this pilgrimage and our own Fr. Bill Hoffman completed The Way in 2021. Martin Sheen made a movie of the pilgrimage in 2010, which is also worth watching. 

H.E. Most Rev. Jean-Bertin Nadonye Ndongo, OFMCap, Bishop of Lolo (Democratic Republic of Congo) came with several priests and sisters to share the innovative way that the Mobokoli Center has structured the formation of catechists couples for the proclamation of the faith and promotion of human development in light of the vast distances between villages, poor road conditions and the need for laity to support their community’s catechetical needs and activities. The commitment to this project and the fruits that have come from it demonstrate the way catechesis can be tailored for the local needs of the people. 

Finally, Juliane Stanz, represented a new social media project entitled Real + True along with her colleagues on the project, Emily Mentock and Edmundo Reyes. Real+True seeks to bring the kerygma, via the Catechism, to people worldwide through this social media effort. On this site you will be connected with timely articles and issues facing modern day Christians. The structure of the site follows the four parts of the Catholic Catechism, thus supporting the structure of the International Congress on Catechesis.

Throughout the three day experience, as a participant in this international congregation, I felt right at home hearing terms that have been frequently used throughout the last decade right here in our Diocese. Our Bishop Ricken has been a passionate shepherd, leading us in the way of the kerygma, the new evangelization, and personal encounter with Christ our Lord. The bottom line is that here in Green Bay we are on the front edge of bringing the message of the International Congress on Catechesis to the people of our Diocese. With increased enrollment in our Catholic schools, a commitment to programs that innovatively catechize people of all ages, and a Bishop who communicates and supports his vision, we have more people paddling in the same direction, which ultimately means more of us know the kerygma and are willing to share its good news.


Molina, H. (2020, September 15). Alpha & Kerygma. Catholic Answers. Retrieved September 18, 2022, from 

1 corinthians, Chapter 12. USCCB. (n.d.). Retrieved September 18, 2022, from 

Made with FlippingBook. (n.d.). Catechism of the Catholic Church. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Retrieved September 18, 2022, from 

The Catechist, Witness of the New Life in Christ Third International Congress on Catechesis Sept. 8-10, 2022. (n.d.). Vatican City.