Speaker stresses importance of Eucharist during Catechetical Conference

CHESTERTON – “The Mass isn’t a spectacle, something to be entertained by. That’s not the point of Mass. The point is for us to show up ready to give and ready to receive Christ,” said Dr. Scott Sollon as he stressed the need for everyone to be active participants at Mass.
Sollon presented his three-part talk, “On the Holy Eucharist,” during the Diocese of Gary’s Catechetical Conference on March 2 at St. Patrick parish. Nearly 150 catechists from across the diocese attended the conference entitled "Eucharistic Renewal."
Sollon is a professor of theology and the associate chairman of theology and catechetics at Franciscan University, where he also directs the Catechetical Institute. He has worked in the field of evangelization and catechesis for 25 years, serving parishes, dioceses and schools. 
Sollon and his wife, Mary, live in Steubenville with their five children.
As he spoke to the group, Sollon stressed that in faith formation the job as a catechist, parent or teacher is to make sure others are able to go to Mass, or any of the sacraments, and participate fully conscious of what they’re doing. 
“We want them to know what’s going on, actively engaged in the ritual, and enriched by it, and to be receiving that grace,” said Sollon.
He continued, “Whether you’re doing faith formation for second graders in a classroom, RCIA somewhere on a picnic table, or with our own kids, the goal is always whatever we are teaching, how does this come to life in the sacraments? The reason is, the sacraments is where all the action really is. That’s how God graces us uniquely.”
Sollon explained, using reconciliation and mercy as examples, that there are many good ways to explain the two such as by unpacking the parable of the Prodigal Son and works through the priest, but it’s important to connect it to the Mass. 
“If you’re teaching on mercy you wouldn’t have really done your job as a catechist until and unless you show where at Mass do we ask for and receive God’s mercy,” said Sollon. “When we’re catechizing, we want to remind, there's a lot of places during Mass where we ask for and receive God’s mercy…Penitential Act, Lord, I’m not worthy, Lamb of God… Always connect it to the sacraments. It’s really important because that’s where the party is at.”
To help the catechists, Sollon zeroed in on key dimensions of the liturgy to focus on during the Mass, including obligation and responsibility.
Sollon explained how with the graces received in the sacraments, there comes an obligation and responsibility. He reminded the group as baptized in Christ, who is priest, prophet, and king, their job is to take that grace of baptism and go be priestly, prophetic and kingly.
“At the end of Mass, you don’t go hide in your basement. You just received Jesus, you better get out there and bring Christ to the world. This is your obligation you just took on,” said Sollon.
He continued, “Grace only works to the extent when we say ‘yes’ to it and say ‘yes’ to living it out. We have a part to play through our own free will. Saying ‘yes’ to what God is calling us to do.”
Sean Martin, member of the Office of Missionary Discipleship and Evangelization, acknowledged the catechists’ work throughout the diocese. “I want to thank you for all you do in your parishes, whether it’s young or old, we appreciate what you do and the ‘yes’ you say to the Lord.”
Bishop Robert J. McClory, who celebrated Mass during the conference, also thanked the catechists for their work on the front lines of catechizing.  
The bishop said it was a day of rejoicing because of the catechists’ “passing on the truths of the faith to our brothers and sisters, at whatever stage of their journey they’re on. May we respond with love.”
“May God bless you and give you all the gifts you need to bring all those to Him, to the love of Jesus Christ,” added Bishop McClory.
Sollon acknowledged that, at times, being a catechist can be hard, frustrating and tiring, but they persevere to remain anchored in Christ. “My small affirmation and unsolicited advice is this, thank you for what you are doing. Just cling to Jesus for your hope because he wins. That’s all we were called to do, to be faithful, not successful. Your job is to show up and try your best. Christ is the teacher.”
Frank Villareal said that although he’s not actively serving as a catechist for his parish, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, he was drawn to attend the conferences to learn more about his faith.
“When I saw he was speaking on the Eucharist, I felt it was important to attend. I don’t think everybody understands how important the Eucharist is and how we really need it,” said Villareal. “I learned a lot today and I can pass on to my friends, family, and other church members.”
Chuck Jenich, of Holy Spirit in Winfield, was received into the Church in 2019 and now is teaching the faith. 
“I’m new to Catholicism and a new catechist. This is my first chance to spread the Catholic faith, the Catholic sacraments, the Catholic ideas,” said Jenich, who converted from his Jewish roots.
“What happens when you’re new to Catholicism, there’s a lot you miss by not having been raised in the faith. That’s what I’ve gotten here today, where to go for resources and how to better catechize,” he said. “It’s been exciting for me, and I look forward to becoming a better catechist.
St. Paul catechist Yolanda Garza has been a catechist for over 19 years, and currently works with younger children. She said the challenge is to make things understandable for her young students. Garza said Sollon presented ideas that she can take back to the classroom.
She said her role as a catechist is to plant the seed and to make sure the students know they can always go to Jesus.
“I’m just planting the seed. God takes it from there. I have to make sure that seed is in the ground, watered, fertilized, and gets plenty of sunshine,” said Garza.


Caption: Maureen Progar, Amanada Garcia, both of St. John the Baptist, and Karen Kurfiss, of St. Thomas More engage in discussion during the Diocese of Gary Catechetical Conference at St. Patrick parish on March 2. Nearly 150 catechists from across the diocese attended. (Bob Wellinski photo)