Deepening the faith

Author: Michael O. Garvey


In his 1990 letterEx Corde Ecclesiae,the late Pope John Paul II insisted that a Catholic university was obliged toprepare men and women who, inspired by Christian principles and helped to live their Christian vocation in a mature and responsible manner, will be able to assume positions of responsibility in the Churchandto help the Church respond to the problems and needs of this age.

The ECHO Faith Formation Leadership Program, a project of the University of Notre Dames Center for Catechetical Initiatives, is a conspicuous attempt to meet those obligations.

Now in the second year of itspilot phase,ECHO provides recent Notre Dame graduates an opportunity to live in community and pursue masters degrees while serving asapprentice parish catechetical leadersfor two years in Catholic dioceses nationwide.The program involved 13 students and three dioceses last year and has now doubled symmetrically, with 26 students studying theology and apprenticed to parishes in the dioceses of Fort Wayne/South Bend; Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas; Peoria, Ill.; and the archdioceses of Indianapolis and Galveston/Houston.

With program growth now resulting in service to a total of six dioceses, the ECHO program is helping to ensure the future of catechetical leadership in this country,said Gerard Baumbach, director of the Center for Catechetical Initiatives.This corps of apprentice leaders is eager to serve the Church in a wide diversity of catechetical and related ministries.

The program takes its name from the etymology of the wordcatechesis,which is derived from a Greek term meaningto echoorto resound.While it is undeniably a matter of disseminating and reflecting on specific Catholic doctrine, catechesis also aims at a sympathetic resonance, attempting, as Pope John Paul wrote in a letter on the subject,to put people not only in touch but also in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ.

Attaining to such communion and intimacy obviously requires more than solely intellectual preparation.Catechists must also work on prayer, strengthening their own and each others faith, attending to their own spiritual as well as intellectual development, gaining pastoral experience as well as academic knowledge.

The ECHO students now participating in the program live on campus in Welsh Family Hall while taking Summer Session theology courses in pursuit of their masters degrees, but they also pray regularly together, take part in liturgies and will complete their Summer Session academic work with a retreat.

The energy and commitment our ECHO apprentices and partner Dioceses bring to this program is an inspiring reminder to me of the importance of catechetical ministry to the life of our Church,said Colleen Moore, coordinator of formation activites for the ECHO program.

More information on ECHO is available at

* Contact: * _Gerard F. Baumbach, director of the Center for Catechetical Initiatives at 574 631 2894 or _

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