Forming catechists to live out their vocation, pass on a living faith

May 9, 2023

The Office of Evangelization and Catechesis hosts an annual leadership training day called “Genesis.” (Photo courtesy of the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis)

HOUSTON — The role of the catechist, one who answers the vocational call to educate children, young people and adults in the Catholic faith, involves the sharing of a living, conscious and active faith, one that opens hearts “to hear the Gospel and accept the invitation to live and grow in Christian life.” (Pope Francis, Third International Congress on Catechesis, Sept. 2022)

The office of the Archdiocese that supports this important ministry work is the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis (OEC), which currently serves pastors, catechetical leaders and catechists whose primary role is directing religious education, sacramental preparation and faith formation for children and adults. Approximately 500 people reportedly serve as catechetical leaders who oversee and coordinate over a thousand volunteer catechists ministering in 151 parishes across the Archdiocese.

Because participation in parish religious education and sacramental preparation programs is on the rise, Amy Auzenne, director of the OEC, said there is a critical need for well-formed catechetical leaders to replace those who have retired since the pandemic or left the field of parish ministry completely.

“We are now in the process of recruiting and equipping the leaders who will come after them, which includes promoting the ministry of catechesis and evangelization as a rich and meaningful response to our baptismal call,” said Auzenne. “We identify potential leaders and help them to discern their call to parish ministry, as well as accompany them in their first few years of ministry work, both in-person and online.”

The OEC provides leadership training for catechists at every level, from new catechists to experienced veterans. One program that has seen an increase in enrollment is the Formation Toward Christian Ministry (FTCM), offered in English, and Formación para el Ministerio Cristiano (FPMC), provided in Spanish. Introductory courses about Catholic theology are available for adults who are serving in parish ministry and want to deepen their commitment to Jesus and more fully answer their baptismal call to service as a mature disciple.

Auzenne said the OEC also maintains standards of formation for parish-based catechists and offers recognition in the form of certificates for those who meet and exceed those standards. This process offers three levels of catechist certificates with courses in theology, teaching strategies and spirituality.

In addition to training, the ministry provides expertise and resources for parishes in the areas of systematic religious education, especially as it relates to the official Archdiocesan curriculum for students in grades pre-kindergarten to fifth grade. The ministry also provides sacramental preparation in the areas of infant baptism, RCIA adapted for children, First Reconciliation, First Holy Communion and Adult Confirmation.

All programs offered are aligned with the Catechetical Framework for Lifelong Faith Formation plan that was promulgated by Daniel Cardinal DiNardo in 2013. OEC was instrumental in the writing of the plan in collaboration with the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization (OACE) and the Catholic Schools Office.

“This document outlines the basic teachings of our faith for people at every stage of development, from early childhood to mature adult,” said Auzenne. “It is the only document of its kind in the United States and serves as the basis for all catechetical ministry in the Archdiocese.”

OEC is one of 60-plus ministries supported by the annual Diocesan Services Fund (DSF) appeal, which Auzenne said has been instrumental in keeping the cost of the catechetical leadership training and other program materials affordable and accessible to those called to serve in this ministry. Valerie Ponce, director of Religious Education at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, is one recipient of grants provided through the DSF that covered the costs of classes, training, and other required certificate courses.

“I have been involved with religious education for almost 30 years, working closely with the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis for guidance and support,” said Ponce. “In addition to helping those of us in economically challenged situations receive adequate and ongoing training, the DSF has truly been a tremendous blessing in providing books for our students that we otherwise could not possibly provide. I give thanks to the office and its wonderful staff who, over the years, have, and continue to be, available to assist us in the handing on of the faith.”

Auzenne said the DSF also directly supports the Ministry with Persons with Disabilities that is part of the OEC by providing resources and training for ministry leaders about best practices for including persons with disabilities in Sacrament preparation, catechesis and liturgies. This support allows the ministry to offer sensory-friendly Masses a few times a year and provide supplemental tools to catechists to use in the classroom, such as sensory kits. As members of the Archdiocesan Building Committee, OEC advocates for persons with disabilities by helping parishes find ways to make their buildings more accessible and conducive to their needs.

“As part of the initiative to identify and form new catechetical leaders, we would love to develop a program with additional DSF funding that would provide paid ministry internships to local youth and young adults who have an interest in parish ministry as a career,” said Auzenne.

To learn more about OEC’s catechetical leadership training and resources for religious education and sacramental preparation, go to

To donate to the DSF, go to The DSF supports each of these ministries, whether direct service or education, which require this critical funding to remain in operation. Out of each gift given to DSF, 100% of every dollar goes directly to supporting these ministries.