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That form of ecclesiastical action that leads both communities and individual members of the faithful to maturity of faith. Because of varied circumstances and multiple needs, catechetical activity takes on various forms.
In regions that have been Catholic from past ages, catechesis most often takes the form of religious instruction given to children and adolescents in schools or outside a school atmosphere. Also found in those regions are various catechetical programs for adults, whether in preparation for baptism or reception into the Church, or to deepen one's understanding of the faith. sometimes the actual condition of the faithful demands that some form of evangelization of the precede catechesis.
In churches that have been established recently, special importance is placed on evangelizing in the strict sense. This becomes the well-known catechumenate for those who are being introduced to the faith in preparation for baptism.
For individuals whose minds are open to the message of the Gospel, catechesis is an apt means to understand God's plan in their own lives and in the lives of others. Having come to know this divine plan, they can more effectively co-operate with God's grace and become better instruments for the extension of Christ's kingdom. (Etym. Greek katechizo, to teach by word of mouth.)
All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.