Catechesis for a Catechist

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Fr Erbin Fernandez welcomes new catechists from across the archdiocese to the Basic Catechist Certification course offered by OFC. Photo: OFC.

Catechesis for a Catechist

The Gift of My Church (#TGOMC) is a series featuring how Catholics from all walks of life have been touched by God through their service or participation in the life of the Archdiocese of Singapore. In this issue, newly minted catechist, Alexander Ee, shares with writer Magdalene Tan how God has led him to this ministry and continued to transform him through it.

Alexander Ee started teaching catechism to secondary school students at the Church of St Ignatius in January this year. Whilst relatively new in his tenure in the catechetical ministry, the decision to serve as a catechist was in fact the culmination of a two-year long journey since he experienced a personal encounter with God.

Despite being a “cradle Catholic” and attending Catholic schools such as St Stephen’s School and St Patrick’s School, the newly minted catechist was in fact someone who was uninterested in the faith during his formative years.

 

Changing Perspectives

Looking back, Alexander realised that at various junctures in his life, God was calling to him for a deeper relationship, but he did not respond “out of selfishness and fear”.

This changed three years ago, when a family member fell ill and Alexander turned to prayer. “Prayer was my only comfort. As I prayed, my relationship with God imperceptibly deepened over time,” he shared.

A year later, in 2015, Alexander’s faith journey reached a turning point when he decided to attend the Conversion Experience Retreat (CER) organised by the Catholic Spirituality Centre (CSC). The experience left in him a love for God and a resolve to do more to serve the Church.

 

Saying ‘yes’

Thus in late 2016, after years of being prompted by friends, Alexander finally took the step to be a catechist. “Initially, I was apprehensive about being a catechist. I was unsure if I knew enough, or whether I could relate to teenagers since I am a naturally reserved person” reflected Alexander.

“But I was encouraged by other catechists who reminded me that all I had to do was bring Jesus to the youth,” he said. In preparation for the
ministry, Alexander attended courses offered by the Office for Catechesis (OFC).

“I attended courses in catechetical pedagogy and catechetical methods, introduction to scripture, introduction to morality, workshops on the craft of catechesis, as well as a four day retreat. These courses gave me confidence in my ministry,” he shared.

 

Giving and Receiving

Alexander reports, “Volunteering to be a catechist has helped me in more ways than I imagined possible. It has deepened my knowledge of our Catholic faith not just with constant exposure to the students, but through interactions with other catechists who bring different perspectives.”

He added, “I have also been humbled and encouraged by the example of fellow catechists and the love they have for the youth and the people around them.

Most of all, being a catechist has helped me understand myself and has given me the courage to open up more and bring Jesus to others.”

 

Bringing Jesus to Others

A case in point occurred earlier this year, when Alexander learned that an old secondary schoolmate, who lived in Malaysia, had gotten gravely ill from cancer and had been rushed to Singapore for medical treatment.

Other ex-schoolmates and Alexander got together to support their cancer-stricken friend. “We contributed towards medical bills, came together daily to care for him, massage him, sing to him, pray with him and share Jesus with him. When his mother came to Singapore
to be with him, we supported her with accommodation and transportation. This took us all by surprise especially since many of us did not know him well,” recalled Alexander.

His friend passed away after three months, but Alexander is thankful that before he passed on, he had agreed to be baptised. “If not for the grace of God, I would not have had the courage to evangelise and to live my faith so openly when caring for my friend,” said Alexander.

He shares, “I am grateful for the experience because it showed me that unless you say ‘yes’ to God, the Holy Spirit cannot work in you but once you do, God’s graces enrich you infinitely”.