“The 25th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is a time of fresh perspective, of renewal, and new evangelization,” said Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, D.C. “It is a time to do what the Church has been doing for 20 centuries: We simply believe and announce that Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again.”

Cardinal Wuerl’s comments came in a keynote address at the Oct. 13-15 “Speaking the Truth in Love Conference,” which celebrated the silver jubilee of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Sponsored by the Catechetical Institute at Franciscan University of c, the conference explored how priests, parents, and religious educators can more fully utilize the catechism as a powerful tool to transmit the faith and assist in the renewal of Catholic culture.

Cardinal Wuerl, who has served on numerous USCCB boards, said the new evangelization is centered on Christ and his message of inherent dignity and mercy.

 He also said the catechism facilitates the new evangelization by outlining the key doctrines of the Church and echoing Christ’s call to every disciple to give their own witness to Christ.

“We celebrate the catechism because it helps us to do what St. Peter calls us to do: be prepared to give the reason for our faith,” he said.

Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford, chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, called the 1992 publication of the catechism a “momentous event” that allowed the Church to “articulate coherently and persuasively what she believes, what she celebrates, and how she lives and prays.”

The catechism’s “authoritative, comprehensive, and systematic presentation of the deposit of faith has without doubt not only answered the questions,” said Archbishop Blair, “but also challenged and shaped the spiritual life of many people because it is in many ways an inspiring text and not just an encyclopedia.”

In response to the need for greater clarity on Church teaching following the Second Vatican Council, Pope John Paul II called for a new compendium of Catholic doctrine. From its publication, said Archbishop Blair, the catechism has served as just such a compendium, meant to help people understand Church teaching on faith and morals. Almost a million copies in English and Spanish have been sold through the USCCB publisher alone, and many more have been purchased worldwide.

Archbishop Blair said that the USCCB’s conformity review process based on the catechism “has proved to be truly transformative.” Through this process, bishops ensure that published works referencing the catechism adequately convey the doctrines of the Church, working to remedy deficiencies in teaching Catholic doctrine. Over 25 years, this process has approved nearly 2,000 individual catechetical texts.

At a conference banquet, Dr. Scott Hahn, the Father Michael Scanlan professor of Biblical Theology and the New Evangelization at Franciscan University, thanked the religious educators who are “doing the work of the Lord in a toxic culture.”

Catechists, said Hahn, can communicate “the joy of the Gospel, the joy of the Lord … that will unlock the doors of all the hearts we reach out to.”

Hahn said that no one can answer every question about the faith. “The one thing people are going to find more compelling than any proof text, more helpful than any argument, is going to be the face of Christ reflected in the joy we share because we have come to know ourselves as sinners for whom Christ has died.”

Participants in the three-day conference came from across the country as well as Ireland, Canada, and Australia.

Immediately after the conference, 36 new mentors began their training for the national outreach work of Franciscan’s Catechetical Institute. The training was observed by 40 diocesan officials from 27 dioceses, all of whom are actively exploring a partnership with the institute.

Led by director Dr. Petroc Willey, the Catechetical Institute seeks “to serve all those who form others in the faith” through conferences, new catechetical resources, and an extensive library of online formation programs. More information can be found at Catechetics.com.